5 Hot Takes from AFP ICON 2022

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

We went to AFP ICON! If you missed it, here’s everything you need to know.


1. Philanthropy is changing

Our reliance on tried and true methods of fundraising may be outdated and might even be hurting the long-term success of our mission. There’s continued talk about community-first fundraising and making sure that we are leading all fundraising efforts with an equity lens. There was even a session about neuroscience, and the scientific data behind how and why donors choose to give. We have new tools and better data to help us understand philanthropy, and we need to start adjusting our actions to better align with our donors.

2. There is a continued focus on intersectionality

Philanthropy, fundraising, and especially development work continues to be dominated by white folks. But did you know that Black donors give more as a percentage of wealth than white donors? Additionally, gender has large effects on both donor acquisition and planned giving. People who identify as women respond to different messages than those who identify as men. Overall, women tend to give significantly more than men, but married couples give more than single individuals. Understanding these nuances when speaking with donors will help us better understand their reasons to give.

3. Data, data and more data

We really love to see this. We founded Canopy of the principle that good data can lead to great outcomes. Several sessions discussed data segmentation, data analytics, and even using predictive models to find hidden major donors (hmmm… sounds familiar).

4. But data isn’t everything—relationship building still prevails

While we love our data here at Canopy, we know—and make sure our customers do too—that data isn’t everything. Good data needs to be paired with strong and intentional relationship-building. Knowing your donors, not just as an ID number in your database, but really understanding their motivations, fears and passions, is central to the work of philanthropy. 

5. Don’t lose sight of the end goal

It’s always surprising to me how little we talk about the mission at fundraising conferences and events. There were a few sessions that went full circle and talked about the good work of the organizations, but many talked for hours about data and tools and donors, all the while forgetting why we’re here. Each one of us has a mission that’s close to our heart. A mission we support, as a staff member or a donor or a volunteer—or maybe all three. Let’s not forget that at the end of the day we want to help move our missions forward and make the world a better place for all.


AFP ICON was absolutely packed with great content, compelling speakers, and tons of networking opportunities. It’s important to our leadership team here at Canopy that we stay active in the learning space. We want to bring the best and most relevant information to the organizations we partner with, and part of that is continuous professional development in our field.  

Catch us this fall in Reno, NV for the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners’ conference October 26-28.