New AFP President Mike Geiger Inspired by Passion of Congress Attendees
December 12, 2017
by Lisa MacDonald
Anyone who has attended Congress knows that each day is filled with nonstop learning sessions and networking, so finding a quiet ten minutes with new AFP President and CEO Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA wasn't easy. In this conversation from Congress, Mike reveals why he likes it when members “unload” on him!
Q: This is your first AFP event. How has it been?
MG: It has been amazing on many levels. First of all, seeing how many people attend, which I knew coming up here—but to see it is incredible. And, to be able to walk around and talk to everyone? I have a two-inch stack of business cards! The passion that everyone has comes through loud and clear. It's exhilarating. I'm leaving here so pumped up. I don't know how many other chapters are like this. I hope every one of them, but Toronto has a size that they can do incredible things. What happens here doesn't just stay here. Krishan Mehta and I were discussing how to disseminate all the great learning that comes out of Congress. How can chapters learn from each other and share that information?
Q: You've really had a crash course here in Toronto in what AFP is all about. You've now seen face-to-face all the people who make AFP what it is.
MG: You see from how many places people are coming to be here—not just Toronto and the surrounding area, but also from across Canada and North America. I've met many people who've come here from Europe. Some may be speakers, but they're still willing to give of their time to come here and be part of this event.
Q: It must be exciting for you that AFP is encouraging leadership that is expanding past our own borders.
MG: If you've got people who are passionate, you have such a better chance of getting stuff done. The passion here is palpable.
Q: I heard a few people admit that when they got their 5 minutes with you, they “unloaded” their ideas. Is that overwhelming?
MG: I expected it. That's what happens. I try to remember as many of the ideas as possible. Hearing from the members is what makes an association great. You can't always tackle every idea, but when you start to hear themes, that is what makes things interesting. I have been taking lots of notes!
Q: What does it say to you when you meet people who have been career-long members?
MG: It means a couple things First, they are really committed to the organization. They either like how it's going or they're not happy and they want to change it, but typically they enjoy the people they connect with and believe in the mission of the organization. The other side of the coin is—and this came up several times—about young people coming into the organization. How do we continue to make it attractive and interesting to them?
I spoke to one individual who said, “When I joined I was the median age...Now that I'm 50 I'm still the median age.” It likely means there is a drop-off on younger members joining. I talk a lot about ages and stages. Where are you in your life? Things pull on your time and will affect how much time you have to give outside of your family. We have to examine clearly what we offer to the youngest members and our most experienced members.
Q: What does philanthropy mean to you personally?
MG: Philanthropy is hugely important to my family. You can give your skills, your time or financial support, and throughout my life, I have given different parts of those at different times to different organizations. My wife is currently very involved through our church in the issue of human trafficking, which is a huge issue in the Northern Virginia area. It is very scary.
I'm also on the board of a Romanian foundation that helps with post-communism development. I've been on other boards for other associations. It's part of what we do. We pull our kids into it as much as we can, and I think that’s so important. As Pinball Clemons [speaker at the Toronto Congress] said, “It's not that we're teaching a lesson. This is who we are, it's our way of life.”
Q: Were there any memorable moments that you'd like to share?
MG: When people came up, introduced themselves and unloaded on me. Those are memorable moments. There is PASSION there. When you see how important AFP is to people, it touches and motivates you. Those 50 mini-conversations over my three days here is what I will take with me. Anyone who wants to reach out and unload on me—I encourage you to get in touch. I want to hear from people to figure out how to continue to move things forward. Also, getting to talk to the group and share my vision was an incredible honour. There are decisions that you make that you know are going to be good decisions. And then, when you're done, you think to yourself, boy that was actually a great decision. Coming to Congress was, in hindsight, a GREAT decision!