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.”
As the largest conference on fundraising in Canada—providing three days of hands-on learning and inspiring plenary presentations—Congress has helped to position AFP as an industry leader and go-to association for those who work in the philanthropic sector. Equally if not more importantly, it has also helped to build up the fundraising profession as a whole.
“Each year, Congress challenges and inspires me. It gives me the chance to work with a new volunteer management team, sponsors and exhibitors, to plan something new and exciting for delegates: an experience they won’t forget,” says Cynthia. “I’ve been running this conference for the past 24 years and always look forward to changing things up with a new theme or element that engages our members and appeals non-members be part of our AFP community.”
Conference call to action
The theme of this year’s conference is #RaiseTheWork: a call to action to those in the sector to come together to discover new ways of thinking, to support each other and collaborate to raise the quality of their work and to elevate the fundraising profession. This is fitting for the Chapter’s 24 years of the conference encouraging professional development, and especially so this year given that this will be Cynthia’s last Congress before retiring in her role as Chapter Director.
“I am lucky to have been able to work with outstanding teams over my tenure at AFP to continuously raise the work and grow the Chapter to be the largest in the world,” says Cynthia.
Like any industry, it is important that fundraisers take time to invest in themselves and to step up their game, because even the slightest improvement can lead to the biggest breakthrough. And unlike most industries, when fundraisers get better at their work, the impact is far reaching. It can improve lives and make the world a better place. That’s why Congress 2019 is about raising the work—asking those in the non-profit sector to examine the choices they make (both big and small)—and encouraging them to be better. It’s also about celebrating the achievements of the sector.
“I think we need to get better at celebrating ourselves. Not everyone gets to fund social good with their day job,” says Scott Jeffries, director of media and data services at Stephen Thomas Ltd and Congress 2019 Marketing Chair. “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.”
To kick off this year’s celebrations and to lend a hand in the #RaiseTheWork rally cry, are three inspiring plenary presentations:
1. Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures and founder, Kijiji.ca;
2. Kishshana Palmer, CFRE, “Queen of Focus” and “Leadership Whiz”, business trainer and coach; and;
3. Alvin Law, musician, author and motivational speaker.
Janet is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and their businesses reach their full potential. As General Partner at Real Ventures, Janet has led investments in a dozen companies and works actively with Real’s portfolio companies to help them accelerate growth and create meaningful impact. Her background is a combination of founding and building successful entrepreneurial ventures and making an impact at leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, McKinsey & Company and eBay. Janet launched Kijiji.ca and grew it to become one of the most visited web sites in Canada. Subsequently, she led the Kijiji Global business, accelerating growth in North America, Europe and Asia. Prior to launching Kijiji, Janet was at eBay in Silicon Valley where she led multiple “non-collectibles” categories and helped transform eBay from a collectibles to a mainstream marketplace. She also founded and built a successful consulting business and was CEO at a Torontobased start-up in the online content and commerce space.
Kishshana Palmer, CFRE
Kishshana Palmer, CFRE, is a resident “Queen of Focus” and “Leadership Whiz”. She has a knack for helping talented career professionals of all skills and backgrounds succeed. A national speaker, trainer and coach with a 16-year background in fundraising, marketing and talent management, Kishshana has helped countless professionals and entrepreneurs grow and develop their management and leadership skills.
Alvin Law grew up in an environment where the mantra was” There’s No Such Word As Can’t”! It made life challenging but what’s wrong with that? It wasn’t until he grew up that he observed how many completely “able-bodied” people took the opposite approach. That formed a profound question for this Hall Of Fame Speaker: “Who has the actual handicap here?” Alvin Law may appear to have a predictable programme. He was born without arms and was written off by the medical world, then he proved everyone wrong… blah, blah, blah! Everyone at has heard it before. But you’ve never heard an approach like Alvin Law as he addresses the ever-changing world of both fundraising and life itself…a plenary presentation you won’t want to miss!
So, whether you’re new to the sector, or have been to the conference countless times before, #AFPCongress2019 has lots in store. Plus, it can help you build your network to ensure you’re not only answering the call to raise the work but are doing so with the latest tools and knowledge in hand, putting you at the forefront of philanthropy.
With a large variety of sessions across every area of expertise, Congress is the premier professional development experience for fundraisers providing the support you need to find your edge, take that extra step, and go forth to change the world.
Jacquelyn Folville is the marketing and communications specialist, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter. The AFP Greater Toronto Chapter is a recognized leader in promoting philanthropy and providing education, training and best practices for those in the fundraising profession. With more than 1,200 members, the Greater Toronto Chapter is the largest of the more than 240 AFP chapters throughout the world.