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Association Bisnow
December 13, 2007

Association Looks to
Schools for Future Members

The Association of Fundraising Professionals has 30,000 individual members—which sounds like a whole lot to us—but CEO Paulette Maehara says there’s far greater demand for fundraisers than there is supply.  So how do you fill all those job openings?  The AFP has been drumming up interest in fundraising careers by opening college chapters.  Its two-year pilot program at 11 campuses just came to an end, which made it a perfect time to check in.

A “Texas girl” born in a town called Happy, Paulette displays a football signed by former Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach.  Staubach now runs a real estate company that helped the AFP find and purchase their Arlington office space.  Paulette put in a request for an autographed pigskin after they closed the deal, and got one.

The AFP established its 11 college programs through local chapters at schools like the University of Indiana and Arizona State, with 20-25 students joining at each campus.  The AFP held the number of campus chapters down during the pilot period, which Paulette calls a success.  “We’re seeing members going into non-profits and fundraising,” she says.  One thing the AFP has learned is that local chapters must provide the college chapters with a lot of support and structure to their programming. “These are still students,” she says. 

In case you didn’t know, Paulette is a heavy hitter in the association world:  She was Chair of the Board at the American Society of Association Executives in 2005-06.  In 1994, during her tenure as VP for Development at Project HOPE, The NonProfit Times named that organization the fastest-growing non-profit in the land. 

The youth of the new members is hardly a negative for Paulette, who thinks the key to getting future generations interested in fundraising is getting to them early.  She sees a day when the AFP will be reaching down to high school students through the college members—but first, it must start expanding its number of college chapters.  There are now 42 universities with a curriculum in non-profit management, which makes for a good marriage with the AFP’s mission.

Paulette’s husband Tom Henderson did executive duties at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now re-branded as the American Association for Justice) for 17 years.  He retired, but he hasn’t been able to get Paulette to join him in the carefree life just yet. 

Paulette points to a few reasons for the current shortage of fundraising pros.  Philanthropic organizations, she says, are filling needs that governments used to serve.  The number of 501(c)(3)s has more then doubled since the mid-80s, recently hitting the 1,000,000 mark in the U.S.  (Paulette tells us that philanthropic giving reached a new high of $300 billion last year, with 75% of that coming from individuals.)  At the same time the field is blossoming, retiring baby boomers are creating job vacancies for the smaller generations behind them to fill.  Paulette and the AFP are hoping college chapters will help correct the imbalance.

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