Focus and Nonprofits

Fundraising professionals have help

October 10, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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CRM — customer relationship management — isn’t just for business. It’s also very important in the world of professional fundraising.

That particular world includes more than 30,000 global members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, spanning 233 chapters. The organization works to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs.

The AFP-West Michigan Chapter has about 255 members, who meet frequently at locations all over the region: the entire western half of the Lower Peninsula, from the Indiana state line to the Straits of Mackinac.

The AFP fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the profession, according to its website. The West Michigan Chapter is almost 30 years old, but the international organization is more than 50.

The organization also strives to recognize the philanthropic accomplishments in the community by non-professional fundraisers. On Nov. 10, AFP-West Michigan will observe the 28th annual National Philanthropy Day with a noontime event at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.

The event will feature keynote speakers Fred and Christina Keller of Cascade Engineering, father and daughter philanthropists engaged in giving individually and as part of the Keller Foundation. They will speak on multi-generation family giving in West Michigan: what is happening today and what is likely to change in the future.

The award presentation will honor organizations and individuals who exemplify West Michigan’s philanthropic spirit.  This year’s honorees include: Ann Fergemann, Ben Franklin Award for Outstanding Fundraising Professional; Brian Cloyd of Steelcase, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award; Robert and Eleanor DeVries, Distinguished Philanthropist Award; Bissell, Outstanding Corporation Award; Idema Foundation, Exemplary Foundation Awar; Adeline Steele, Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award; Paws with a Cause, West Michigan Chapter Award for Excellence in Fundraising; and Shelley Irwin of WGVU Broadcasting, President’s Award.

Eva Aguirre Cooper of WOOD TV8 will emcee the lunchtime event, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Advance registration is necessary; tickets are $50. They can be purchased at

AFP membership is not limited just to professional fundraisers at nonprofit organizations, however. According to AFP-West Michigan President Janice Fonger, it is also open to representatives of organizations that serve nonprofit organizations, which would include consultants and service businesses that have a connection to nonprofits and philanthropy.

Fonger is the elected president of the West Michigan chapter, but is not employed by it; her employment is at J. Milito and Associates, which has a call center in Walker and focuses on telephone fundraising services for nonprofits.

CRM is one of just many issues on which the group is focused. At a recent early morning meeting at Prince Conference Center at Calvin College, a panel of West Michigan executives shared information on key areas for developing successful campaigns. The panelists included executives from Bethany Christian Services, as well as Crystal Flash Energy and Voice Data Systems.

The AFP, according to Fonger, “is all about teaching good fundraising practices, and teaching good donor relations and donor stewardship.”

It also works to promote strong ethical organizations, she said. She declined to discuss those fundraising organizations that get into trouble, and she said the AFP does not provide any information on which organizations are not legitimate.

“There are watchdog websites out there,” she said, where a donor can do research.

“Donors should always do their research before making a contribution,” she added.

The AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards deals with the obligations of its members in regard to solicitation and use of philanthropic funds, presentation of information, compensation and contracts.

The recent recession impacted nonprofit organizations as well as business and industry, with the result that some charitable services to the public were disrupted.

“Whether the economy is good or bad, the work (of nonprofits) still needs to get done,” said Fonger.

“Setbacks tend to teach us a lot of things and tend to put us on a good, positive footing as we go forward,” she said.

More information is available at

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