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

Originally published on WordPress by Debra Thompson.

Posted December 3, 2020 by AFP Toronto

Last we left this story, in January 2019, I wrote about the role of pivoting and why it was so important to my career change. I shared my very first blog post and applied current state to my experience with kickboxing, where being able to pivot and not get punched was even more important. Proof of this post can be found here: https://taximom03.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/pivot-pivot-pivot/

Now, along with uncertain, unprecedented, social distancing, lockdown, speaking moistly, and trying times, the word pivot has become one of the words we will forever associate with the COVID-19 pandemic. None of us could have predicted what 2020 would be like and what we’re still living with now. I had no idea that a word I used to describe my story in 2019 would become an overused buzzword in 2020. I’d like to reconsider using the urban dictionary version, also popularized by a meme from the TV show Friends, in reference to moving, defined as “the precise way to bring a couch up a flight of stairs.”

As I embark on the next phase of my career journey into the fundraising world, it all feels the same, but different – and we do indeed need to pivot. Amy Davies, in her book, A Spark in the Dark, reminds us that we are all in a reorg world. She wonders, “how do you build a rewarding and meaningful career in an ever-changing landscape?” I doubt when she wrote this book, she was thinking the ever-changing landscape would be a pandemic! Yet her lessons apply, and I know many are updating their plan and career path as they deal with the changes this pandemic has brought. Everyone is dealing with something and doing their best as we rise to defeat this pandemic, despite the real fact this will have an effect on how we work and live for many years to come.

Personally, admittedly, like everyone at the moment, my mental health has taken a toll, and it is strange times indeed.

I signed up to attend my third AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Greater Toronto Chapter Congress, held on November 23-25, 2020. In deciding to attend a virtual fundraising industry conference, I challenged myself to step out of my pandemic funk and take a more deliberate approach. Cringe if you will, but I pivoted, for just a moment. Appropriately called NOT Congress – the conference was billed as something new, different, and evolving! I signed up right away during the “early bird” registration and despite being overwhelmed with all things virtual, I was excited to attend again and I was confident AFP could pull it off.

As many of my friends, family, and colleagues have been doing, I have attended my share of virtual events this year. I’ve lost count of the number of virtual events I signed up for and attended, or those I didn’t attend, with well-intentioned plans of “watching the recording” later, which I rarely did. At one point, I stopped signing up and attending events because I was clearly “zoom-fatigued” – a self-diagnosis, but one that seems to be common during these times of pandemic life.

I was also involved in producing three virtual events this year! All three were delivered to large audiences, with multiple speakers, engaged stakeholders, and high expectations from attendees. My “clipboard Deb” event mindset kicked-in and I was truly building the plane while flying it. I learned what it took to run a successful virtual event reliant not just on people and processes, but on technology and the internet! Having been behind the scenes for these events and knowing the next level team effort required to pull them off, I decided that I would be respectful of my fellow AFP colleagues. I would show up and be engaged and attentive. They were working hard to curate an event with top quality content showcasing the work of industry colleagues, and I owed it to them and myself to show up.

In 2018, I attended my very first Congress as a new fundraiser. Pre-conference prep for an in-person event involved determining accommodations, transportation, what to wear as well as planning the sessions I would attend. This time, I had two years of fundraising experience behind me, with lots to learn and a new lens and perspective. I had no commute and no wardrobe decisions to make. The #NotCongress team made my pre-planning easy and shipped a fantastic virtual swag bag to my home which included useful swag and an event notebook – a handy tool to help me plan my day and choose my sessions. I blocked my calendar and told family in my household that I was “attending an event” and that I’d be in my home office for most of the three days. I connected with other colleagues and friends in the sector to find out who would be there.

AFP rose to the task of creating an inspiring digital event in the era of “this is how we’ve always done it!” and it was a resounding success! This year, we’ve been asked to confront our privilege, and acknowledge our differences and collective experiences. AFP succeeded in helping 1,400 fundraisers from across Canada and around the world find our truth – and they did so in a way that was just right.

This event was incredible! It was well-organized and filled with thought provoking sessions, main plenary “breaks”, and a few fun events including a cooking class, bingo, and trivia. There were speed networking opportunities in breakout rooms where we were mentored and advised by members of the AFP-GTC Board of Directors. There were chances to network and laugh and chat. The speakers were authentic and genuine, and I was once again inspired by their sessions. I had virtual breakfasts and coffee with a few fundraising friends, and often “sat” with them as we participated in the same session by engaging on social media. I networked with new people via the attendee section of the platform. Many of the presenters used the chat feature to engage participants, and I often found I was in the same session as friends. All virtual, of course. During every session I was in awe of the dedication, wisdom, and passion of these fellow fundraisers.

The event started with a fantastic open plenary with Yassmin Abdel-Magied. We were challenged to consider our own unconscious bias, the power of change, and to create human connection. During a session about death, grief, and legacy giving, I had a good cry when I was gently reminded why I joined this sector in the first place. I was in awe as the panelists in “Closing the Leadership Gap: A Conversation on Women in Fundraising” shared their truth in an authentic and transparent discussion. I considered my own truth and challenged my inherent biases in the world of inclusivity. On the last day, I attended back-to-back sessions delivered by two of my favourite fundraisers, and heard final words in the form of poetry from Sarah Kay in the closing plenary. There were prizes for engagement and, though I didn’t win a prize, I was proud to place in the Top Five.

I left the event energized and hopeful for the future of our profession because of the support and help I received from our community of fundraisers. I’m thankful for the dedication of the AFP team, the speakers, and most of all to the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter for their bravery in deciding to go forward with this event. I’m grateful for the wonderful friends and mentors I have met in the sector, and for the ones I met this week.

If you’ve attended a virtual conference recently, you’ll know that feeling you get when you realize it’s over – instead of hugging your friends, you’re alone in your home office as you click “leave meeting.” I don’t like that feeling but it will have to do for now because I’m excited about the growth and learning I experienced. I didn’t get to hug my friends, raise a glass, or break bread this year, and hope that we all get to see each in person next year. Either way, I will continue to use the word ‘pivot’ in my vernacular, and I remain energized about the possibilities ahead.

Posted by & filed under Career Development, Fundraising Day, Inspiration, Leadership/Management, Mentorship, Next Generation Philanthropy, Philanthropy Awards.

The AFP Greater Toronto Chapter is now accepting nominations for the 2020 New Fundraising Professional Award. Established in 2001, this award recognizes fundraisers who are making an outstanding contribution to the profession early on in their careers. During this difficult time for the sector it is important for us to acknowledge the hard work of fundraisers who are committed to causes that bring the community together and who inspire individuals to give. We want to acknowledge and celebrate the work of fundraisers who are starting out on this journey to promote and advance philanthropy.

We are welcoming submissions to nominate Chapter members with 2 to 5 years of full-time fundraising experience. Candidates must have demonstrated early fundraising success, articulated their short- and long-term career objectives, and have demonstrated a commitment to volunteering and service to the profession.

Please take a moment to consider nominating an AFP member whose work has provided a powerful inspiration to others, and who is driven in building a career in the non-profit sector. Self-nominations are welcome.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, April 20 at 5pm EST.

LEARN MORE & APPLY

Thank you in advance for your commitment to the fundraising profession, your interest and involvement with AFP.

If you have any questions about the award nomination or selection process, please don’t hesistate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Penny Connors, BA, BComm, CRM, CAE
Executive Director, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter

____________________________________________________________

Thank you to our 2020 New Fundraising Professional Award sponsor:

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.

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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 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.

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