AFP Golden Gate: 50th Anniversary Testimonial -
My Fundraising Journey with AFP

By Kay Sprinkel Grace

2021 is the 50th Anniversary of the AFP Golden Gate Chapter. This article is part of a series of testimonials from current and former members, Board members, and other development professionals in the Greater Bay Area Community on the impact that the Chapter has made on advancing philanthropy.
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In January 1980, I began my first nonprofit job as Director of Fund Development at The Children’s Health Council (CHC) in Palo Alto.  My only experience in fundraising was nearly 20 years as a volunteer for various organizations, including Stanford, where I had led several programs and was known (rightly or wrongly) as a “good fundraiser.” I had been a print and television journalist and then an educator, teaching middle school and then creating and implementing curriculum and other programs in the Cupertino K-8 schools. All that came to an abrupt stop in the autumn of 1979 when the impact of Prop 13 scuttled my position and I found myself without a job.

Colleagues in the Stanford Development Office told me about the CHC opening. The CHC board comprised many of my Stanford volunteer colleagues, and I thought I might have a chance. I was right. I interviewed on a Thursday, was called back on Friday and began work on Monday. I was suddenly a fundraising professional and didn’t know where to turn beyond my own volunteer experience, other things I had learned along the way in the classroom and from meeting journalism deadlines. The CHC had taken a chance on me, the position had been vacant for eight months, the Fiscal Year end was five months away and I was determined to succeed.

My predecessor had left some things inside her desk when she resigned for health reasons. Among them was her NSFRE (National Society of Fundraising Executives) membership card. Help was on its way! I got in touch and found that her membership was not transferable:  but my new boss was fine with adding a membership fee to my meager salary. That membership turned out to have a huge impact on my professional life, network, and success.

I plunged in feet first. Within a few months of joining in 1980, Jerry Mapp, a dear colleague who died earlier this year, recruited me to work as program chair for the first-ever NSFRE National Conference in San Francisco. Others, like the late Glenn Essex, were also on the conference committee. When I reflect on that conference, it was very “loving hands at home” – not the professional and impressive conferences our AFP ICONs have become – but we were successful.  It was held at the Sheraton Palace Hotel, its theme was “The Golden Gate to Fundraising Success” and we broke 300 attendees – the largest for an NSFRE Conference to that date. We were very happy.

During those years our Chapter was supplying the leaders for NSFRE nationally: in 1980, the year I joined, Bob Blum (of San Francisco and Marin) was the Chair of NSFRE national and within three years, Barbara Marion, also one of us and so beloved by all of us, became the first woman to Chair NSFRE national. These were great role models for me. And Linda Chew was another part of the national leadership team for many years around that time.

As I settled into my work, enjoying excellent NSFRE educational programs and supportive colleagues, I agreed to join the local board and eventually served on the national board (in one of its moments of being too large to be functional). I also served a few years on the Ethics Committee for national NSFRE.

In these 41 years I have seen our chapter grow and evolve. I have seen it in good years and not so good years and through all kinds of leadership transitions. I have been fortunate to find in it what I needed and to give back to it as well. Over the years I have offered numerous educational sessions, not just to our own chapter but to AFP Chapters across America. It is always gratifying to know that new people are entering our field with the same passion that I experienced. My hope is that they will stick with the work we do because it is increasingly important.

AFP Golden Gate’s NPD is world class. I can say that because I’ve seen similar celebrations across the US and Canada and globally. What we have here is a “harmonic convergence:” an established chapter, one of the most astounding philanthropic communities in the world, nonprofit leaders of excellence and reputation, and an acknowledgement that with all our wealth and gifts, we also serve a microcosm of the concerns in our world today:  equity, inclusion, social justice including food insecurity and housing, racial and gender inequality, and growing violence. This has led to community philanthropic leadership that is unequaled, and to a recognition event which is without parallel.

AFP Golden Gate has enhanced my professional experience and connected me with colleagues who are a continuing source of information, collegial networking, and friendship.

I am so glad I found that membership card in my predecessor’s desk. It opened incredible doors for me over the decades and allowed me to savor the benefits while giving back wholeheartedly to my community.

Thank you.

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Kay Sprinkel Grace is an icon in the world of philanthropy. She received the AFP Golden Gate Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award and the Fundraising Professional of the Year Award from AFP Global in 2020. Her books are available through Amazon (Beyond Fundraising and High Impact Philanthropy), Emerson & Church and Amazon (The Ultimate Board Member's Book, Over Goal, The Busy Volunteer's Guide to Fundraising, and Transform Your Board Into a Fundraising Force;  and Whit Press (The AAA Way to Fundraising Success). For more, please visit www.kaygrace.org.