On Wednesday, October 19, a group of 12 students from Arizona State University traveled to Houston, Texas, to attend AFP Lead 2022. AFP Lead is a national conference where the best and brightest fundraisers gather to learn and share about their successes and trials in the nonprofit sector. The group of students from ASU are all a part of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association (NLASA), working towards the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential, and have been fundraising for months to be able to travel and attend this wonderful conference. I was one of the lucky students who was able to travel and learn so much from the professionals at the conference. We are so thankful we were able to not only learn more about how to further our careers in the nonprofit sector, but were able to take a break from the heat and actually wear sweaters in the cool Houston air.
Thursday morning we woke up early and ventured to the hotel where the conference was held. Our students were separated from the larger group and put together with a room full of ‘emerging leaders.’ We spent the day grouped with new leaders in the nonprofit sector learning vital skills for leadership and management. We listened to lectures, participated in reflections and had the chance to hear about real life experiences in the sector. We closed out the day by networking with some of the most experienced fundraisers in the nonprofit sector.
Friday morning, the conference began again bright and early (at least to college students). Each of us were able to curate our own schedule and attend sessions that we each felt called to. Our students attended everything from “Self-Care and Wellbeing as a Leadership Practice” to “Advocacy in the Nonprofit Sector.” Each session helped our students learn more about themselves and the future of the sector. On Friday we also got the opportunity to work with other NLA students from universities all around the country to discuss hot topics around the nonprofit sector, which we presented on our final day. We spent the evening grabbing dinner together as the ASU NLASA and getting to know each other even better.
Saturday, our team woke up, packed up and headed to the conference to have breakfast and network. The day was similar to the day before in that we each had a chance to pick and choose the sessions we wanted to attend. We were given the chance to make the conference what would be most beneficial to us. At the end of the day we had the chance to listen to the wonderful keynote speaker, Dr. Bennie Lambert, present about his experiences with failure and overcoming it. When the conference was all done, we grabbed our bags and headed to the airport.
As the current President of the NLASA, I had the honor of attending the AFP Lead conference both in 2021 and 2022. In 2021, I was a student new to the nonprofit sector and unsure of my place. I suffered from a severe case of imposter syndrome and was constantly having to remind myself why I was there: I want to change the world.
I went into the experience with an attitude of seeking what benefited me and while it can be good to be selfish with your learning, I approached this year’s experience with a posture of giving back and assessing what I could pour into my team of officers, students, and peers along with myself. As a timid student new to the field and doubting her own abilities, I walked away from my experience in 2021 having gained a new understanding of nonprofit organizations. I learned to network and build relationships along with getting real-life advice from experienced professionals. This altered my confidence when approaching the conference this year. Instead of being intimidated by the seemingly daunting professionals, I was able to maximize my learning by asking questions, engaging in provoking conversations, and interacting with speakers. I made connections that will last and some that may set up my future in the nonprofit field.
Both of my experiences with the NLASA at the AFP Lead conference have caused me to grow immensely both personally and professionally. I have loved assessing this growth and development, and there is one thing that has stayed the same through it all: I want to change the world.
Each student that was a part of this trip will tell you they had a different favorite session or favorite moment. Each of us were able to personalize the experience into something that would stick with us through our personal and professional lives. We are so thankful to ASU and all of our donors for allowing us to have this life-altering experience and set us up for lifelong success.
Though the conference has passed, the hard work continues. We invite you to support our future nonprofit professionals through learning opportunities beyond the classroom at no additional cost to the student. In this hands-on learning environment, we are building a talented and prepared workforce of connected professionals and citizens. The future is here — we are its leaders!