AFP International Conference provides inspiration and education
I've just returned from the AFP International Conference in New Orleans, and what a conference it was. More than 3,000 people gathered this year to celebrate and to advance the profession through continuing education.
I have to admit that I expected it to be a down year, and although it was a somewhat smaller crowd than previous years, the fact that several thousand fundraisers made the trip says something really positive about our industry and where it stands. We are continuing to invest in our people and our future.
Chris Gardner was a highly appropriate choice for opening keynote. His story (aka The Pursuit of Happyness) contains so many tragic moments. The movie, starring Will Smith, featured a 5-year-old boy as his son, who joined him in lengthy bouts of homelessness. In reality, the son was a baby, and Chris was carrying diapers with him every day when he left whatever shelter he could find for them. Homeless with a baby.
But as sad as his story was, Chris Gardner's message was one of hope. Of how he refused to step away from his responsibility to raise his child, away from the bond that love created. It was his baby after all, and that baby deserved a father. As funny as it was sad, the opening keynote was inspiring -- a great way to start several days of sessions and networking. Days of dashing around a very large convention center (how many miles was that from the front door to Hall I?) from session to session and fitting in as many conversations with people inbetween.
It's impossible to name all the terrific speakers who presented this week. Or to acknowledge all the dedicated volunteers who work with the AFP staff both to plan the conference and drive other programs throughout the year. But kudos to you all. And kudos to whomever chose Sidney Poitier for the Tuesday general session. Hearing him was like no other experience I've ever had. Profound. Moving. Incredible. Beyond that, I can't find the right words because, in comparison, they would lack his eloquence.
As I boarded the airplane back home, I took many new ideas, friendships and thoughts with me. And I took a sense of hope and inspiration that we're headed in a positive direction. We work in a wonderful sector, and that makes us very fortunate. As Mr. Poitier said, "Philanthropy is a profound manifestation of the very best in us all."
Yes it is. And we are a part of it every day.