The annual migration in our trade is underway.  The Association of Fundraising Professionals opened its annual conference yesterday in San Diego.  Consultants wooing clients, printers, envelope salespeople, new media application service providers … all there wooing everyone in sight, along with 1/3 of the attendees looking for new jobs and wearing their best smiles.

Unfortunately, I can’t be there observing us all in our natural habitat. But I do want to send this note to loyal Agitator readers who are opening this morning’s edition over coffee in their rooms, ploughing through The Conference Program wondering what sessions they should attend today or whether they should just go to Sea World. ( By the way, Sea World has a terrific website and is a good place to visit!)

There’s a wide offering in the AFP Conference Program. From the conventional to the important to the inane. What strikes me by its absence is there’s very, very little about what will matter most in effective fundraising in the years to come:  social networking advances thanks to technology.

Don’t get me wrong.  Social networking has always been at the heart of successful fundraising.  Matching a potential donor’s interest with her/his peers’ involvement is as old as organized fundraising itself.

The difference between then and now is that today we can do it more quickly and more efficiently than ever before.  Sadly, as I reviewed the AFP program there’s virtually no attention paid to this possibility.  Sure, Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies and Nick Allen of Donor Digital will speak partially to the subject by telling how new media can advance major gifts efforts and Nicci Nobel of the Salvation Army will talk about online social network fundraising.  But all of this is somewhat like describing the crucifixion of Christ as the execution of two thieves and a subversive.  It misses the point.

The point is that, whether online or offline, the increasingly important key to success in this fast-changing world of ours is understanding how social networks work — or don’t — for fundraising.

So, as you drink your morning coffee and think about the day ahead, start by reading this piece by Rachel Happe on her social networking blog on the patterns of the most popular girls in high school. (I know, I know. "Vapid" and "inane" you say. Lots of bad memories for all of us.  But, please read it.)  Lots of wisdom here.  And you don’t even need a CFRE certification to understand its importance.

Roger Craver

P.S.  While you’re wandering around the lobby or being buttonholed by this consultant or that salesman (social networking) remember Rachel’s seventh point that "popular girls know whom to trust in what circumstances."

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