President's Message

AFP Greater AZ Chapter

Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith, CFRE
President - 2024

January - 

As the new year begins, I am reminded of how thankful I am for community. Just five years ago, I made the move from St. Louis, Missouri, to Phoenix, Arizona. Starting anew in an unfamiliar city, I’ll admit I was terrified. Aside from family, I did not know anyone in the area. Shortly after beginning my position at Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, my supervisor encouraged me to join the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Greater Arizona Chapter (AFP). This group of nonprofit fundraising professionals welcomed me with open arms. I met a few board members at my first AFP education workshop, and they invited me to join a committee and stay involved. That was the start of growing a supportive community in AFP.

Fast forward to 2024, and I am honored to be serving as President of AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter this year! I am continuously inspired and grateful to be working with a hardworking and dedicated Board of Directors. Through AFP, I have met so many knowledgeable and collaborative nonprofit professionals who have become mentors and friends.

Take that first step to grow your community and attend the AFP education workshop on January 23! Presenter Frank Velásquez, Jr. will discuss how we can engage donors through community-centered practices in fundraising. In addition to education workshops, you can get involved in various committees and network with fellow professionals. The opportunities are endless!

If you are interested in learning more, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. A new year is an opportunity for growth, and now is the time to grow your community with AFP!

February -

2024 is in full swing! This past week, I have taken time to reflect on how invigorating the start of this year has been. The AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter Board of Directors is hard at work on some exciting initiatives and dynamic programming, and their dedication and energy continually inspire me.

A highlight of the past few weeks for me was attending and participating in the AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter education workshop on January 23rd! Frank Velásquez, Jr. provided an empowering presentation and discussed how we can engage donors through community-centered practices in fundraising. Throughout the presentation, Frank facilitated thoughtful dialog and conversation with the attendees.

During a part of the workshop, Frank reminded me that  “You’re not stuck.” As fundraisers, we can sometimes become accustomed to specific processes or models that have been in place. Frank then shared another quote: “Change the formula to get a different result.” Through his workshop, Frank challenged me not to be stuck. I left the session inspired to adopt new ways of building relationships with donors that foster belonging and genuine connection by engaging them in transformative work. Frank reminded us that language matters and subtle changes can make a big difference when communicating and connecting with donors.

Every year is an opportunity to unlearn, relearn, and grow. I encourage you to continue your learning and growth with the supportive community of AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter in 2024! This month, we have multiple education and networking events that are highlighted in this newsletter. These events are at no cost to members!

I look forward to connecting with you this month!

March - 

Happy March! I can’t believe we are almost through the first quarter of 2024. Thank you to all members who have engaged with the AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter this year! It’s been so wonderful to connect with you. The AFP-Greater AZ Chapter Board of Directors has planned and provided some engaging events for members to connect and engage in meaningful conversation. 

Most recently, on February 29, 2024, the AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) Committee Chairs Naquana Borrero, CFRE, and Ernesto Ortiz, CFRE hosted a thought-provoking and timely panel discussion, “Fundraising While Black,” to celebrate Black History Month. During the event, attendees heard from panelists Camille Ridley, Victor Yates, MPA, Naquana Borrero, CFRE, and Atasha Hill, CFRE, with the discussion moderated by Ernesto Ortiz, CFRE. Each panelist openly shared their journey into fundraising, successes, challenges, advice for African American fundraisers new to the field, and hopes for the nonprofit sector.

This conversation was incredibly insightful and important! I am so inspired by Camille, Victor, Naquana and Atasha for their passion and steadfast dedication to making the nonprofit sector and our communities stronger!

The AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter Board of Directors is committed to IDEA and impactful programming! If you would like to learn more about joining the IDEA committee and other committee involvement opportunities, click here! It’s not only a fantastic way to connect with other members, but you can also positively impact the nonprofit sector. Your experiences, skills, and perspectives are so valued!

April - 

Happy April! I hope you all have been taking some time to relax and get outside! I’ve been trying to enjoy this weather as much as I can before it starts to warm up. 

Speaking of weather, I was in a much colder climate just a couple of weeks ago. I attended the 2024 Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Global ICON Conference in Toronto, Canada! The theme of the conference was “Impactful Together”. The experience was truly remarkable. I engaged in meaningful conversations with other AFP chapter leaders, gained valuable insights from educational sessions, and connected with fundraising professionals from across the globe.

I had the pleasure of attending the conference with 12 members from the AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter. It was wonderful to spend quality time with these outstanding leaders and individuals, and their unwavering dedication to their organizations and the broader Phoenix community left me feeling truly inspired.

Looking back on this experience, I feel immensely grateful for the supportive community and the opportunities it offers to connect with members and broaden understanding of various aspects of fundraising. We have some exciting events on the horizon, such as our second networking mixer scheduled for April 25th and an upcoming educational session focusing on maximizing ROI with direct mail! I welcome you to engage with AFP, because we can make a significant impact together!

May - 

Happy May! Can you believe we're already moving into the summer months? It's been a busy spring, but I've been making a conscious effort to slow down and connect with more AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter members. It's been wonderful to interact and learn from all of you!

Over the past few weeks, the Board of Directors has organized several engaging educational and networking events for our members. On April 25, AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter held the second networking mixer of the year, graciously hosted by FSL! Attendees had the opportunity to hear from community leader Andrea Evans, CEO and Publisher of FrontDoors Media. Andrea discussed how to use video content to market your brand and leverage it as a powerful tool to tell your organization’s story. The presentation was insightful, and I am grateful to Andrea for imparting her wisdom and expertise! 

Just as nonprofits can share more about their mission with the community through video, AFP-Greater Arizona prioritizes providing opportunities for members to connect and share their individual stories with one another. We've all taken unique paths that brought us to fundraising, and the diverse backgrounds and experiences of each member enrich and strengthen the chapter. AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter is a supportive community that values the perspectives, participation, and contributions of fundraising professionals! 

This year, I encourage you to get involved and share your story with AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter. Explore our upcoming events or join one of our excellent committees. Together, we can propel the fundraising profession forward and make a meaningful impact on the nonprofit sector!

June - 

I hope you're all having a fantastic June! While summer officially started last week, it has felt like that in Arizona for almost two months now! I hope you're making time to relax and enjoy moments with family and friends. I recently took a trip up north to Flagstaff with my family for a few days, and it was the perfect opportunity to unwind and enjoy some cooler weather.

Even with the persistent summer heat, the Board of Directors is diligently planning engaging events and programs for the rest of the year. This past Tuesday, AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter, in partnership with The Phoenix Philanthropy Group, hosted the Giving USA Report Presentation and Panel Discussion at the Arizona Heritage Center. Over 70 fundraising professionals were in attendance!

Richard Tollefson, Founder and President of The Phoenix Philanthropy Group, presented the findings from the comprehensive Giving USA Report and discussed how the data can inform the best strategies to enhance fundraising performance. Following the report, Richard facilitated an engaging and timely discussion with panelists Travis Craddock, CFRE, Rachelle Giles, Damita Curry, and Laurie Liles.  Important messages communicated during the panel are that words matter when communicating with donors and that nonprofits can take steps to establish a public policy framework and engage in advocacy to support their missions.

Thank you to Richard Tollefson and The Phoenix Philanthropy Group, whose incredible knowledge, partnership, and generous support made the Giving USA Report Presentation and Panel Discussion possible! This is the 9th consecutive year that The Phoenix Philanthropy Group has presented the Giving USA Report to the fundraising community in central Arizona. I am also so grateful to the panelists for giving their time to share their personal experiences and professional expertise.

The Giving USA event is a fantastic example of the incredible educational opportunities and supportive community offered by AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter. Join us at these exciting upcoming events, including the AFP Arizona Statewide Conference July 18-19 in Tucson, Arizona and our third networking mixer at the headquarters of our Presenting Sponsor, Virtuous, on August 22!

July - 

I hope everyone had a fantastic Fourth of July holiday! Can you believe we are already halfway through the year? With these record-setting temperatures, I hope you are finding ways to stay cool.

Reflecting on the past weeks, I've been grateful for the opportunities to engage with AFP members, supporters, and sponsors. Last month, I had the honor of interviewing Gabe Cooper, President and CEO of Virtuous, at his book signing event for his new book The Responsive Nonprofit. It was inspiring to hear Gabe discuss how nonprofits can innovate, foster durable and inclusive cultures, and navigate change effectively. His insights are invaluable, and I highly recommend his book!

Within AFP, the supportive community and educational opportunities empower professionals to drive meaningful change in their organizations and in the community. Join us for our upcoming networking mixer at the Virtuous headquarters, hosted by AFP-Greater Arizona Chapter, on August 22 from 4-6 pm! Discover board positions, committee roles, and hear directly from Gabe Cooper about his book. Your talents, expertise, and perspective are incredibly valued as we work together to advance the fundraising profession and nonprofit sector.

August - 

September - 

October -

November - 

December -