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Last Thursday, eight future speaking stars stepped into the spotlight in the inaugural installment of the Speakers Discovery Series.
The Speakers Discovery Series was an idea that has been brewing in my mind for quite some time. I have been a member of the AFP Toronto Congress Education Committee for the last two years before becoming Chair this year. Each year I would have people say to me, “How do I get to speak at Congress? I apply, and I am turned down over and over.”
When I looked at the reasons why many of these applications were being declined, I realized it was their lack of AFP based speaking experience. But how could they get experience if they couldn’t get accepted? There just wasn’t a clear path, and it was deterring new speakers which in turn meant that Congress was continuing to choose from the same pool of speakers. Finally, the idea came to me – why not replicate something that is already working to help create new and interesting speakers for other sectors? Being an avid podcast listener, I thought about The Moth or Risk – real people, telling real stories that connect with the audience. The plan was born!
The last 3 months have been a whirlwind of pitching, planning and coordinating but thanks to the AFP staff and dedicated Committee, we saw it quickly get off the ground. Thank you to Scott Jefferies, Jessica Wroblewski, Yunis Kariuki, Sam Barr, and Liz Dempsey for their amazing dedication to this event.
Held at the informal Tranzac Club, the night was kicked off by the magnetic Maeve Strathy followed by eight speakers brand new to AFP. These speakers had been given the instructions of no props, no slide decks – only great stories. Each of their stories, about eight minutes in length and connected to fundraising, centred on the night’s theme of “Firsts.”
Each of the participants was scored on their performance by three heavy hitters in the fundraising industry – thanks again to Paul Nazareth, Andrea Orr, and Denny Young. These scores, along with the written feedback, can be used as a reference for their speaking abilities should they choose to submit to Congress.
The topics varied from their first capital campaign to their first big win to the experience of returning to work as a first-time mom. You can check out the night’s amazing line up here.
With the personal nature of these stories, there were moments of uproarious laughter and moments where you could hear a pin drop. As fundraisers, we spend our days telling important stories, but the Speaker Discovery Series is a platform for us to tell our own. While we advocate for our charities and organizations, rarely do fundraisers get the opportunity to advocate for ourselves in the company of our peers.
By launching this night, we’ve created both a pathway for new speakers to become part of the AFP speaking community and a safe space for us to share our experiences.
It’s the Committee’s hope that we will have many more of these nights and that we can begin to spread them across Canada to develop more speakers outside of the GTA.
Our next event is January 18th (location TBD), and we will be recording it to turn it into a podcast – these stories are too important to only live for one night. I encourage all Chapters who might like to start one of these nights to reach out so I can supply you with everything you’ll need for a successful launch. We’d love to use the audio from your local Speakers Discovery nights in the podcast so we can highlight the best new speakers across the country.
Interested in speaking? The Call for Proposals for the next event will be coming out in December. This time, the theme will be WHOOPS!. Start thinking of your stories now and if you are nervous about submitting – please reach out, always happy to have a chat.
Looking forward to seeing you all in November at Congress!
Laura loves fundraising. After leaving her first career in Library Science she found her niche in the fundraising world. She has experience in annual, tribute giving, mid-level growth, and digital integration.
Laura is a proud Humber College grad and has co-created a mentorship project for new grads of the Fundraising program transitioning into the workplace from academia. She is also actively involved with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) as Chair of AFP Toronto Congress 2017 Education Committee and as founder of the Speakers Discovery Series.
Fundraising Performance Improvement (FPI) builds capacity by leveraging the work of fundraising staff, board members and volunteers in a new approach to major gifts that enables exponential increases in fundraising performance.
Making solicitation a process
The process combines the principles of fundraising relationship management with Lean Six Sigma thinking. It embeds relationship building strategies from initial contact through progressive stages. It is designed for a team-based environment and provides an easily implemented, step-by-step process through which the work of the development team is channeled and accelerated.
It is part of a circular, larger end-to-end development process that includes pipeline development and stewardship. It is named the “Core Process” because it is at the heart or core of the organization’s fundraising effort—responsible for 80 percent or more of the total amount raised annually, if deployed correctly.
Stage-Gates in the Core Process
A key element is the application of stage-gate theory from the world of commercial product development. Stage gates in product development are a way of limiting investment risk by focusing on a progressively smaller number of the most promising new products as they move through development stages.
Each of the four fundraising stage gates is a permission-based, opt-in process. While the formal solicitation occurs in the fourth stage, the intent of the process is to make solicitation a process, not a single event.
Check out the AFP Toronto Blog next Wednesday for Part 5 of Steve Reed’s series on Fundraising Performance Improvement.
Next: The Role of Boards in Fundraising Performance Improvement (FPI)
Steve Reed lead the session R-04: Hope is Not a Strategy: New Approaches to Fundraising Based on Performance Improvement Principles at AFP Toronto’s Fundraising Day on June 8. He unpacked FPI based on blend of learnings from five organizations, including two in Canada, with fundraising staffs ranging from one FTE to nearly 50.
About Steve Reed
Steve Reed offers 30 years of experience in business development, executive search, fundraising, marketing, performance improvement and strategic planning. His work creating innovation and ideation processes, coupled with 20 years of experience as a fundraising consultant, led to a pioneering application of six sigma and lean principles in fundraising. Reed has planned and directed well over $100 million in campaigns. He has completed executive search assignments, moderated hundreds of consumer focus groups and facilitated numerous board and staff retreats and workshops. His professional memberships reflect a diversity of interests. He holds accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America, is a member of the Counselors Academy, the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals and its Chicago Chapter, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, and the American Marketing Association. Follow Steve Reed on LinkedIn.