2014 was Bloomerang’s second AFP International Conference on Fundraising and my 31st. I only mention the number of years because some of my takeaways seldom change, while others were new and exciting this year. Here are the eight that rose to the top:

1. Anytime you have an international event, which brings leaders from every corner of any sector together (let alone our beloved nonprofit sector) it is quite special! This event has become the “go to” place for a few days in early spring each year to see all the key players at one time. What fun and rewards for every one!

2. Social media can now guide anyone to the best educational sessions even after they are underway. Just tap into any of the top consultant’s social feeds via Twitter and you are in the know. AFP also provided a smartphone app that was about the handiest little helper anyone could ask for!

3. There is no better place to find a professional mentor or a nonprofit consultant to assist you. Literally, they abound everywhere near the conference. You can catch many of them with precious free time to talk and perhaps even strategize with you.

4. The exhibit hall can be a wonderful education session in and of itself. This is especially true if you stop long enough for several in-depth discussions about your specific needs. I can truly speak from experience the vendors all love such conversations and will go out of their way to help you.

Tom Ahern5. AFP should state how many years each education session presenter has presented. The very best are asked back each and every year – and it is easy to see why! Their sessions are literally packed to overflow conditions. Make sure and arrive early for a seat!

6. We met numerous board chairmen of nonprofits this year. What a truly outstanding idea! I can only imagine much they learned.

7. Yelp helped us find several outstanding local eateries that were not tourist traps and only moderately crowded, even on short notice. Welcome to the digital age, and a huge thanks to the millennials for the suggestions!

8. Give yourself time to soak it all in. One first-timer said she came in early on Friday to get the sight seeing out of the way, then dove into a Saturday pre-conference session on donor retention. By then, she had met a possible mentor with whom she had breakfast with on Sunday. She told me it was a personally rewarding and exhilarating five days!

How about you? Did you go? What other takeaways come to mind that I might have missed?

I look forward to seeing many more of you in Baltimore next year!


Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.