10 Reasons to serve on an AFP Committee

January 19, 2018 by


Let’s be honest, there’s nothing magical about January 1st.  (Here’s a great blog from author Jon Acuff on making any day New Year’s Day https://acuff.me/2015/02/today-january-1st-want/.)

But since this is a January blog and we are starting a new year, we have all set some goals – both personal and professional. There are many paths to reaching your goals.  I’ve got a hunch that serving on an AFP Suncoast Chapter committee could help you reach at least one of your goals. Here are some suggestions:

If your goal is…

  1. Add a skill that’s missing on your resume – Maybe you see a need to increase your experience in communications, we have a committee for that. Maybe you want more experience in asking for money, we have a committee for that. AFP committees cover a broad range of activities that could fill those gaps.
  1. Sharpen a skill you have – If you are already good at something, share that skill with your professional association. You’ll be better for it and so will we.
  1. Find a new job – Serving on a committee is a great way to network so if you think that a job change is in your future, you’ll have a chance to hear about openings from colleagues. You can also get the inside scoop on what it’s like in a variety of organizations.
  1. Add staff to your development department – maybe it’s time to grow your department. Volunteering with someone is a great way to audition them for a job. You’ll see first hand how they relate to others and if they do what they say they’re going to do.
  1. Find a colleague who can understands what you’re going through – Sometimes fundraising is lonely work. You might feel like you’re the only person in your organization who understands what you’re going through. When you join an AFP committee, you’ll meet a group who knows exactly what you’re going through.
  1. Provide guidance to those who are new to fundraising – If you’ve been at this a while, it’s time for you to guide others who are new to fundraising. Service on a committee makes an immediate impact on your colleagues.
  1. Give back to your profession – If you’ve benefited from the leadership of others, here’s your chance to give back.
  1. Have fun – the AFP Suncoast Chapter is full of fun people. I know this firsthand. I’ve laughed with them (and laughed at them a few times, too). Committees have fun while they work.
  1. Qualify for a scholarship – One of the criterion for our professional development scholarships is service on a committee. Sing up now so you can qualify later.
  1. Improve the fundraising profession right here in Tampa Bay – everything we do is focused on improving fundraising in our community. When you volunteer with us, you join us in that mission.

These are the 10 reasons that come to mind for me. Do you have others?

Just in case you are thinking, ‘I’m already busy so how could I fit in one more thing?’ Everyone serving with you is busy, too. Our committee chairs understand that and insure that tasks are manageable for busy professionals (that’s all of us, right?).

To sign up for a committee or to learn more, click here: 2018 Committee Volunteer Opportunities

Thanks for all you do to make our profession strong. I’ll see you at a committee meeting soon!

Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE
2017/2018 President – AFP Suncoast Chapter
Sara Leonard Group
(813) 310-2364


Appreciation for Development Department

December 22, 2017 by

Appreciation for Development Departmentsara_leonard_webfriendly-5

It’s the holiday season and most of us celebrate something. TV commercials show us sipping cocoa while sitting next to a fire (not an accurate portrayal of December in Florida, is it?).  But in the midst of this festive time, I’m reminded that the holidays are painful for some of our friends and neighbors.

When I looked at my fundraising colleagues at the December AFP Suncoast Chapter meeting, I saw the people who will make the world better for those who are hurting.

They are the fundraising staff members at hospitals and hospices who will care for the sick and dying. They raise money for social service agencies who will clothe and feed our neighbors in need. They secure the funding needed to educate the next generation who will make this world better. They rescue animals with the money they raise. They brighten the world with visual and performing art. Their professional dedication makes the world better for countless people – literally too many to count.

Over the next few weeks as those nonprofits serve the hurting in our community, no one will stop and say, ‘thanks, development department, for raising money all year so we can do what we do.’ So let me be the one to say it: thanks, development department! Because of you, fundraising professional, someone life is better today and someone’s life will be better tomorrow, too.

Thanks for making the holidays happy for everyone!

Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE
2017/2018 President – AFP Suncoast Chapter
Sara Leonard Group
(813) 310-2364

Quotes from Great Philanthropists

December 2, 2017 by

On November 15, the Tampa Bay community celebrated National Philanthropy Day with a luncheon at the Bryan Glazer Jewish Community Center. Professional fundraisers and generous donors filled the room to honor great philanthropists in our community.

This month, instead of writing my usual monthly blog, I am sharing the inspirational words of those we honored. Be sure to click on the links if you want to hear their full videos.

Sara Leonard
Sara Leonard Group
AFP Suncoast Chapter President

Philanthropist of the Year: Lynn Pippenger

“Start out small. It doesn’t matter whether you give $100. Whatever you can afford.

My grandmother impressed upon me the need to give back and to volunteer.  She always taught me that with my allowance I could spend some, save some, and give some. I still do that. Not necessarily in that order but I still do that.”

Philanthropic Corporation of the Year: Skanska

Todd Collier, General Superintendent

“No matter who you are, there’s always someone less fortunate than ourselves.

It doesn’t always have to be about money. There are so many things we can do. So many ways we can make a difference.”

Gayle Sierens Volunteer of the Year in Philanthropy: Barbara Curts

“Volunteering makes me a better person. I can’t imagine the world if we didn’t have the Crisis Center in particular or any philanthropic group. I’m one person, my kids are grown, so I’m able to do this. It’s important to me. I don’t think I’d be me without it.”

Spirit of Philanthropy: David Finkel

“Philanthropy comes naturally after gratitude and empathy. The benefit of philanthropy is seeing the good that your gift has done in the community. Philanthropy is understanding that there is no them and us. It’s really just all us.”

Philanthropic Small Business of the Year: Siracusa Staffing & Leasing

David Siracusa, Principal/Owner

“We are all in this globe together and we have to help each other out as best we can.

The inspiration is the people we can help. To see their lives get better as a result of something we can do. Get involved, do something. Get your kids involved. There’s always someone who can use your assistance, no matter how big or small.”

Philanthropic Service Organization of the Year: Associate Board of Ambassadors, American Cancer Society

Kristina Gandre, Vice Chair

“Philanthropy for me is all about investment. It’s about investing your time, your energy and your effort back into the community in order to hopefully achieve something greater for the entire community.”

Steven Warneke, Chair

“Getting out there and helping any organization is going to bring good and positive memories to those who might need it the most.”

Youth in Philanthropy: Sally Campbell

“As we come together, the possibilities are endless.  Doesn’t matter how young you are. My hopes for the future of philanthropy in Tampa Bay is that everyone will find their motive and their inspiration to give back. When everyone comes together, the possibilities are endless.”

Making Miracles Happen…Everyday

October 20, 2017 by

August and September have been difficult months here. By “here” I mean in the Tampa Bay Area and in my own family. In August, my son spent a week at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Then in September our whole Tampa Bay area spent a week (or more) dealing with Hurricane Irma. In these times of crisis – both micro and macro – I am reminded of the everyday miracles that are made possible by the nonprofits of Tampa Bay.

To my dedicated fundraising colleagues: I know you make those miracles happen.

While spending many hours at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, I was reminded of the professional colleagues I’ve known through the years that raised money at St. Joseph’s Hospitals Foundation. I have served on our AFP Suncoast chapter board with several of them. Throughout our hospital stay, I didn’t see any fundraisers (why would I, right?) but I knew they were there. That’s how our business works: we aren’t there when the miracles happen but we are an integral part of it.

The endless coverage of Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Harvey before that, highlighted the generosity of so many in a time of natural disasters. Our nonprofit sector cares for the most vulnerable among us. Both in times of crisis and the regular days, you are providing the funds needed to change lives and save lives.

Our partners at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay created the Tampa Bay Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund [https://www.cftampabay.org/disaster/] in the days before Hurricane Irma arrived. This fund provides a trusted and reliable way to make tax-deductible donations to local storm recovery efforts. Click here [https://www.cftampabay.org/irma/] for more information on how your nonprofit can apply for a grant from this fund.

To my treasured fundraising colleagues, thank you for the miracles you create everyday. You make MY community a better place because of your dedication!



Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE
2017/2018 President – AFP Suncoast Chapter
Sara Leonard Group
(813) 310-2364

Mentors ~ August President’s Message

August 21, 2017 by


I was on the phone this week getting some advice. Sound familiar? I hope so. The advice from trusted mentors and wise colleagues is more valuable than gold. At least it is to me.

This particular call was with a former leader of the Suncoast Chapter who generously answers questions and provides encouragement. That got me to thinking about my AFP mentors. There have been many…many, many. Some influenced me for a short time, some longer, several still do.

Our chapter recognizes lifetime achievement through the Lloyd Horton award. When I look at that list it’s like a who’s who of mentors.

The first time I served on an AFP committee, I learned from some amazing fundraising professionals. We were working on the first ever Planet Philanthropy conference. At that time I worked in annual giving at a large hospital and my volunteer work on the hospitality committee was not a direct benefit to my job. Or was it? Let’s be honest, hospitality isn’t rocket science or major gift fundraising. But I met and worked with some great people. By attending meetings, I met several of the chapter and state leaders who created the AFP Florida Caucus.

In my 25+ years as a member of AFP, I have had the chance to work with – and learn from – some amazing fundraisers. None of that would be possible if I hadn’t raised my hand and taken a volunteer assignment. Then another. Then another.

So let me ask you: are you looking for a mentor?

One great way to find one (or several), is to serve on an AFP committee.

If you answered no, let me ask you: is it time for you to become a mentor to someone else? Raise your hand, serve on a committee.

Sara Leonard
AFP Suncoast Chapter President 2017/2018
Sara Leonard Group

Wisdom, Women and Wealth

July 21, 2017 by

sara_leonard_webfriendly-5Wisdom, Women and Wealth

Women and men are different. Too obvious?

Women and men think differently. Better?

Women and men give differently. Agree or disagree?

Research has proven that women’s influence in charitable giving has grown and continues to grow. According to Lilly School of Philanthropy’s Women Give 2016, “men’s and women’s donor behavior has changed over the past four decades, and that women now have greater influence over charitable decision-making.” Today I read an estimate that 2/3 of all wealth in US will be controlled by women by 2030.

So, fellow fundraising professional, have you asked yourself and your team these questions:

Do we know our female donors?

Do we know their capacity?

Do we understand how women approach planned giving differently?

If you aren’t sure of the answers (or aren’t happy with the answers) join us for our annual Planned Giving Symposium. As part of our commitment to provide fundraising professionals with timely and relevant education, we have partnered with Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Tampa Bay to present the 5th Annual Planned Giving Symposium. This program has all of the things I look for in an education program: subject matter experts, networking, affordability, efficiency and good parking.

For more information and to register, click here.

Sara Leonard
AFP Suncoast Chapter President 2017-2018
Sara Leonard Group

7 Reasons Not to Attend Planet Philanthropy (and why I disagree with each one)

May 18, 2017 by


Planet Philanthropy is coming to Tampa in June – hooray! Our state fundraising conference moves around the state each year and for the first time in many years, we are hosting it right here in downtown Tampa. I think this is fabulous but I realize not everyone agrees with me. So for those who aren’t sure, here are 7 reasons not to attend (and why I think they are wrong). Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Your Reason?

April 3, 2017 by


What’s Your Reason?

It was a really long time ago so I don’t remember exactly why I joined AFP. I will confess it wasn’t a deep, philosophical decision. My organization was willing to fund it and it seemed like a good idea so I did it. I quickly learned the practical benefit of membership.

Tasked with increasing the output from an established annual giving program, I needed help. I turned to the AFP Resource Center. Back then, I made my request over the phone and the AFP staff mailed me copies of the samples they had collected. (Some of you may be wondering if it were delivered by the Pony Express, it wasn’t that long ago). Fortunately, now that info is available via AFP Resource Center online.

In the 25 years since I joined, I’ve come to a much greater appreciation of all that AFP offers me as a professional. Here are some of the highlights:

Education at the local, state and national levels, AFP provides top-notch programming

Ethics support because unfortunately everyone doesn’t want to do things the right way. In many cases, I’ve depended on the AFP Code of Ethics to “back me up” in tough situations

Colleagues who have shared their expertise with me time after time and even helped me find career opportunities

– Chances to serve and lead which in turn made me better at my job

If you aren’t a member of AFP yet, I encourage you to join us today. Our community of professional fundraisers stands ready to welcome you. You never know what your reasons will be when you look back in 25 years.

To find our more about joining the AFP Suncoast Chapter click here.

Who Speaks for You?

February 25, 2017 by


Who Speaks for You?

What were you doing on February 16th? I was busy with client work all day then spent the evening watching my daughter play a high school softball game. But even though I was here in Tampa, my voice was heard in Washington. You might think I accomplished that using my magic powers, but really it was the power of my AFP membership at work.

Let me explain —  February 16 was the 2017 Charitable Giving Coalition Fly-In on Capitol Hill. AFP members from across the country attended the event to educate members of Congress about why, 100 years since the charitable deduction was signed into law, philanthropy needs to be strengthened and enhanced.

As 2017 starts, we are inundated with potential policy changes every day. I don’t know about you, but I’m working hard just to keep up with what is being proposed. Then the question becomes which of the things being proposed will impact me? Should I respond? How do I respond?

Never fear, busy fundraiser! We’ve got help for you. AFP is an international professional association that is committed to speaking for all of us. Here’s how advocacy is explained on the AFP International website:

“To better serve the interests and livelihood of AFP members and the philanthropic community, AFP works hard to continually advance and enhance its public policy outreach and advocacy efforts. We will be vigilant in highlighting new and pending legislative efforts in the U.S., Canada, and worldwide that could potentially impact the profession and charity, and what you can do to help safeguard the continuing vitality of philanthropy (including letter-writing campaigns, lobbying efforts, and more).”

Among the issues being discussed, are things that will directly impact your organization, your donors, and your fundraising activities. But the reality is that you have a full list of “things to do” already. How do you stay informed so that you can be active when you need to be? Here are several resources to help you keep up-to-date on legislation that impacts our work in the nonprofit sector:

AFP http://www.afpnet.org/PublicPolicy/?navItemNumber=4618

Charitable Giving Coalition http://protectgiving.org

BoardSource https://boardsource.org

Independent Sector http://independentsector.org/policy/

Florida Nonprofit Alliance http://www.flnonprofits.org/?page=OurWork

For a sample of the advocacy work of our professional association, check out the AFP position on the repeal of the Johnson amendment:


Now more than ever, I am grateful for the leadership demonstrated by AFP in speaking on behalf of our profession. I encourage you to stay informed so you can stay active.

Sara Leonard, CFRE
AFP Suncoast Chapter President 2017
Sara Leonard Group

Networking – January 2017

January 21, 2017 by



We’ve probably all done this: sent an e-mail to a colleague but sent it to their old e-mail address. It happens. Whatever. But here’s something that struck me this week when a fundraising colleague did that when trying to send me some AFP Suncoast Chapter info. She sent it to my e-mail address from 15 years ago. That’s when I realized: we have been colleagues and friends a long time. She’s even something of a mentor to me. I’ve called her many, many times when I had a situation that needed her perspective. I’m happy to say that she’s even called me once or twice when there was some way I could help her. We served on the AFP Suncoast board together. We have laughed together, commiserated together.

The term ‘networking’ is thrown around a lot these days. I’m not sure it’s always viewed in the most positive light. So if I told you that AFP provides opportunities for networking, what would you picture?

Would you picture a room full of people passing out business cards? That’s not AFP.

Or would you picture a room full of professional fundraisers at varying stages of their careers, sharing ideas, best practices, and latest trends? Would you picture laughter – at ourselves and some of the situations we find ourselves in?

Would you picture new acquaintances and old friends?

Would you picture a way to find your next employee or employer?

Would you picture a place where you could get involved and develop some new skills?

AFP is all of that and so much more.

As we kickoff a new calendar year, I hope you will join us and create your own definition of “networking” AFP-style. You could be looking back in 15 years, like I did last week, realizing it was a great investment of your time.

Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE
President, AFP Suncoast Chapter 2017