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, 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 »

Posted by & filed under Special Events.

By Jennifer Meriano

I have always felt lucky to have a career that has been more of a winding road than a straight climb up the ladder. I began my work life on the for-profit side, doing everything from marketing campaign creation to customer experience mapping to creative direction. I then made a move to nonprofit life, applying my strategic and creative skills to donor engagement. Being a part of so many different industries and projects, one thing has always been a constant – attending conferences. I know whether you are attending your first conference or your first conference on a particular subject matter, conferences can be intimidating, especially if you are attending alone. So, if you are going to be a first time AFP Congress attendee this year, here are few things to help you make the most of your experience.

 

  1. Get Excited – There is learning afoot!

Congress is about you and your professional development. Preparation for the conference is essential to making the most of this opportunity. Come to the conference with a clear plan for at least one thing you want to learn more about. Focus on leaving the conference with one insight in this area and make a promise to yourself to apply it in your first week back to work. I also recommend attending sessions that are a little out of your wheelhouse – do not feel confined to sessions that cover what you already know.

 

  1. Talk to People – They will not bite!

Some of the most valuable leanings you will gain at Congress will come from networking. As a proud introvert, I understand this can be tough, but it is so important. Many people find the idea of starting a conversation with a stranger awkward, but just remember meeting people is on their agenda too. One of the best things about a conference is that it brings like-minded people together in one room to share ideas, so don’t let this chance go to waste. Stuck? An easy conversation starter is to ask what sessions they have attended so far. And don’t forget to end every conversation by asking for the person’s business card no matter who they are. If you really want to crush conference networking, follow-up the next day with a brief email letting them know you enjoyed meeting them and connect on LinkedIn.

 

  1. Exhibitor Booths – More than just SWAG!

Full disclosure, I have been an exhibitor at many conferences and I feel strongly that most attendees do not make the most of this opportunity. It is vital to remember that exhibitor booths are not just about immediate need. Let’s face it, if you had an immediate need you would already know who they are. Visiting exhibitor booths is about gaining a greater understanding of your industry’s landscape and learning what tools are available to you. Talk to the people at these booths and take the time to understand what they can provide. This can be invaluable when creating new innovative strategies in the future.

Attending a conference is a rare occasion to talk to people in your industry, learn from the mistakes and successes of others and better yourself. Embrace it; you are going to have a great time!

 

Jennifer Meriano is a Brand & Donor Strategist and member of the 2019 Congress marketing committee. She looks forward to welcoming you at Congress and connecting! 

Posted by & filed under Advocacy, Congress, Fundraising, Inspiration, Leadership/Management, Opinion, Special Events, Volunteers.

This year’s AFP Congress is a rallying cry for fundraisers to take a step back, recharge, discover new ways of thinking, support each other, and collaborate in elevating the profession.

In this blog entry, the volunteers behind Congress share their perspective on what it means to ‘Raise The Work’ in 2019. Please share your own thoughts in the comments below!

 

Take Pride

“I think we need to get better at celebrating ourselves. Not everyone gets to fund social good with their day job. 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.”

 

– Scott Jeffries, Director of Media & Data Services, Stephen Thomas Ltd

AFP Congress 2019 Marketing Committee Chair

 

 Tell the World

“Some may view our sector as small or lacking innovation. But we know better. Fundraisers see the results of innovation everyday in the life-changing impact we have on the communities we serve. Fundraisers change the world in a big way – let’s make sure the world knows it.”

 

– Molly DeHaan, Manager of Annual Giving, Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation

AFP Congress 2019 Marketing Committee

 

Going Beyond

“To me raising the work means understanding the challenges faced by your colleagues. Because when you get out of your ‘silo’ in this way, you can discover new ways of working together so that you’re not just serving your own goals but perhaps helping other departments more readily achieve their goals too.”

 

– Jennifer Meriano, Mid-Level Giving, Canadian Red Cross

AFP Congress 2019 Marketing Committee

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Congress, Leadership/Management, Special Events.

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.” Read more »