Why I Love AFG!
By: Peter Kissinger, Consultant
In 2002, I was very fortunate to have been selected as the new President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the 501©3 non-profit, research affiliate of AAA and auto clubs throughout the United States. I was selected because of my expertise, experience and management skills related to “traffic safety.” I wasn’t asked one question about fundraising or development, which was good because I had very limited experience in those disciplines.
Eighteen months into the job, my Board suggested we take steps to increase our revenue so that we could expand our mission and conduct additional traffic safety research. I started looking into how to initiate this process. Fortunately, Curtis Deane, a former colleague, who had led a major development campaign for the American Society of Civil Engineers offered me many suggestions, but emphasized one in particular – the need to join AFG.
Sixteen years later, I am convinced that that was one of the best suggestions I could have gotten. With assistance from Curtis, I worked with my Board and an ad hoc committee of key historical donors to develop our first “Strategic Development Plan.’’ The plan was very comprehensive and was populated with various strategies I had learned about after attending my first AFG annual meeting.
Of course, the real work began when we moved into the plan implementation stage. Initially, we focused on a major gifts campaign to grow our “endowment” and thus, provide long term financial security for the Foundation. Taking advantage of the goodwill created when we developed the development plan and using best practices I learned at AFG events, we had a smashing success. In six months we had raised $6 million, twice as much as the campaign target.
Next, we focused on our annual revenue, that primarily involved refining an automatic dues renewal option, which was greatly informed by benchmarking and other tips picked up at AFG. Once again, we were remarkably successful. Our annual revenue grew from about $1 million to over $5 million. This enabled us to grow the organization, take on larger and additional research projects, and ultimately have a greater impact in the real world and reduce traffic deaths.
Of course, this quick summary doesn’t come close to providing perspective on the myriad of challenges overcome, projects started and other efforts to sustain our success. Throughout these years, AFG, and the many knowledgeable people I’ve met through AFG, have always been my go-to resource on virtually any issue – fundraising, communications and administration. Every annual meeting or monthly education lunch, I left with new ideas and new items on my “to-do” list.
I owe so much of my success at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to AFG and the peers I’ve met through AFG who are willing to share their lessons learned, both good and bad. Their input has been invaluable, guiding my way and keeping me from stumbling along the way.
Having retired last year, I can honestly look back and give substantial thanks for all of the guidance and assistance that I received!
Association Foundations are “unique organizations,” as is AFG; so, please take advantage of it. “Use it for all its worth!”
Peter Kissinger retired as President and Chief Executive Officer of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and is a Past President of the Association Foundation Group.
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