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I have a favor to ask of you. As you shake hands with old friends and new peers at Fundraising Day, I want you to remember the first time you touched the person you love, bare skin on bare skin. I want you to remember being allowed to hold a newborn. I want you to remember turning toward a friend in pain, even though you were frightened and felt inadequate to the task. I want you to remember how you felt and to remember that everyone you meet, however briefly, holds their own versions of those feelings inside of them.

The moments that last are overwhelmingly those that help us feel and generally involve the attention and active participation of other human beings.  And yet we design the places where we work and the transactions that define our work as if how people feel didn’t matter at all.

In meetings, at conferences, in pitch sessions, and in performance reviews we follow a script and we rarely ask about the script’s authorship or how suitable the script is to the performance underway. Luckily or unluckily, I’ve worked in many rooms where no shared script exists. Bringing together artists, leaders from Indigenous communities, frontline social workers, engineers, researchers, and energy sector executives quickly reveals the inadequacy of the scripts we’ve inherited and a desperate need to start over if we hope to build a shared commitment to a better future.

Over time and through often painful experimentation and failure, some recurring themes have emerged that suggested a way of thinking about designing the moments when people come together. My workshop will be an elaboration of these themes, but they are pretty straightforward for anyone that relies on other people.

Firstly, we need to make moments special. When we make them special the moments are enhanced, because taking pains convinces us that the activity is worth doing. Essentially, socially important activities need to be emotionally and physically gratifying.

Secondly, when we focus on our own needs, we are apt to ignore how others feel and we are less likely to get where we want to be. However, when we focus on how we want others to feel, we ignore our own needs, yet paradoxically are more likely to achieve our goals. For example, when we follow a script to seek financial support from a potential donor we can quickly get an answer to a question we have. Will this person support us? However, when we take time and energy to focus on how we want that person to feel, no answers may be forthcoming but all-new questions may emerge that suggest new opportunities for action.

Thirdly, existing scripts too often assume causes and effects that rarely are realized in the world. People are complex, messy, and often contradictory. Scripts imagine people as complicated machines that will respond in appropriate ways to the right sets rational arguments. We don’t believe this about ourselves so we certainly shouldn’t apply this to others. We all want our children to grow up as strong, capable, and happy individuals. Few of us believe that we can force this to happen. We need to focus on creating conditions rather than creating outcomes.

Most of this may seem obvious but remarkably few people are this intentional when preparing to bring people together. We are very good at creating spoken and unspoken rules. We are less good at understanding the unintended consequences of those rules on others and how they affect the experience of our collaborators and friends in the work that we do.

Jerrold McGrath

Through organizational design, leadership development and strategy facilitation, Jerrold supports partner organizations to synthesize their ambitions and the needs of their stakeholders, communities and audiences.

Jerrold was previously the Director of Innovation and Program Partnerships for leadership programming at Banff Centre. Jerrold completed his Master’s in Strategic Innovation and Change at the University of Denver with a focus on strategy formulation in creative sector organizations.

He has developed partnerships, cross-sector collaborations and development programs to leverage the strengths of various sectors in addressing complex, systems-level social and cultural issues (hopelessness, economic inequality, city building, etc.). He has also directed the creation of leadership and entrepreneurial programs that prepare individuals, project teams, and organizations to connect with other sectors, organize to leverage digital creation and consumption, benefit from greater diversity in audiences and creators, while setting a point of view and a path forward.

McGrath is leading the session Y-02: Design Thinking for Fundraisers at #FD17Ideas on June 8th – register today! Follow Jerrold on Twitter @JerroldMcGrath

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In preparation for Fundraising Day 2017, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter sat down with Melissa Leite, Senior Development Coordinator at Tides Canada and an incredible member of the Fundraising Day 2017 Management Team to get the latest on what we can look forward to on June 8th!


AFP GTA: What is new and exciting about this year’s Fundraising Day program? Are there any highlights that should be on our radar?

Melissa: This year’s Fundraising Day program offers a strong roster of educational sessions that are both relevant to the fundraising profession, and address issues of importance here in Canada and abroad. This was my first year sitting on the Fundraising Day Committee and it was rewarding to see everyone’s ideas come together into the program that we have today. A highlight I am most passionate about is this year’s focus on diversity and inclusion. I’m proud of the fact that this year’s program is championing big ideas around diversity and inclusion in fundraising and features five sessions on the topic. As an alumnus of the AFP Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy program, I feel inspired and encouraged by AFP’s commitment to becoming inclusive and celebrating diversity.

AFP GTA: This year’s theme is In Every Idea is a Universe.  We’re going to turn the question back to you: Where do good ideas come from?

Melissa: For me, good ideas come from having conversations and listening to diverse perspectives. No two ideas are the same, everyone has something unique to bring to the table. It’s the diversity of people’s experiences that can strengthen a good idea and create truly innovative solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.

AFP GTA: Fundraising professionals are generally quite open to sharing ideas and best practices from within their organizations with one another.  Where do you think this culture of collaboration stems from?

Melissa: I think this culture of collaboration stems from the type of work that we do and the type of people it attracts. Fundraisers are responsible for creating strategies, cultivating meaningful relationships, and raising funds to create durable solutions to address societal issues. There is an inherent desire to do good in the world. I think this desire to serve and give back also translates into wanting to support our peers. Fundraising can at times be challenging, it requires creativity, fresh ideas and perspectives, and the ability to adapt and seek out new sources of funding. Sharing good ideas is the only way we will continue to be successful as a profession and build on the best practices that exist today.

AFP GTA: If you were going to give a Fundraising Day participant one piece of advice on how to maximize their experience there, what would it be?

Melissa: Attend as many sessions as you can and participate in the full day of activities. Come to Fundraising Day with an open mind and ready to meet fundraisers from all walks of life. This is your day to learn, reboot, and to be re-inspired. Seize the day and come prepared to share ideas and build on what you already know.


About Melissa Leite:

Melissa Leite is a senior development coordinator at Tides Canada, an innovative charity that supports people in building healthy, vibrant communities that have the social, economic, and natural capital to steward their environments for generations to come. In her role, Melissa is responsible for leadership annual giving and supports all aspects of major gifts fundraising. She holds an honours degree in Public Policy and Administration from York University and a postgraduate certificate in Public Policy and Administration from Humber College.