The Value of Membership

Doug Puffer

By Doug Puffer

In 1994 many if not all of the fundraisers in the Kingston area were called to attend a seminar about planned giving: Lorna Somers* was coming to town. I had no idea who Lorna Somers was, what to expect, nor was I a gift planner, but I had been to a couple of workshops about bequest fundraising and curiosity won me over.  Until then, I thought that only churches, universities and big hospitals did planned giving: all that mysterious, funereal, back office estate and legal stuff.

Lorna’s message was a beacon.  It was enlightening.  The seminar was a thinly disguised membership drive for a fledgling CAGP and apparently we were forming a new roundtable.  Whatever that meant, didn’t matter;  I was excited by the prospect of belonging to this group. Twenty years later as a gift planning specialist, I see how important that decision was to my professional development.

“No man is an island, entire of itself”

Most charity leaders today are well aware of the importance of professionalism to the future of their organizations but I am not so sure that they know how this equates to membership in a professional association.   As a national director of CAGP, it alarms me when I hear that membership in professional organizations and hence training budgets are considered unimportant when funding falls off.  This means that fundraisers may no longer have access to the benefits that come with membership: resources (often free), discounts on valuable products and services, advocacy, access to very bright minds, advice, mentorship, communications, bulletins, continuing education credits, and dedicated education programs. These are the very things that fundraisers need when the going gets tough!

But to me the true value of membership is about belonging.  The office walls between annual giving, major giving and planned giving are gradually coming down but the vast majority of planned giving is done off the side of the desk of a gift administrator or a generalist. Where do they turn for answers to tough questions if they are not members of CAGP? This is the primary reason that I place a high value on membership.  There is always someone out there to talk with.

“It takes a community to raise a child”

AFP and AHP have created and sustain great opportunities for fund raisers to network and learn from peers and mentors. CAGP educates the broad spectrum of professionals engaged in fund raising and strategic philanthropy and has positioned planned giving in the mainstream of fund development.

“We are not alone”

The founding members of our respective Associations knew there were many notes in the musical chord of philanthropy and I will be forever grateful that they created the means to allow widespread understanding about how those notes work together.  So thanks to whomever it was that called me many years ago to listen, to learn and to drink the Kool-Aid.  I have belonged ever since and given back many times over.

*Lorna Somers was one of the main driving forces in planned giving in the early years of CAGP and is globally renowned as one of the most respected professionals in university advancement.

Doug Puffer is the Director of Planned Giving for Simon Fraser University.  He is a recognized expert in gift planning in Canada with over 26 years in higher education and environmental conservation.  His well-researched presentations have been heard at CAGP, AFP, STEP & CASE conferences and he has written numerous articles and stories about strategic gift planning and philanthropy.


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