Speed Networking: A Great Way to Engage Senior Executives
When I was president of the Indiana Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (IC-AFP), I constantly heard and realized that many senior professionals never show up or engage in chapter activities. I always tried to think of ways to excite senior executives. No stone was unturned. From social events, luncheon panels, individual mentoring activities plus pleas for involvement, we always had mixed results when seeking greater attendance.
I also utilized a comprehensive survey to obtain a pulse of interest. There were always excuses but no consistent commitment from this group. All of us knew that AFP chapters typically serve individuals who are in their early or mid-careers. I also believed that our members would greatly benefit from communicating with their older counterparts. Diversity is very important in building and maintaining a progressive organization.
Many of my senior-level peers are truly dedicated to serving the profession and want to share their experience with others. I was frustrated because I wanted to see greater numbers of my peers at AFP luncheons and meetings. Many get involved early in their careers only to move on and let others take their places. With leadership changes in AFP chapters, the importance in determining how to engage elder statesmen changes from year to year.
Some feel involvement consists of attending the annual philanthropy awards dinner. The out of sight, out of mind theory is very real. In other cases, younger members do not encourage or seek to welcome older members at activities. I have not experienced an event in recent years that provided hope and excitement for the marriage of young and old until now.
Recently, the IC-AFP sponsored a "Speed Networking With an Experienced Fundraiser" event. This concept matched 22 senior-level professionals with a combined 600 years experience with 22 younger professionals. The time frame for this meeting was 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. on a weekday. The site was a local nonprofit in Indianapolis. I was invited to participate. The purpose of the event was to share ideas and insight with others.
I walked into a room with a large, square table. The senior mentors sat inside the square table, and the mentees sat in chairs outside the table facing their counterparts. Each mentor had a sign at his or her place setting consisting of his or her name and areas of expertise. Once the meeting started, the mentees talked to a different mentor each for five to eight minutes. I spoke, for example, with peers in the arts, education, social services and for-profit sector. The conversation was stimulating, and the questions were real. The session was a smashing success.
Just as important to me, besides helping others, was engaging with old friends and colleagues. That day, the weather was horrible with a foot of snow on the ground, bad roads and below freezing temperatures. Every mentor showed up early and loved reconnecting with each other. It was like old home week.
The event struck a chord with people because it was different yet simple. Mentors and mentees had updated business cards to share with each other. For a number of people, the conversations continued as follow-up appointments were made. At times, several mentors talked to the same mentee for greater insight.
I did not know what to expect when asked to serve. I left with a sense of satisfaction and willingness to do more. I am positive this concept will continue in the future due to the win-win nature of the event. While the event was held during lunch, no one brought their lunches. In fact, a number of old and new friends decided to go to lunch afterward.
If you want to engage an array of executives in a positive activity, try this concept today! I am convinced a number of experienced professionals will continue to attend future AFP sessions because they were honored to be asked and serve their profession. No one wants to be forgotten or taken for granted.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.