Chamberlain Scholarship Recipients

Fundraising is Relationship Building 

by 2024 Chamberlain Scholarship Recipient Brian Lam

As a fundraiser, we have a unique power at our disposal (whether we know it or not), and that is relationship building. Picture yourself in this very real scenario – you are at a networking event putting on your biggest smile with a pocket full of business cards and shaking hands with anyone and everyone. With each new connection, a potential partnership is formed, and that is truly where the magic begins and remains in fundraising – the people. The same can also be said about building up a strong network of colleagues who are there to support you with ideas, critiques, and even witty banter and jokes about why you can’t just get a one-million-dollar check and instantly meet your operational goals.  

It takes time and work though. Often being a one-person fundraising team, I have found myself in situations where I feel very siloed and just going through the motions of fund development; however, I always wished for an opportunity to stop and meet others, learn best practices, and even seek out friends and mentors in the profession. Enter AFP’s annual conference, ICON. I was so fortunate to be able to join in on this three-day fundraising event and meet industry professionals and learn from the best of the best. I left with so many new insights on how I could “level up” as a fundraiser, as well as newfound friendships with people who were going through similar struggles as me. I found a community where I belong and felt safe to ask questions and learn, and this experience has been one for the books.

Reflecting on my journey to where I am today, I would be remiss by not extending my heartfelt gratitude to my fellow fundraising colleagues at AFP for giving me the opportunity to participate in this year’s ICON in Toronto. Their generosity has enriched my career, along with supporting me in finding my place among other fundraising professionals in the community and around the world.  

The power of people is where you will find the most success in fundraising, and it is also where you will find the most joy when you make those meaningful connections. Remember to build up and maintain your relationships, and you will see a difference. It takes time, so be patient, and while you wait for that ROI you can chat with me over coffee or tea!