By Jennifer Meriano
I have always felt lucky to have a career that has been more of a winding road than a straight climb up the ladder. I began my work life on the for-profit side, doing everything from marketing campaign creation to customer experience mapping to creative direction. I then made a move to nonprofit life, applying my strategic and creative skills to donor engagement. Being a part of so many different industries and projects, one thing has always been a constant – attending conferences. I know whether you are attending your first conference or your first conference on a particular subject matter, conferences can be intimidating, especially if you are attending alone. So, if you are going to be a first time AFP Congress attendee this year, here are few things to help you make the most of your experience.
- Get Excited – There is learning afoot!
Congress is about you and your professional development. Preparation for the conference is essential to making the most of this opportunity. Come to the conference with a clear plan for at least one thing you want to learn more about. Focus on leaving the conference with one insight in this area and make a promise to yourself to apply it in your first week back to work. I also recommend attending sessions that are a little out of your wheelhouse – do not feel confined to sessions that cover what you already know.
- Talk to People – They will not bite!
Some of the most valuable leanings you will gain at Congress will come from networking. As a proud introvert, I understand this can be tough, but it is so important. Many people find the idea of starting a conversation with a stranger awkward, but just remember meeting people is on their agenda too. One of the best things about a conference is that it brings like-minded people together in one room to share ideas, so don’t let this chance go to waste. Stuck? An easy conversation starter is to ask what sessions they have attended so far. And don’t forget to end every conversation by asking for the person’s business card no matter who they are. If you really want to crush conference networking, follow-up the next day with a brief email letting them know you enjoyed meeting them and connect on LinkedIn.
- Exhibitor Booths – More than just SWAG!
Full disclosure, I have been an exhibitor at many conferences and I feel strongly that most attendees do not make the most of this opportunity. It is vital to remember that exhibitor booths are not just about immediate need. Let’s face it, if you had an immediate need you would already know who they are. Visiting exhibitor booths is about gaining a greater understanding of your industry’s landscape and learning what tools are available to you. Talk to the people at these booths and take the time to understand what they can provide. This can be invaluable when creating new innovative strategies in the future.
Attending a conference is a rare occasion to talk to people in your industry, learn from the mistakes and successes of others and better yourself. Embrace it; you are going to have a great time!
Jennifer Meriano is a Brand & Donor Strategist and member of the 2019 Congress marketing committee. She looks forward to welcoming you at Congress and connecting!
This year’s AFP Congress is a rallying cry for fundraisers to take a step back, recharge, discover new ways of thinking, support each other, and collaborate in elevating the profession.
In this blog entry, the volunteers behind Congress share their perspective on what it means to ‘Raise The Work’ in 2019. Please share your own thoughts in the comments below!
“I think we need to get better at celebrating ourselves. Not everyone gets to fund social good with their day job. That meaningful impact is a benefit of our career choice and we shouldn’t be shy or equivocate about that fact. We should own it.”
– Scott Jeffries, Director of Media & Data Services, Stephen Thomas Ltd
AFP Congress 2019 Marketing Committee Chair
Tell the World
“Some may view our sector as small or lacking innovation. But we know better. Fundraisers see the results of innovation everyday in the life-changing impact we have on the communities we serve. Fundraisers change the world in a big way – let’s make sure the world knows it.”
– Molly DeHaan, Manager of Annual Giving, Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation
AFP Congress 2019 Marketing Committee
“To me raising the work means understanding the challenges faced by your colleagues. Because when you get out of your ‘silo’ in this way, you can discover new ways of working together so that you’re not just serving your own goals but perhaps helping other departments more readily achieve their goals too.”
– Jennifer Meriano, Mid-Level Giving, Canadian Red Cross
AFP Congress 2019 Marketing Committee
Read more »
By Jacquelyn Folville
Originally published as part of DM Magazine’s October 2019 issue.
From November 25 to 27, 2019, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter will host its 24th annual Congress conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The conference is one of the Chapter’s signature events that provides a unique professional development and networking opportunity.
“I look forward to Congress every year; as a fundraiser, it’s my Christmas,” says member Laura Champion, who is also a part of this year’s volunteer conference management committee and incoming Chair of Congress 2020.
Each year, the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Congress hosts approximately 1,000 delegates made up of fundraising and non-profit professionals from across the country who come to learn, connect and be inspired. With over 80 sessions ranging from beginner-level how-to fundraising workshops, to intermediate practical and skills-based presentations and to senior-level discussions, Congress has something for everyone.
“Congress is a great way for both our members and non-members to connect professionally, exchange ideas, ask questions and network with experts in the field and to re-charge outside of the office,” says AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Director, Cynthia Quigley. “It’s an opportunity for individuals at all skill levels to engage in new ideas and to leave with practical takeaways they can implement right away back at their organizations to advance their causes and their careers.” Read more »
By Emily Barrie
“Leave something behind, be curious, and surround yourself with good people”.
These are simply a few of the takeaways I left Fundraising Day 2019 with; and as a first-time attendee I can confidently say that as I boarded the Lakeshore West train I was heading back home with a number of new tools in my fundraising toolkit.
I am early on in my career as a professional fundraiser, and have been a member of the AFP for less than a year. Always eager to learn and improve my skill-set I decided that it was time for me dig deeper and dive into my fundraising education. So naturally I found myself on AFP Toronto’s Fundraising Day 2019 website, hovering over the “complete registration” button. At first I was a bit hesitant as not only would I not know anyone, this would be the first time I’ve attended an event like this. Of course, I could hear the little fundraiser voice in the back of my head saying “you won’t know unless you ask”, or in this case, attend. So after debating over which sessions I wanted to participate in I found myself looking at that same registration button, and clicked.
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