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 Congress.

Written by: Sue Lockett, CFRE
Preferred pronouns (she/her)

 

Most days my brain is occupied with names of animated characters and a growing list of foods my daughter finds unappealing. Toss in the ever-changing shoe sizes and passwords to multiple early learning websites, and my brain begins to reach capacity. Enter COVID-19 with its host of protocols for work and school and extracurricular lessons – it seems impossible to retain one more piece of information.

As my daughter enters Grade 1, I’m slowly expunging a wealth of infant and toddler information to allow more adult thoughts to regain some real estate in my brain. But it’s a process, and in some cases I still feel as though I’ve had my head in the sand for five years, especially when it comes to what’s happening globally regarding our treatment of each other as humans.

The pandemic has brought to light the bad and the ugly, but also the good. There are groups out there who are learning and trying to do better. I’m proud to see the fundraising sector is one of them. AFP is dedicating resources and asking their members to guide them towards better inclusivity. This year’s NOT Congress includes an array of session leaders who speak passionately and confidently on this topic.

Sarah Kay is changing the world “one step, one poem, one pun at a time” with her popular spoken-word poetry. From a Norwegian fjord to an LGBTQ gathering in India, she has educated and empowered people through her poetic performances in over 30 countries.

Nicole McVan and Tanya Rumble teach fundraisers to better understand positions of power and privilege to become more authentic and effective in their work. Nicole describes themself as a white, transgender, non-binary professional who believes in the goodness of humanity. Tanya speaks from her lived experience as a mixed-race women in an interracial partnership, who is also a third culture kid.

If you’re a parent like me, or simply a fundraiser feeling overwhelmed, I suggest you begin to create some vacant areas in your brain that you can fill with inspiring content from speakers like Sarah, Nicole and Tanya. Their uniquely rich backgrounds and experiences will complement the valuable knowledge they have to share with you. Learn how to lead your team forward and better relate with your donors in an ever-changing world.

All speakers will deliver sessions at AFP’s NOT Congress, a virtual fundraising conference taking place November 23-25.

Posted by & filed under Congress, Uncategorized.

 

Written by: Sue Lockett, CFRE
Preferred pronouns (she/her)

 

As a seasoned fundraiser who has spent most of her career in the healthcare landscape there was a time when I was more laser-focused in my professional development – sticking almost entirely to healthcare sessions. With so many conferences and webinars available, and often a tight budget (and little time!), I felt that hearing directly from my healthcare mentors would help me to stay atop of my field.

I still believe this is a terrific use of time and keeps one relevant and competitive. Passionate donors are shopping around, and they are talking with your peers at other health institutions. Sector-based development and the hopeful validation of one’s best practices adds confidence to your approach. This knowledge allows you to paint a picture for an investor using tools and language they recognize and already understand.

However, once in a while you need to shake things up a bit. To peer into a different realm and see what treasures you might be able to transport back into healthcare.

This is how I felt the first year I attended AFP Congress. There was so much to glean from both healthcare and non-healthcare peers. Innovative donor activities that were happening in social services, arts, education… that could be modified and applied to some of my healthcare donor interactions. I found the content and the presenters fresh and inspiring. There was also a focus on ‘moving forward faster’ through digital engagement and highly personalized stewardship – things that a smaller or younger non-profit can be more nimble with, but could definitely find a place in a healthcare foundation’s plans.

In it’s virtual and affordable format, this year’s NOT Congress is very accessible – even if you can only join in real time for a few sessions.

Most healthcare organizations have a loyal group of donors who have pledged a planned gift – a decision often driven by the family having an affinity with the hospital during their lifetime. But we seem to struggle with marketing this option to those who might not have a direct relationship as a grateful patient.  In “How to Build a Branded Legacy Program that Raises Big Bucks: The Amnesty International Case Study” speakers Hala Al-Madi, Bryan Tenenhouse, Lisette Gelinas, and Donna Richardson will share their experience of building a branded program that inspires an emotive response. They will walk us through what it takes to bring our Legacy brand to life with story-telling, in a way that inspires more donors to consider the wise decision of leaving our organization a gift in their Will.

Like many sectors, healthcare is traditionally reliant on special events and sometimes has the advantage of having many attendees located in a fairly close radius of the hospital. The pandemic has made in-person events a sparse option and a great number of staff and volunteers are working remotely. Make-A-Wish® Canada has staff and volunteers across the country and they are already thinking innovatively and practically how to keep them engaged while driving donor revenue. In their session, Gemma Cowan and Patricia Dolla will speak to the virtual tools and techniques they use to engage staff remotely and offer advice (and a plan!) to host staff collaboration sessions in your organization with measurable outcomes.

And for those looking to maintain their laser focus on healthcare content, Tony Myers and Sue McCoy will deliver a session called “Major Donor Transitions: The Most Important 10 Seconds in a Donor Conversation.” Sue McCoy is Director of Major Gifts at Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, where she oversees a team securing $9 million a year in donations. Sue and Tony will pull from their 50 years of combined experience, as they share what they’ve learned about how to “Get to the Point” as you reach the solicitation phase with your prospects.

Ted Garrard, CEO, SickKids Foundation along with Greg Hagin will present an intriguing session titled “The Donor is Dead. Long Live the Donor.” and enlist the shared knowledge of 3 additional panelists to explore and de-mystify the life and death of legacy giving in the age of digital transformation.

So whether you commit to broadening your learning with the allure of fresh ideas, or stay the course to seek emerging trends from health sector masters, register soon for AFP’s NOT Congress taking place Nov 23-25.

Posted by & filed under Congress, Volunteers.

In celebration of #NationalVolunteerWeek, we want to say thank you to all of those who continue to give back in their personal and professional lives.

Volunteers from across the city have come together during this critical time to care for those in need and have truly proven to be the backbone of society when the most is at stake. This week, we thank and salute you along with our healthcare heroes and those working in essential services during this time.

Our Chapter would not be where it is today without the support of our members who have contributed countless volunteer hours and ideas to help us in delivering quality professional development opportunities and education to fundraising professionals and those in the non-profit sector. This week we want to take the time to recognize just a few of you…

 

Read part 1part 2, part 3 & part 4 of our National Volunteer Week blog series.

 

Our On-site Event Volunteers

 

While our Chapter events would not be possible without the help of our many volunteer planning committees & our volunteer Board members, logistically speaking, we would not be able to put on our events without the hard work and support of our on-site volunteers.

These are the individuals you see greeting you at the entrances, helping to get you checked-in at registration, helping to get you set-up and sorted on our event app, helping to get you to and from each of your sessions (and to many of the off-site receptions and parties), and who do it all with a smile on their faces despite putting in long hours on their feet each day (and not to mention sweating it out with us Chapter staff helping to move heavy bins and boxes around before the doors open and before the sun’s even up). Read more »

Posted by & filed under Congress, Opinion, Special Events.

By Maryann Kerr originally published on Hilborn: Charity eNews 

 

No matter how you look at it, when you attend an outstanding conference like #AFPCongress2019, you wish you could clone yourself. You can only do so much. I was focused on sessions that were strategic and covered topics like leadership, coaching, culture and personal growth.

The agenda was jam packed with many incredible speakers and subjects and I will not do it justice here. Raise the Work, speaks to “the combination of passion, grit, and intelligence we need to raise the quality of our practice to meet the challenges of fundraising in the 21st century.” Congress offered almost 100 sessions across a wide array of topics that focused on both how to do better and how to be better.

The three plenary speakers, Janet Bannister, Kishana Palmer and Alvin Law carried a thread throughout the three days with stories that spoke to resilience, personal mission, determination, belief in self, and perhaps a touch of audacity. The sessions I attended had a common theme that spoke to our personal responsibility to own our part in establishing work/life balance, culture change, leadership development, and recognizing unconscious bias. However, to shift systems and affect change requires us to look not only at individual action but also organizational and sector change. It was the only small disappointment from an otherwise stellar conference.

The first session I attended was a panel that included Josh Bowman, Kimberley Blease, Amanda Rocheleau and Cathy Mann facilitated by Jaya Mootoo called: True Grit: Keeping the Wheels on in your Professional Life when your Personal Life is Falling Apart. Suffice it to say, we laughed, and we cried and I’d say there was even a little healing done. Josh, Kimberley, Cathy and Jaya shared their personal stories of adversity and struggle and with the help of social worker Amanda Rocheleau provided some coping mechanisms and strategies including leaning into the discomfort and allowing yourself time and space to heal.

Then on to a session called Culture Club 2.0 The Connection between Culture and our Ability to Thrive! Another panel, this one facilitated by Stephen George, included panelists Mide Akerewusi, Caroline Riseboro, Maeve Strathy and Kishshana Palmer and was a follow up to a panel held at IFC. Each panelist spoke to the importance of culture in facilitating great fundraising results. (More on this in a future article.) A few tidbits: Attention to culture is the number one issue to unlocking fundraising results. Culture is how we show up in the world. Cultures express our identity and creates a sense of belonging. That was in the first five minutes. Read more »