Posted by & filed under Career Development, Congress, Fundraising Day, Marketing/Communications, Networking.

By Mo Waja


AFP Congress has come and gone but Fundraising Day 2019 seems just around the corner and there are many other conferences on the horizon. Conferences, broadly, are an exciting opportunity to learn and grow through the shared wisdom and thought leadership of speakers, to discover new opportunities through networking, to make new friends with other professionals in the space, and to grow your personal brand as a professional and thought leader within your field.


But conferences can also be challenging, and a lot of that comes down to scale. Yes, you are in this focused microcosm of your industry filled with people of, presumably, like mind and like interest, yet you are also one of perhaps over 1,000 delegates, all of whom are looking for new opportunities and new connections. With that being the case, it can seem a daunting task to cut through the noise and have your voice heard amid the many others all pushing for airtime. Tools like social media have made this interesting because, now, most conferences will have a #hashtag of some kind along with a twitter handle, and so for the days of the conference you’ll see a flood of tweets as people capture images, quotes, and key messages that simultaneously express their interest and broadcast their presence at the conference. The thing is, if your goal is to stand out from the crowd, tweeting along in the same way as everyone else still leaves you lost in the crowd. What you need is a way to differentiate yourself so that, whether delegate or speaker, people can tune out a bit of the noise and tune in to you, specifically.


To do this well, I would suggest a 5-step process:

  1. Choose a theme for your conference
  2. Start talking about it early (2-3 weeks before it happens)
  3. Produce conference content
  4. Make friends and be places
  5. Keep talking about it (1-2 weeks after it happens)


  1. Choose a Theme for Your Conference 

Throughout a conference you will have many conversations. These conversations can take place in person, during workshops, or through the posts you put out via social media. Choosing a theme for your conference means choosing the subject matter that you want to focus on during those conversations, workshops, and posts. This process is very intentional, and the easiest way to understand why is to consider Twitter.


Over the course of the conference, there will be a lot of tweets flying around. The challenge is that if everyone is tweeting scattershot and talking about everything, simultaneously, it’s very easy for your voice to get drowned out. One way to cut through the noise is to have a few focused subjects that you choose to talk about. For example, if you, like me, are fascinated by nonprofit storytelling, attend sessions that speak to that and then tweet about them. Doing this consistently positions you as someone who cares about storytelling (or, otherwise, marketing, donor relations, planned giving, etc., depending on your chosen theme) to the conference at large. This makes it easier to connect with people both within and beyond conference attendees who are either of like mind or looking to learn more about your chosen subject. Taking this outside social media, your chosen theme should echo through all your conversations so that every interaction you have at the conference intentionally positions you as a person who cares about a certain relevant subject and knows things about that subject.


The beauty of choosing a theme for your conference is that, even if you aren’t a speaker, you can still position yourself as an authority on a subject by adding in your own thoughts and opinions and producing related content.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Campaign, Congress, Donor Centric, Donor communications, Inspiration, Marketing/Communications, Special Events.

By John Paul de Silva – originally published on the Social Focus Consulting blog.


Where all my social impact peeps at?!? What! What! I’m still hyped up over attending the astronomically amazing 2018 Association of Fundraising Professionals Congress which had the theme “DISRUPT Philanthropy.”


Why do we need to disrupt this sector? Caroline Riseboro, plenary speaker and President and CEO of Plan Canada, summed it up nicely, “A hyper-focus on major gifts is disguising the problem that we have an erosion of donors in the Canadian market. Philanthropy as a whole is on a decline.” And it’s no wonder given the challenge to get people’s attention, nevermind donations. We see 10,000 marketing messages a day while having an eight second attention span, according to Vanessa Landry, Director of Client Services at Fundraising Direct. That’s why we need disruption. We need new ideas, new ways of doing things, to advance the sector and keep being socially impactful.


Then, how do we become disruptive? We do it by delighting donors and through leadership. Delighting donors involves giving them an experience they can’t stop talking about, according to Jen Love, Partner at Agents of Good. When donors can’t stop talking about a positive experience, that leads to engagement, repeat donations, referrals to others, and ultimately growth for charities.


This first part of a two-part blog will cover how to delight donors. Based on my takeaways from attending some of the sessions and engaging with the #AFPCongress2018 feed, there are three main opportunities to delight donors: personalized communications, experiential events, and frictionless webpage design. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Career Development, Congress, Inspiration, Next Generation Philanthropy, Opinion.

Originally published on LinkedIn by Debra Thompson.


As I sit here on this unseasonably cold November day, I am reflective. This week, I spent 3 days in Toronto, starting very early Monday morning, at my very first AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Toronto Congress and I am in awe. Before I share why, let’s take a step back.


Earlier this year, I embarked on a quest to investigate my next career move. After over 20 years in corporate sales, it was time for a change. A shift in my way of thinking. It had been a rough 4 years, including family health issues, mom’s second cancer diagnosis and the suicide of my dad. I recognized it was time to reflect, recalibrate and regroup to decide on my future career choices. This explorative journey with my career coach, Barbara Wilson, of Thrive Career Coaching, by my side, landed me smack in the middle of the non-profit sector, and specifically, into the world of fundraising. I realized that my corporate sales skills were transferable and in alignment with my values as a lifelong volunteer and I had a strong desire to do good and give back. In conversations with some amazing non-profit sector leaders, all roads led to AFP.   Read more »

Posted by & filed under Announcement, Board of Directors.

As your Chapter President, I am excited to announce the launch of our new 2019-2023 Chapter Strategic Plan.


It is a privilege to work with such an outstanding organization and I am excited by the opportunities that lie ahead. As a professional association, AFP is accountable to its members and those in the sector that we aim to serve. It is important for us to continue to define and measure our impact through the value we bring to you, our members. I am confident that our new Strategic Plan highlights and more clearly defines this value, providing an enriched path forward for our organization.


Developing the Strategic Plan has been a comprehensive and collaborative process, and from early on, we’ve made a commitment to ensuring all members have had an opportunity to feed into the Strategic Plan and provide their feedback and insights. AFP members had early opportunities to participate through an online survey as well as an in-person Town Hall forum. We’ve also connected with members through one-on-one discussions and both formal and informal group conversations. Your Board leveraged and integrated all feedback thoroughly into a very fulsome planning process and as a result, we have developed a very ambitious Strategic Plan to be actioned on over the next 5 years.


We are proud to unveil the final iteration of the Strategic Plan and invite you to review and download a copy here. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Congress, Donor communications, Marketing/Communications, Speakers, Special Events.

By Mo Waja


For many nonprofits, ‘marketing’ has been­ — and remains — a support tool for fundraising; its purpose, mainly to serve as a medium to get the fundraising message out there to as many prospective donors as possible, via social media or otherwise. But this limited use fails to capitalize on the opportunity of marketing. For nonprofits making more robust use of marketing and communications, the act of ‘marketing’ becomes everything from a branding exercise to a recruitment tool, to a way to connect with key stakeholders, to community engagement, to profile building, to storytelling.


But it’s that last, storytelling, that sits at the core of good marketing. No matter what message your organization is looking to put out into the world, the story you tell is the heart of how you express the need of your population, how you connect with your community of supporters, and how you show the continuous positive impact your organization has. The question is, how do you tell that story well?



The thing is, ‘telling a story well’ encompasses more than simply telling a good story that (hopefully) raises fundraising dollars. Why? Because every charitable organization owes a duty of care to the population they serve that goes beyond the good work provided.


This, how to market, advertise, or tell a nonprofit story well, has been a topic of much debate. While, broadly, we can agree that tapping into empathy and, from that, compassion, is a key component of generating giving behaviour through storytelling, the real question is how do we get there. One common way is the use of ‘shock’ campaigns depicting imagery of people in desperate circumstances. Yet this strategy has been used so frequently that it has almost become a cliché, while simultaneously becoming an unfortunate standard by which many fundraising campaigns are set, particularly those for international aid (think your classic imagery of impoverished, starving Africa). While, even today, these shock campaigns — often more harshly labeled ‘poverty porn’ — can undoubtedly be effective in soliciting short-term donations, the problems with this approach are multifold. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Career Development, Congress, Inspiration, Opinion, Special Events.

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.


Meet People

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.


Be Present

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.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Announcement, Fundraising, Fundraising Day, Special Events, Volunteers.

“Everything in life goes back to basics.” – Kon Gracie


For the first time ever, we are reaching out to the AFP Canada community for speaker proposals for Fundraising Day 2019.


This Fundraising Day is all about going Back to Basics – and when we say that, we don’t mean fundraising for dummies! We mean we want to root ourselves in the foundations of fundraisingthe best practices, the old ideas that have become new again, and the simplest approaches that drive the best donor experiences, and the best results.

New in 2019:
A Summit for Senior Leaders, offering an opportunity for Senior Leaders to join for a morning, afternoon or full day of facilitated discussions on the big topics you are grappling with. If you have a topic idea or are a Senior Leader that would like to facilitate a discussion please let us know. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Announcement, Board of Directors, Career Development, Fundraising Day, Leadership/Management, Volunteers.

Are you interested in volunteering with AFP?

Do you enjoy leading a passionate team?

Do you love the excitement of planning a large event?


I’m writing to you today as we, the Professional Development Chair Nominating Committee, made up of past AFP event Chairs, start the process to review applicants for the position of Fundraising Day 2020 Chair. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Announcement.

October 23, 2018

Toronto, October 23, 2018 – McCarthy Tétrault announced today that it is donating $5 million to United Way Centraide, over 5 years, to support 5 groups:

  • Women;
  • members of the LGBTQ2S community;
  • Indigenous peoples;
  • newcomers; and
  • people living with disabilities.

This donation will support United Way Centraide’s work ensuring that background and circumstance are not barriers to opportunity. In addition to its 5/5/5 commitment, the firm will supplement its contribution with an additional investment of firm time, through dedicated volunteer and pro bono activities.

This multi-year commitment to United Way Centraide is the first of its kind for Canada’s legal industry.

McCarthy Tétrault has a history of progressive corporate citizenship. In addition to their enthusiastic support of United Way through its annual fundraising campaign, McCarthy Tétrault’s people are active in pro bono work, participate in non-profit boards, and commit much of their personal time to community causes. McCarthy Tétrault was the first Canadian law firm to appoint a Chief Inclusion Officer, currently Barbara Boake, and also pioneered the introduction of a formal and robust pro bono program and committee, now chaired by Gordon Baird. The firm also continues to invest generously in the community through its charitable foundation, led by Chief Community Officer, John Osler.

United Way Event Photo

While inclusion, community giving, and pro bono have always been strategic priorities and a business imperative for the firm, the firm is striving to take its commitment to another level. In an effort to deepen, elevate, and accelerate its commitment to these areas, the firm recently welcomed Nikki Gershbain, Senior Director, Inclusion and Community Engagement. Working directly with the firm’s senior leadership team, Nikki’s portfolio combines diversity and inclusion, pro bono, and corporate social responsibility under one umbrella.

“INCLUSION NOW is McCarthy Tétrault’s renewed commitment to our workplace and our communities,” said Nikki. “Combining equity and social responsibility into one portfolio will not only allow us to knit together all these values, it will engage our people, support our neighbours and drive our innovation and growth.”

“Social responsibility is critical to the long term success of our firm and to the communities we live in and serve,” said Dave Leonard, CEO. “The addition of Nikki, coupled with our strengthened partnership with United Way, allows us to enhance our inclusion efforts within the firm, attract new talent, deepen client relationships, and significantly increase our overall social impact.”

“We are proud that when McCarthy Tétrault wanted to invest in inclusion, they chose United Way,” said Daniele Zanotti, United Way Greater Toronto President & CEO. We know from our research that too many people are facing barriers to opportunity because of background and circumstances beyond their control. That’s why we work hard to ensure that everyone has the supports they need to succeed. Today, the firm is breaking new ground with a milestone five-year $5-million commitment to promote inclusion for people who are getting left behind.”


About United Way Centraide

Since 1919, the United Way Centraide (UWC) Movement has been dedicated to creating opportunities for a better life for all Canadians. The United Way Centraide Movement is a federated network of United Way and Centraide offices serving more than 5,000 communities across Canada. Each United Way and Centraide is registered as a nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer-led, local board of directors. Together we are the United Way Centraide Movement working to create sustainable solutions to the social issues faced by local communities across Canada.


About McCarthy Tétrault

McCarthy Tétrault LLP provides a broad range of legal services, advising on large and complex assignments for Canadian and international interests. The firm has substantial presence in Canada’s major commercial centres as well as in New York City and London, UK.

Built on an integrated approach to the practice of law and delivery of innovative client services, the firm brings its legal talent, industry insight and practice experience to help clients achieve the results that are important to them.

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