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    Where were you in 1994? Looking back at how fundraising has changed in 25 years

    Where were you in 1994?

    Ann Rosenfield shares her thoughts on how the sector has changed over the past 25 years…


    You’ve come a long way, baby. Maybe.

    “Let’s face it. Women are not major donors.” said the head of fundraising in my first  job in 1994. Some things have sure improved since then while other areas are the same, or worse. In honour of this year’s Fundraising Day throwback theme, here’s what’s what in our profession then and now.


    Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

    What’s with us fundraisers and planned giving? In 1994, fundraisers were always trying to carve out some time for planned giving with limited success. The same issue still seems true today. As a sector, we still seem to think this is something to focus on tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. This short-sighted approach is part of a continuing problem with an over-emphasis on immediate revenue over long-term growth and stability.

    Meanwhile direct mail has proved the doomsayers wrong! Back in 1994, you would have heard all kinds of workshops on how direct mail was going to disappear. While mail has changed with the times, paper letters in paper envelopes are still an important part of a fundraising strategy.



    In 1994 all jobs were permanent, full-time positions with benefits and pensions. The rise of contract employment has meant that young professionals (and even senior leaders) find themselves in unstable employment today. This is bad for us as professionals and bad for the field. In a sector that is supposed to provide solutions to social problems, it is inexcusable that an increasing segment of our employees can’t enjoy stable, secure employment with benefits.

    Employment has gotten worse and I am not convinced all that much has changed on the ground yet in the areas of diversity, inclusion, equity and access for people working directly for charities or in consulting. As an AFP member, I am proud of the leadership work our chapter has done in diversity and inclusion. And I am pleased by the work that AFP International has started for women in our profession. I’m not sure a lot has changed yet.



    I can see clearly now

    Back in 1994, less than 15% of Canadians had home internet and snail mail was still huge. People were still sticking stamps on envelopes regularly. With the rise of the internet and huge decline in personal letters, hand-written thank you notes have way more impact than they ever before. This return to the basics has only grown in value over time.

    What has also improved over time is the range, calibre, and depth of professional education. Back in 1994, the only option for professional development was AFP. There were no webinars, no college programs, almost no research in the sector – and – no other one-day workshops in the GTA. AFP led the way and we are all better fundraisers for this.


    Run the world

    Oh, and that comment about how women don’t give from my first upper level boss? In that campaign, our team raised $5.5M in 3 years from women philanthropists for a charity that had never raised much over a few thousand dollars. Today the major building for that charity is named, for a woman. The gift was $15M. Some things have changed for the better.


    Join Ann and others at Fundraising Day May 30 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where we’ll be celebrating 25 years of best practices, best donor experiences, timeless ideas that have become new again, and the best results…the Fabric of Fundraising. Learn more & REGISTER. #FD2019 #FD25Years #FabricOfFundraising


    About the Author


    Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE was at the first Fundraising Day in 1994. She was a lot thinner and had darker hair then.  Ann is proud to be one of the longest serving members of the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter.