By Tara Irwin, CFRE
With AFP Congress only a few weeks away, I’m starting to get excited to reconnect with my fundraising friends, meet some new contacts, and learn a few tips and tricks to help me excel in my role. While some people find conferences overwhelming (they are), with a little preparation, they can be very rewarding. Here’s what I like to do in order to maximize my Congress experience.
Whether you’re planning to meet specific people or just chatting with the person beside you at lunch, Congress is the perfect opportunity to connect with other great minds in our sector. I like to have a couple of questions prepared, so I don’t feel like a robot asking everyone I meet the same thing. It’s okay to write down some notes, especially if there is a key person you’d like to chat with. I also like to connect with new contacts on LinkedIn right away. It’s a great platform to grow your network and communicate with like-minded professionals in the industry. Try to send a personal message noting where you met.
This can be a hard one for all of us, especially when there is temptation to check your email constantly throughout the day. Since I’ve made the commitment to attend Congress and learn something new, I do my best to focus my attention on the session content instead of worrying what’s going on back at the office. I like to check my email in-between sessions, so not to be distracted from an interesting presentation or discussion. I use my out of office message to let people know that I’m at a conference learning something new that will help make me better at my job.
While the ideas are still fresh, I try to review my notes right away in order to share what I’ve learned with my team. Before leaving each session, decide what your key action items are that you can implement at your organization. A fun way to spread the knowledge is to host a lunch and learn at the office to share a few of your key takeaways from the conference with colleagues.
Oh, and remember to have fun!
You’ve made the investment to attend Congress to learn and grow in the nonprofit sector. I hope you plan to make the most of your Congress experience this year and have a great time while you’re there!
About the Author
Tara Irwin, CFRE is the Senior Development Officer, Digital Fundraising at Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation. Tara has close to a decade of experience developing integrated direct response programs for non-profits across North America. She gets excited about digital marketing strategy that enhances online user experience to support fundraising, stewardship and ongoing donor engagement.