Member Confession: Mike Blackwelder, Director of Donor & Community Relations, Safe Alliance

A few years after I graduated college, I was finding it difficult to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my career.  I had recently done some volunteer work with the ALS Association, and a friend suggested that I try working for a nonprofit.  As a last minute decision, I quit my job of several years and took a temporary contract position with United Way during their 2007 campaign season.  I can't think of a better place to start a career in nonprofit fundraising because I was exposed to so many different member agencies in the community and was able to see firsthand the amazing work being done throughout the Charlotte region.  I quickly learned that fundraising was a good fit for me.  After my contract with United Way was up, I was offered a job as Development Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County, where I spent the next four and a half years. 

When I realized that fundraising would be my career, I fully immersed myself in the world of fundraising and nonprofits.  I immediately joined AFP and also started working on my Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management through UNCC.  The benefits I received from AFP were/are invaluable to my career.  Early on I was given a scholarship to attend the First Course in Fundraising, which was a great introduction into the fundraising world.  I have also participated in the Mentor program, been to four statewide conferences, and attend as many monthly meetings as I can.  The best way to get the most out of an AFP membership is to get involved with the chapter.  I've served two years on the Scholarship Committee, two years on the Conference Planning Committee, and am now in my third year on the Membership Committee.  All of these things are beneficial, but the most important part of AFP for me has been the relationships I've made.  There are so many people in our chapter with a wealth of knowledge and a diverse range of experience and organizations.  At any given time if I have a question or need help with something, there is a long list of colleagues I've met through AFP that I can call on.  These relationships have been crucial to my career development and I have no doubt they will continue to be.  

In the summer of 2012 I was hired by Safe Alliance (then United Family Services) as their Donor Relations Coordinator.  This presented a whole new set of challenges for me: bigger organization, bigger community, issues that I wasn't very familiar with.  Once again my AFP membership paid off.  I've been able to call on colleagues, now friends, for advice and guidance along the way.  I have since advanced to the position of Director of Donor & Community Relations.  I'm also working on completing my MBA at UNCC this year.  I truly love being a part of the nonprofit sector in Charlotte and seeing the incredible work that is being done by the many agencies represented through AFP.  This month marks my 6th anniversary with Charlotte AFP, and I look forward to many more years with this amazing group!

2014 AFP Charlotte Membership Survey Results

In February, AFP Charlotte emailed out a membership survey asking for your feedback.  Thank you for participating!

The Board plans to use this information in strategic and program planning for the chapter.  Below are some of the findings:
·         52 members took the survey
·         75% serve on their organization's leadership team and more than 50% have a role in program operations.
·         74% were somewhat or completely satisfied with local chapter programs and services.
·         More than ½ of those surveyed with neutral or dissatisfied with AFP IHQ services.
·         One of the biggest challenges our members face is not having enough time in the day/being understaffed.
·         Most wanted program topics included: Time Management (program coming in November!), Cultivation/Stewardship and Analytics (May program offered)
·         88% of those surveyed felt as though there is at least 1 person in AFP they can call for advice.
·         35% were neutral or dissatisfied with chapter information about member benefits.
·         42% were neutral or dissatisfied that chapter leadership wasn't interactive with membership.
Our Board values your feedback!  It seems as though we can do a much better job at making members aware of AFP IHQ benefits and resources.  This will certainly be a focus for us moving forward.  As an FYI,  IHQ is redesigning the membership website to offer a more customized log in.  In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the resource center on AFP's website: AFP Hot Topics
Additionally, many of you expressed dissatisfaction with a low level of chapter leadership interaction.  This feedback will be part of our mid-year Board discussion and planning.  We will share some of our ideas at the September membership meeting.  I hope that you will also take time to introduce yourself to someone new at the next chapter event.  Networking remains one of the top benefits according to those surveyed. 
Thanks again for your input and we will look forward to seeing you soon!

LaGrange College Offering MA in Philanthropy

A master's degree in Philanthropy and Development will help you move ahead as a leader in fundraising and philanthropy. The only program of its kind in the Southeast, LaGrange College's 25-month degree is designed for working professionals, offering blended delivery (two-week summer sessions and online components), course credit based on your experience and a capstone project that can focus on your current or future work.  The program prepares leaders and administrators in the fields of major gifts, campaigns, planned giving, annual fund and utilization of new and social media in fundraising.

Space for this year's cohort is limited to 20-22, and slots are filling quickly. Visit, email or call (706) 880-8225.
 More on LaGrange College: Georgia's oldest private institution of higher learning, LaGrange College is located one hour south of Atlanta on Interstate 85 and is consistently ranked as top-10 and "best value" college by U.S. News & World Report. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, LaGrange aims to provide a transforming experience that both challenges the mind and inspires the soul.

Member Confession: Jennifer Player, Director, Crisis Assistance Ministry

After 8 years of the corporate "rat race", I decided to make a career change.  I felt in my heart that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector; to spend my life devoted to helping others.  What that looked like, though, I didn't know.  I chose to pursue a Masters of Public Administration from UNC Charlotte with a focus on nonprofit management so I could have a solid foundation on which to start my nonprofit career.  While taking a course on Fundraising, my professor, Beth Fischer, listed off the various traits and skills needed to be a successful development professional.  A light bulb went off.  I felt that Beth was talking directly to me and, as they say, the rest is history.  
Transitioning to a career in the nonprofit sector, though, was not as easy as some might think.  Luckily, AFP and the members of the local Charlotte chapter were there for me every step of the way.  I joined AFP before I even started job searching so that I could meet people and learn about the various nonprofits in Charlotte.  I looked for as many opportunities as I could through AFP to learn more about fundraising:  webinars, affinity groups, and the monthly luncheons.  I also participated in the mentorship program which was another way for me to network and learn from experienced professionals.  This year, I joined the AFP Board.
Fast forward 3 years.  I have enjoyed a wonderful job as the Director of Major Gifts at Crisis Assistance Ministry and have just accepted a role as the Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity in Orange County.  One of the first items on my to-do list is to join the AFP chapter in the Triangle to continue learning and growing as a development professional.  I am confident that they will be as welcoming to me as the Charlotte chapter has been.  That's just the AFP way.