March/April President’s Message


The Alamo is much smaller than I thought it would be. I opted to take the guided tour, which provided a lot of history and helped me imagine what 2017JLFav-4the Mission looked like during the Texas Revolution, well before the office buildings that now flank the historic landmark were built just a few blocks away from the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. I enjoyed my visit to San Antonio and took advantage of the close proximity of the Riverwalk to my hotel, managing to dine on Texmex five nights in a row. It was AFP’s International Conference (ICON) that brought me to “Alamo City” just a few weeks ago.

The last time I attended ICON was well over a decade ago when it was hosted in Seattle. I don’t remember how many attended that conference, but I was glad to hear I was among 3,400 fundraisers who attended this year. The professional education sessions were plentiful, and I learned several things that I plan to incorporate into my own organization. I am already looking forward to attending ICON in Baltimore next year; I just registered this past weekend and booked my accommodations through the AFP hotel block. I like to stay as close as possible to the convention center so I opted to do my research early! The super early-bird rate is available now through the end of April.

I know that the opportunity to attend an out-of-state ICON is not in every nonprofit’s budget, so I am really grateful that the Florida Caucus sponsors our state conference, Planet Philanthropy. That has been my go-to conference for the past six years, and it will take place June 16-18 in the beautiful, historic city of St. Augustine.

For those who are unable to take the time off to attend Planet Philanthropy, our AFP Suncoast Chapter will offer a one-day conference on Thursday, October 3 at ZooTampa. The conference will begin at 8 a.m. with two traditional, 90-minute sessions in fundraising fundamentals, followed by a webinar over lunch. The afternoon session will include six TED-style talks. and the conference day will conclude with a reception. Registration is $99 for AFP members/$139 for non-members.

The one-day conference is being programmed with our young professionals in mind, so if you are a young professional interested in working on the conference committee, please email me at

Our chapter is focused on providing you with the best continuing education opportunities this year. In addition to our monthly luncheons and one-day conference, we are also offering a CFRE review course. This two-day course will be taught by Janet Ginn, CFRE on August 22 and 23.

In lieu of the Planned Giving Symposium, we are offering an expanded session in partnership with Charitable Gift Planners on August 20. The morning session, “Planned Giving 101,” will be presented by Beverley McLain of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Then, Byron Smith will present “Planned Giving 201” over lunch.

I hope you will take advantage of the various professional development opportunities being offered this year, either through your AFP Suncoast Chapter or through AFP Global. And whether it’s at any of our local offerings this year, or over five nights in a row of crab cakes in Baltimore next year, I look forward to learning with you about industry trends and best practices in fundraising.

JL Signature

JL Bielon, CFRE

2018/2019 President – AFP Suncoast Chapter
Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research

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