Nonprofit Leadership Alliance student Logan Mitchell on the AMI conference, fundraising and finding a home in the nonprofit sector

Nonprofit Leadership Alliance student Logan Mitchell on the AMI conference, fundraising and finding a home in the nonprofit sector

Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association members won the Excellence in Student Fundraising Award at the annual Alliance Management Institute conference in Kansas City this January. The association's director of development, ASU student Logan Mitchell, is pictured here, fourth from the left in the back row, with the ASU attendees.

February 12, 2020

Students in ASU's Nonprofit Leadership Alliance attended the 2020 Alliance Management Institute (AMI) conference in January in Kansas City, a capstone experience of the Alliance's Certified Nonprofit Professional credential program. The three-day conference offered educational workshops, networking and other career-building activities with 500 other emerging leaders.

But an equally critical part of the AMI experience started well before the students departed for Missouri. As part of their training to become future nonprofit leaders, the students ran a $25,000 fundraising campaign to attend AMI, taking what they learned in the classroom into the real world. At AMI, the ASU students received the Excellence in Student Fundraising Award for raising more money than any other campus affiliate.

Troy Hill, the Center's storyteller, talked with student Logan Mitchell, who led the ASU fundraising campaign as the director of development, about the conference experience.


Troy Hill, ASU Lodestar Center:  So what was it like getting to go to AMI after working on it for so long?

Logan Mitchell, Director of Development, ASU Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association: It was amazing. I feel like our school definitely had the most spirit. We had the most energy, we were the loudest, we were dancing. We were taking full advantage of every opportunity we had. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we were so directly responsible for fundraising.

I think because we had been so energized by talking to alumni, I think it was this tension, this sort of energy building up for months and months and months - for some people even years… and then to actually be there, it was amazing. There were definitely some surreal moments. We were like, “Wow, we actually did it.”

TH: It lived up to the hype, then?

LM: Oh, absolutely. It was really special to fully immerse yourself in that intellectual space because we were all there for the common purpose of wanting to make an impact in our communities through philanthropy. To me, that was super inspiring and it definitely lived up to the expectations that I had set in my head and that I had told other people about.

TH: So tell me what going to the conference was like. What did you guys do?

LM: The keynote speakers were probably the general consensus highlight. Particularly, this one speaker named Whitney Parnell, she owns a nonprofit called Service Never Sleeps. She was the first keynote speaker and she talked about what it means to be an ally for marginalized people. She was so fearless and unafraid to bring up controversial ideas and topics. It was really great to see such a diverse voice at this conference. I think that it was very powerful to have such a strong voice pushing for systemic change - change from the inside out. That was sort of a common theme we had.

And then the biggest event was called “Change the World Day,” which was basically the entire third day of the conference. We were all split up into groups and we were all set to go work with an actual nonprofit organization in the city. We were given a real case study and the challenge of trying to come up with some potential solutions for this nonprofit. So I got to go to the gorgeous Kauffman Performing Arts Center.

The CEO of this $400 million large performing arts institution sat down and gave us a tour and he gave us a full presentation about their budget and their finances and the issue we were working on… [The experience] was really amazing. It was really one of the first times where I felt like I got to use the skills and the abstract theory that we've been learning in our course and apply it to a real problem in real-time with other people. And everyone else got to do [something like that].

TH: What do you feel that you've been able to take away from it so far? What have you learned? What have you been able to bring back so far?

LM: I think the biggest thing is that it is more like a reassurance. We were in the airport reflecting and I just had never felt so sure and so excited to dedicate myself to philanthropy. It sort of sealed the deal, in a sense. No matter what happens in my life, I just can't see philanthropy not playing a major role in my life anymore.

I felt reassured that there would be a job for me. I spoke with so many professionals and I spoke with people who are graduate students or graduate advisors and people from all different walks of life. And I feel so confident that there will always be a job in philanthropy and that there will always be a job that brings a lot of social value and impact to the world.

It was really that underlying theme of just how important [nonprofit] work is and just how wonderful the work is. It's never been more important for people to really take philanthropy seriously. That's sort of the underlying message that I got is that we're the people who are going to change the world. We're really the lucky ones.

TH: What was the interaction like with NLA students from other universities?

LM: It was great.

Not to say that the other schools are lacking per se, but from the students' perspective, we really realized how great our program was… We have the Lodestar Center behind us and that gives us so much community support. And to have [Lodestar Center Executive Director] Dr. Ashcraft as such a strong supporter of the program.

It was great to see the other officers and how leadership presents itself in different organizations and different people. That was really valuable to see how other school campuses are approaching questions of leadership.

TH: What was it like going on this trip with the other ASU students? What was the dynamic like?

LM: Going to AMI, it really solidified [our group’s connection and dynamic] even further. Now we're riding on planes together and we're at the airport together and we're going to the American Jazz Museum together and going to workshops and then talking about them afterward.

That's what I tell people is so special about our program, that is separate from the [nonprofit] major, and that you don't get in the major. Here, you see the same people, the family/community environment, that I never would have thought was possible in college. It's a really unique experience because now I have friends for life who I'll call on in 10 years and we'll still be able to talk about our memories at AMI together.