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Caroline Riseboro, President & CEO of Plan International Canada and President Elect of AFP GTA Chapter, is our esteemed Fundraising Day 2017 keynote speaker!

Caroline Riseboro
President & CEO
Plan International Canada

It is through the diversity of ideas, in themselves unique but working alongside one another in concert, that we allow something new to take root – new perspectives, new values, and a new way to see the world.

More than the history of Canadian philanthropy, this is the story of our country’s first 150 years. Now, we look toward the future and the important role that philanthropy will play in shaping the values, perspectives and approaches of the Canada to come.

In her keynote, “Distinguishing Good from Great,” Caroline will share with us the secrets, insights and vision that will ensure fundraisers play a critical role in shaping Canada’s future – and, in the process, help build a better world for us all.

About Caroline Riseboro

Caroline Riseboro was appointed President & CEO of Plan International Canada in January 2016, where she is responsible for leading one of Canada’s largest international development and child-rights agencies, working with children, families, communities and governments in over 70 countries to bring about positive change.  Caroline is well respected for being a champion of innovation and is credited with launching numerous ground-breaking and award-winning campaigns that have engaged Canadians in new ways on some of the world’s toughest issues.  Before joining Plan Canada, Caroline was Senior Vice-President, Marketing & Development at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation, where she played a key role in expanding CAMH’s reach among Canadians and helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness.  Prior to CAMH, Caroline held several senior executive positions, most recently as Senior Vice-President, Marketing & Engagement at World Vision Canada where she was responsible for raising $270 million annually. In addition to serving as chair of the GTA chapter’s government relations committee, Caroline also chaired the Canadian Marketing Association’s nonprofit council as has sat on various task forces with Imagine Canada. Caroline holds a Bachelor (honours) degree from McGill University, and is currently pursuing her Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Carleton University.

Don’t miss out on the Canada Celebrates rate in the spirit of Canada150! Register for Fundraising Day 2017 and receive this special rate using promo code CANADA150! HURRY- the deadline is May 26!

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We are in the spirit of celebrating Canada150, we’re offering a special discount on Fundraising Day registrations: the “Canada Celebrates” rate. Use the promo code CANADA150 and save up to 17% on your registrations. Hurry – this offer will disappear on Friday, May 26! Register now!

In preparation for Fundraising Day 2017, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter sat down with Jennifer Di Santo, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications at Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and an incredible member of the Fundraising Day 2017 Management Team to get the latest on what we can look forward to on June 8th!


AFP GTA: The countdown to Fundraising Day is on! What are you most excited about?

Well, all of it! But if I have to get specific, there are a few sessions that come to mind. I’m looking forward to some of the ones around diversity and inclusion. It’s such a hot topic right now and given what’s going on in the world today it can’t be ignored. As a marketer, I’m very excited about the SickKids session – not only because it’s a great campaign (as I’m reminded every day I travel to the office!), but also because somehow they managed to get so many stakeholders to rally behind a single idea – one that was so radically different from anything they’d ever done before. I hope they let us in on their secret! And, I can’t wait for the design thinking session. To me, that session, in particular, embodies this year’s theme and will help us think differently about how we approach fundraising.

AFP GTA: This year’s theme centralizes around big ideas. What’s your philosophy around ideas?

Given that I’m a marketer with a radio and TV production background, and who dabbles in photography, the creative process is one of my favourite things. It’s precious. Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, and they morph and change. What you started out with might not be what you end up with because you gain new insights as you move through the idea process. I saw Canadian musician David Usher speak at a marketing conference a few years ago, and he used this analogy about how different ideas collide to create brand new ones. It’s so true. And it’s amazing when the collision happens.

AFP GTA: What would someone in a marketing and communications role be able to take away from Fundraising Day?

Our management committee has put together an amazing educational program for this year’s Fundraising Day. Aside from some of the more obvious marketing sessions around the SickKids campaign and events, I truly feel that a marketer can learn so much from this year’s sessions. My marketing philosophy – and it goes back to my philosophy around ideas – is that you can gain insight and inspiration from things that aren’t always directly related to what you’re doing. This year’s sessions will help any marketer get a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in this ever-growing and ever-changing philanthropic sector, and that context will only help them build better marketing strategies that are relevant in today’s world.

AFP GTA: What advice do you have for anyone attending this year’s Fundraising Day?

Keep an open mind. Choose sessions that might not be directly tied to what you do every day. Again, ideas come from everywhere. If you hear something that seems kind of interesting, or some neat soundbite, jot it down. Sometimes the “eureka” moment we’re looking for isn’t so obvious, but I promise that ideas twice removed (or even farther removed than that!) can still find a home in the work you do. One more thing. Clearly, it’s impossible to attend all sessions, but not to worry – we’ll be keeping tabs on the best ideas of the day! See you there!


Jennifer Di Santo
Associate Director, Marketing & Communications
Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation

Jennifer Di Santo is an award-winning marketing and communications professional focused on building brand awareness, changing behaviour and getting people to transact. For nearly a decade, she has built and executed integrated programs for a range of organizations in both the private and public sectors, including financial services, education, public transit, healthcare and the arts.

At Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, University Health Network, Jennifer works with major gifts, annual giving and stewardship teams to engage donors, prospects and the general public through what she calls “strategic storytelling” to drive fundraising efforts.

Posted by & filed under Fundraising Day.

In preparation for Fundraising Day 2017, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter sat down with Maeve Strathy, Fundraising Strategist at Blakely Inc. and an incredible member of the Fundraising Day 2017 Management Team to get the latest on what we can look forward to on June 8th! Special thanks to Blakely Inc. for hosting this year’s Pre-Fundraising Day networking event held on May 11, 2017- this exclusive invitation can be unlocked by registering for Fundraising Day – REGISTER TODAY!


AFP GTA: Fundraising Day 2017 is only a few weeks away! What are you looking forward to most on the big day?

Maeve: I am most excited for “The Application of #DonorLove” panel discussion, featuring Jacqueline Bell, Brady Hambleton, John Lepp, and Kesheyl van Schilt, moderated by Claire Kerr.

This is a topic I’m passionate about – loving your donors is critical but do some donors not want to be loved? And when we have to raise money to keep the lights on, is it wrong to use response-driven tactics vs. donor- love ones?

These are the right people to lead the discussion, and I can’t wait to absorb as much information as I can.


AFP GTA: Tell us about the planning process for the program. What are some of the key considerations the Management Committee had in mind when piecing together the sessions?

Maeve: The planning process for Fundraising Day was all about what delegates want and need to know. What kind of sessions have they responded to before, and how can we deliver more of that great content (without repeating ourselves)? And what about what’s happening in the marketplace? How can we get ahead of trends and make sure fundraisers are informed and ready to take on the next challenges – and opportunities – that are around the corner.

We also wanted to make sure all fundraisers were represented, whether you’re in major gifts, annual, events, legacy, marketing and communications, small shop, big organization… the list goes on! After all the work, we’re confident there will be something valuable for everyone.


AFP GTA: Thinking of this year’s theme, “Every Idea is a Universe” – tell us about the last time you had a “EUREKA!” moment.

Maeve: In our agency, my role is responsible for briefing the creative team when they’re developing creative for a client’s fundraising campaign – whether it’s direct mail, DRTV, a digital campaign, or all of the above. I have to come to them with the fundraising insights and what we’re aiming to motivate the donor to do, and give them what they need to develop art and copy that will inspire the donor and achieve the results we’re aiming for. For a while, the briefing process felt like spoon-feeding – can’t I just brain dump on the creative team and they’ll go away and know what to do? After getting creative that didn’t meet my expectations a few times, I had a “EUREKA!” moment. Sure, the brief can be time-consuming and take a lot of thought, but the better I brief, the more likely I am to get what I want, what the client wants, and – at the end of the day – what the donor wants. It seems a simple experience, but it’s been a game changer.


AFP GTA: Finally, if you were to give a Fundraising Day participant one piece of advice on how to maximize their experience there, what would it be?

Maeve: Don’t get overwhelmed by all the awesome ideas and strategies you hear about and don’t get discouraged trying to imagine implementing them at your organization. Focus on leaving the day with 1-3 (maximum!) ideas you can start to work at implementing. It’s about quality over quantity!

Maeve Strathy
Fundraising Strategist
Blakely Inc.

Maeve Strathy is a passionate fundraising professional, focused on inspiring donors to make an impact on the causes they love through philanthropy. Maeve works at Blakely Inc. as a Fundraising Strategist where she provides and executes on strategy for integrated direct response campaigns.

In her spare time, she likes to work out, watch TV and movies, read, cook, and write for her fundraising and philanthropy-focused blog,

Follow Maeve on Twitter @fundraisermaeve and Blakey Inc. @BlakelyJourney

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Here is a sneak peek of what is coming to Fundraising Day 2017 on June 8 from guest blogger and speaker, Laura Syron.

Incorporating diversity into your shop’s fundraising portfolio? Where do I even start?

Sound familiar?

This is where I found myself back in 2012 when I had just started at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. I’m sitting in a wildly successful fundraising organization with a wonderful, uber-competent staff and a highly-engaged, passionate Board. And I’m walking around a Cancer Centre that is top 5 in the world, and is as diverse in its patient population as is the market in which it finds itself – the GTA.

Why is it then, that when I do a deep dive into our donor records, less than 3% of our donors are from the ethnically diverse communities we serve? And what can I do about the fact that many of our very established programs do not yet have a purposeful focus on engaging ethnocultural communities? And where would I even start given that I have no dedicated resources or official mandate?

Fast forward to 2017. Here at The Princess Margaret, I now have 1 & 1/3 full-time staff focused on ethnocultural strategy; a Board that is actively recruiting for highly-engaged, passionate leaders from the GTA’s ethnocultural communities; a strong and growing set of relationships with key community leaders, and colleagues who have built ethnocultural activities into their plans. And, to date, we have delivered over $2 million net revenue to conquer cancer in our lifetime.

How’d we get there? Come and find out. Join me at AFP’s Fundraising Day 2017 for my session “Modifying your Fundraising Programs to be more Inclusive.” Not only will we talk about my lessons from the trenches, but I’d love to hear about yours. Sign up today!

Laura Syron
Vice-President, Community Programs
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation

Laura is Vice President, Community Programs at the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in Toronto, Canada.   In this role, Laura helps achieve the Foundation’s fundraising goals through oversight of five business units:  Annual Giving, Leadership Giving, Tribute & Memorial, Special Events, and Ethnocultural Strategy.   The Foundation raises and stewards funds for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Canada’s leading cancer research hospital and be one of the top five cancer research centres in the world.

Prior to her role at The Princess Margaret, Laura was Vice President of Research, Advocacy and Health Promotion at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.  Laura joined the Foundation in 1996 and held increasingly senior positions in the organization.  Laura has also worked in the for-profit sector, including senior marketing positions at Procter & Gamble Canada.

Laura holds a Bachelor degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraSyron1

Posted by & filed under Fundraising Day.

Here’s a Fundraising Day sneak peek from one of our speakers and special guest bloggers, Jerrold McGrath. McGrath is leading the session Y-02: Design Thinking for Fundraisers at #FD17Ideas on June 8th – register today! Follow Jerrold on Twitter @JerroldMcGrath

I have a favor to ask of you. As you shake hands with old friends and new peers at Fundraising Day, I want you to remember the first time you touched the person you love, bare skin on bare skin. I want you to remember being allowed to hold a newborn. I want you to remember turning toward a friend in pain, even though you were frightened and felt inadequate to the task. I want you to remember how you felt and to remember that everyone you meet, however briefly, holds their own versions of those feelings inside of them.

The moments that last are overwhelmingly those that help us feel and generally involve the attention and active participation of other human beings.  And yet we design the places where we work and the transactions that define our work as if how people feel didn’t matter at all.

In meetings, at conferences, in pitch sessions, and in performance reviews we follow a script and we rarely ask about the script’s authorship or how suitable the script is to the performance underway. Luckily or unluckily, I’ve worked in many rooms where no shared script exists. Bringing together artists, leaders from Indigenous communities, frontline social workers, engineers, researchers, and energy sector executives quickly reveals the inadequacy of the scripts we’ve inherited and a desperate need to start over if we hope to build a shared commitment to a better future.

Over time and through often painful experimentation and failure, some recurring themes have emerged that suggested a way of thinking about designing the moments when people come together. My workshop will be an elaboration of these themes, but they are pretty straightforward for anyone that relies on other people.

Firstly, we need to make moments special. When we make them special the moments are enhanced, because taking pains convinces us that the activity is worth doing. Essentially, socially important activities need to be emotionally and physically gratifying.

Secondly, when we focus on our own needs, we are apt to ignore how others feel and we are less likely to get where we want to be. However, when we focus on how we want others to feel, we ignore our own needs, yet paradoxically are more likely to achieve our goals. For example, when we follow a script to seek financial support from a potential donor we can quickly get an answer to a question we have. Will this person support us? However, when we take time and energy to focus on how we want that person to feel, no answers may be forthcoming but all-new questions may emerge that suggest new opportunities for action.

Thirdly, existing scripts too often assume causes and effects that rarely are realized in the world. People are complex, messy, and often contradictory. Scripts imagine people as complicated machines that will respond in appropriate ways to the right sets rational arguments. We don’t believe this about ourselves so we certainly shouldn’t apply this to others. We all want our children to grow up as strong, capable, and happy individuals. Few of us believe that we can force this to happen. We need to focus on creating conditions rather than creating outcomes.

Most of this may seem obvious but remarkably few people are this intentional when preparing to bring people together. We are very good at creating spoken and unspoken rules. We are less good at understanding the unintended consequences of those rules on others and how they affect the experience of our collaborators and friends in the work that we do.

Jerrold McGrath

Through organizational design, leadership development and strategy facilitation, Jerrold supports partner organizations to synthesize their ambitions and the needs of their stakeholders, communities and audiences.

Jerrold was previously the Director of Innovation and Program Partnerships for leadership programming at Banff Centre. Jerrold completed his Master’s in Strategic Innovation and Change at the University of Denver with a focus on strategy formulation in creative sector organizations.

He has developed partnerships, cross-sector collaborations and development programs to leverage the strengths of various sectors in addressing complex, systems-level social and cultural issues (hopelessness, economic inequality, city building, etc.). He has also directed the creation of leadership and entrepreneurial programs that prepare individuals, project teams, and organizations to connect with other sectors, organize to leverage digital creation and consumption, benefit from greater diversity in audiences and creators, while setting a point of view and a path forward.


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In preparation for Fundraising Day 2017, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter sat down with Melissa Leite, Senior Development Coordinator at Tides Canada and an incredible member of the Fundraising Day 2017 Management Team to get the latest on what we can look forward to on June 8th!


AFP GTA: What is new and exciting about this year’s Fundraising Day program? Are there any highlights that should be on our radar?

Melissa: This year’s Fundraising Day program offers a strong roster of educational sessions that are both relevant to the fundraising profession, and address issues of importance here in Canada and abroad. This was my first year sitting on the Fundraising Day Committee and it was rewarding to see everyone’s ideas come together into the program that we have today. A highlight I am most passionate about is this year’s focus on diversity and inclusion. I’m proud of the fact that this year’s program is championing big ideas around diversity and inclusion in fundraising and features five sessions on the topic. As an alumnus of the AFP Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy program, I feel inspired and encouraged by AFP’s commitment to becoming inclusive and celebrating diversity.

AFP GTA: This year’s theme is In Every Idea is a Universe.  We’re going to turn the question back to you: Where do good ideas come from?

Melissa: For me, good ideas come from having conversations and listening to diverse perspectives. No two ideas are the same, everyone has something unique to bring to the table. It’s the diversity of people’s experiences that can strengthen a good idea and create truly innovative solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.

AFP GTA: Fundraising professionals are generally quite open to sharing ideas and best practices from within their organizations with one another.  Where do you think this culture of collaboration stems from?

Melissa: I think this culture of collaboration stems from the type of work that we do and the type of people it attracts. Fundraisers are responsible for creating strategies, cultivating meaningful relationships, and raising funds to create durable solutions to address societal issues. There is an inherent desire to do good in the world. I think this desire to serve and give back also translates into wanting to support our peers. Fundraising can at times be challenging, it requires creativity, fresh ideas and perspectives, and the ability to adapt and seek out new sources of funding. Sharing good ideas is the only way we will continue to be successful as a profession and build on the best practices that exist today.

AFP GTA: If you were going to give a Fundraising Day participant one piece of advice on how to maximize their experience there, what would it be?

Melissa: Attend as many sessions as you can and participate in the full day of activities. Come to Fundraising Day with an open mind and ready to meet fundraisers from all walks of life. This is your day to learn, reboot, and to be re-inspired. Seize the day and come prepared to share ideas and build on what you already know.


About Melissa Leite:

Melissa Leite is a senior development coordinator at Tides Canada, an innovative charity that supports people in building healthy, vibrant communities that have the social, economic, and natural capital to steward their environments for generations to come. In her role, Melissa is responsible for leadership annual giving and supports all aspects of major gifts fundraising. She holds an honours degree in Public Policy and Administration from York University and a postgraduate certificate in Public Policy and Administration from Humber College.

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Over the years, I’ve seen some amazingly powerful Case for Support examples – but I’ve also reviewed a number that miss the mark. Here are some of the most common mistakes that can significantly affect the impact of a Case for Support document and as a result, the chances of running a truly successful fundraising campaign.

Missed Part One? Check it out here!

6. Not focusing on what matters to your donor

Donors’ perception of your organization, what you do and your impact is often different from what you think it is. It is a mistake to assume that what staff members value is the same as what your donors, and sometimes even your Board, actually think is most important about your organization’s work.

When you develop your Case for Support, really think about your reader and what fires them up. What do they care about? What moves them, or makes them angry? It might be different from what drives you to do your work. And if you are not sure, ask them! Think about ways you can get to know your donors better, whether it is meeting them face-to-face, or looking at your donor data to see what they respond to.  Then make sure that what you learn about your donors’ motivations is reflected in your Case for Support.


7. The case is not urgent.

One of the most crucial elements of fundraising success is how quickly people are compelled to act and make their donation.  If there is any hesitation, or no compelling reason to act NOW (even if there is some interest), the act of making a gift may get lost in the course of people’s day to day lives.  Once you lose that opportunity, you may not get it back.

The key to a strong Case for Support is that it compels people to act.  In other words, the need is so great and urgent, and the solution to the problem is so clear and persuasive, that donors feel that they must do something, and do it now.


8. Lacking a clear call to action.

I’ve often seen Case for Support documents where the funding need is vaguely mentioned, but the actual ask for donations is very unclear or even unsaid. It is as if the writer is frightened to ask the donor for money outright, and is instead hoping the donor just “gets it”.

Once you have told your story, you need to make it clear what you want the donor to do next. If your ask is vague, or not direct enough, your donor might not know what you want from them. They might even feel frustrated that they’ve been taken on a journey towards the ask, but it’s not obvious how they can make a difference, even though they now want to give.


9. Not testing it.

Once you have a draft Case for Support, make sure you test it!  Find some donors and other supporters that you trust for their opinion.  You want to know:

  • Is the need clear? Is it compelling?
  • Does it make them want to act (i.e. to make a donation/gift of the kind you’re asking for)? If not, why not?
  • Is there anything missing in terms of the logic and presentation that impacts the reader’s journey? Are there things that are missing that could impact a decision to give/not to give?
  • Is there too much information? Does the reader feel overwhelmed or bored?
  • After reading the document, would the reader be able to speak confidently and accurately about the funding need?

This learning can be invaluable in helping you to refine your document and make it truly persuasive, before you reach out to the majority of your donors.


10. Waiting for the Case for Support to be “perfect” before using it.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is that organizations feels the Case for Support is never “ready” to be used as a fundraising tool.  People feel nervous about completing it, with a view to making it “perfect”, so it remains unused. In the meantime, fundraising is stalled and donor relationships start to drift.

It can be okay to keep a Case for Support in draft form, at least for a while.  An unfinished Case for Support is a great reason for a deeper conversation with your donors and within your organization at all levels, since it provides an opportunity to seek feedback, while at the same time finding out what motivates your supporters.  Then when you do go back to make an ask, it is much more likely to be in line with their interests.

Missed Part One: Check it out here!

Are you making some of these mistakes with your Case for Support?  How do you think you can rectify them so that you can create a compelling Case that is persuasive, powerful and motivates donors to give?  Got any great Case for Support examples to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Mena is a fundraising professional and consultant specializing in fundraising strategy and management, from capital campaigns to grant writing. She is the founder and CEO of Purposeful Fundraising, a consultancy firm that supports organizations to strengthen their fundraising capacity and to raise more money.

In a voluntary capacity, Mena sits on the Board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Ottawa Chapter (AFP Ottawa) as Vice President of Professional Development and is on the Steering Committee for Prime Ministers Row, an initiative to create Canada’s first street museum.

Follow Mena on Twitter @MenaGain

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Over the years, I’ve seen some amazingly powerful Case for Support examples – but I’ve also reviewed a number that miss the mark. Here are some of the most common mistakes that can significantly affect the impact of a Case for Support document and as a result, the chances of running a truly successful fundraising campaign.

1. Not having one at all!

The Case for Support can be an extraordinarily powerful tool.  Whether your focus is on major gifts, or you are trying to figure out how to write a fundraising letter, it helps to ensure that you have everything in place to enable you to present your program effectively. It also provides the language, stories and information that your team needs to speak authoritatively, accurately and passionately about your work.

If your Case for Support doesn’t hit the mark, or if you don’t have one at all, your fundraising advocates – from your Board to your staff, including your fundraising team – will lack confidence and impact in speaking about your organization when they reach out to existing and potential supporters (if you need a Case for Support template to get you started, you can download one here).


2. Trying to educate, rather than persuade, your audience.

Often I see Case for Support documents that are bogged down with way too much detail about how an organization goes about its business.  Since the Case for Support is intended to persuade people to give, that should be its key focus.  Your readers are not looking to learn about your operations inside out.  If they want to know the details, they will probably ask. What they DO want to know is why it matters that they support you and how they can have a real and lasting impact.

Ultimately they want to make a difference, so your Case for Support should tell them how your organization is the right conduit to help them do just that!


3. Not including the RIGHT stories

Storytelling in your Case for Support is one of the most impactful ways to get your message across.  As we often hear, people give to people.  They want to know who would benefit from their support, and what it would be like to change someone’s world in a positive way.  Stories of the people that benefit from your organization can do this very effectively, by demonstrating how your organization meets a real need and helps people to overcome challenges.

This does not mean just any story will do. Your stories must be relatable.  Donors must be able to empathise with the person that they are reading about if they are to be persuaded to give. Your stories must also support and reinforce the other messaging in the Case for Support. In essence, your stories have a powerful role to play: they must persuade donors of both the need for your work, and the positive impact of your organization in addressing it.


4. Not taking donors on a journey.

Not only should your Case for Support include stories, but it should also have its own story arc. The Case for Support should take donors on a journey by first focusing their attention on the dire situation that your organization is addressing, and an urgent need to do something about it.  Then the Case for Support should educate donors about a solution to this problem, and impart a sense of hope and optimism. The point is to help donors feel that there is a solution, one that they can provide through you, and therefore that they can also BE part of the solution, by giving generously to your organization.


5. Worrying more about length than impact.

I am firmly of the belief that the flow of information in a Case for Support matters far more than length. I have seen very short Case for Support documents that were trying so hard to be “to the point” that the language was disjointed and difficult to read, while others have been so long that I got lost in the details. Others have lacked such important, compelling information, that they left me with far too many questions about why I should give my support.

The best Case for Support examples I’ve seen are those where I can read the document easily and smoothly from beginning to end, and feel that swell of emotion as I move towards that conclusion where I am compelled to act, then the Case for Support has done what it needs to do.  With that kind of document, length is much less of a factor.


Are you making some of these mistakes with your Case for Support?  How do you think you can rectify them so that you can create a compelling Case that is persuasive, powerful and motivates donors to give?  Got any great Case for Support examples to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

Check out Part Two of Ten mistakes organizations make with their Case for Support on Monday, April 10, 2017!

About the Author

Mena is a fundraising professional and consultant specializing in fundraising strategy and management, from capital campaigns to grant writing. She is the founder and CEO of Purposeful Fundraising, a consultancy firm that supports organizations to strengthen their fundraising capacity and to raise more money.

In a voluntary capacity, Mena sits on the Board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Ottawa Chapter (AFP Ottawa) as Vice President of Professional Development and is on the Steering Committee for Prime Ministers Row, an initiative to create Canada’s first street museum.

Follow Mena on Twitter @MenaGain


Posted by & filed under Announcement, Congress, Philanthropy Awards.

We are fortunate as a Chapter and as Professional Fundraisers, to work with outstanding volunteer leaders, philanthropists, organizations, corporations, and professionals. Each year, at our Philanthropy Awards presentations, we honour and celebrate the outstanding contributions of time, leadership and financial support made by organizations and individuals who have excelled in advancing the spirit of giving.

The 2017 AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Philanthropy Awards Luncheon will be held in conjunction with Congress on Wednesday, November 22, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.

The AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Philanthropy Award categories are (click to download application forms):

Nominators: Must be AFP Greater Toronto Chapter members.
Nominees: Fundraising Professional category nominees must be AFP members. Nominees in other categories are not required to be AFP members. Self-nominations are welcome.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, May 29, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.  For more information, please contact Cynthia Quigley at / 416-941-9212.

Thank you for making this a priority and we look forward to honouring and celebrating our best with you – submit your nomination today!

Posted by & filed under Career Development, Uncategorized.

Your fundraising career: Should I specialize?

Nine years into my fundraising career I did it. I decided to specialize.

I had been working in a small shop for years doing most of the fundraising. When you work on a smaller team, you learn to do it all: running direct response programs, creating digital engagement campaigns, designing corporate philanthropy initiatives, writing grant applications, cultivating major donors, and even a little bit of graphic design.

When I started looking for another job, I applied to more generalist roles. But as I interviewed with various organizations, I began to think about what it was that I really wanted in my career.

Becoming a Specialist

Specialists are masters of their craft, with a deep understanding of their work. If you choose to specialize, you’ll have the opportunity to become very advanced in your specific area of fundraising, and by staying on top of your game, you can become a thought leader in your area.

Specialists can help fill gaps on fundraising teams. For example, one of the first specialist positions a smaller team might create is a major gifts officer who can dedicate her time to cultivating and stewarding donors would otherwise not be engaged. Because of this ability to fill gaps with their expertise, specialists can be in high demand and have a higher earning capacity.

Unfortunately for specialists, career options can be limiting. Fundraising specialists look for roles that not only align with their skills, but with the causes they are interested in. So, for example, a fundraiser who specializes in prospect research and has a passion for social services may not find a role that is a fit for them.

In addition, specialists can have a harder time transitioning into leadership roles where one is expected to have an overarching strategy that involves all fundraising strategies, as well as managerial skills.

Becoming a Generalist

Generalists are often thought of as jacks of all trades, but masters of none. Though this can seem like a drawback, what it means is that they tend to be big-picture, team-oriented thinkers. They can often see the interconnectedness of various fundraising (and organizational) activities, and are comfortable navigating the waters when the path is unclear.

Generalists thrive in smaller organizations where modest budgets call for someone whose fundraising experience is wide-ranging. If you choose to be a generalist, your broad fundraising knowledge base will allow you significant career flexibility. You’ll be able to jump from role to role quite easily. And generalists often get promoted into leadership roles, as director level positions often require a comprehensive view of fundraising in addition to managerial skills.

On the flip side, generalists can make mistakes when they’re making decisions without the expertise to back them up. And without expertise, generalists sometimes feel like their work involves a lot trial and error rather than relying on a deep understanding of best practice.

And while job stability is not guaranteed for anyone, generalists tend to be more replaceable than specialists simply because there are more of them.

So how do you decide?

For me, it took interviewing for other roles to realize that I wanted to become a more specialized fundraiser. The process prompted me to ask questions I hadn’t really thought about.

If you’re trying to make a decision on whether or not to specialize, consider these questions:

What stage of my career am I in?

If you’re early in your career as a fundraiser, you may want to avoid specializing until you’ve had a chance to try your hand at everything. Once you know what you like, and what you’re good at, you’ll be able to make this decision with more confidence.

Do I do my best work when I can focus on one aspect of fundraising?

If you are most productive and producing your best quality work when you have multiple projects on the go, then being a generalist might be the right fit. But if focusing produces the best results for you, specialization could be the route you should take.

Am I passionate about one particular kind of fundraising?

Do you LOVE meeting with donors? Or crafting the perfect direct mail ask? If there’s one type of fundraising that gets you more excited than the others, it’s worth exploring that path.

As a generalist or a specialist, will I be able to work for causes I am passionate about?

As I mentioned above, specialization can be limiting if you are passionate about causes that tend to have smaller fundraising shops. On the other hand, a generalist who is passionate about university fundraising may have a hard time competing with experts vying for a focused position at these larger shops.

Do I want to be in a leadership role?

If you’re looking to be a team leader, you’ll need to develop a broad range of skills. Not only will you need to understand all fundraising activities and have managerial skills, but you’ll need cross-functional skills across departments as well. And remember, there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing whether to specialize or not. It’s all a matter of what you want out of your career.


Ashleigh Saith

Charity Savant

Ashleigh Saith is a fundraiser and nonprofit leader with years of experience working in small- and mid-sized nonprofits. She’s passionate about nonprofit marketing and leadership, and found herself with a shocking knack for finance. Ashleigh is currently the Manager of Annual Programs at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation. She was formerly the Director of Development and Partnerships at Interval House, and is a graduate of the Humber Fundraising Management Program. While out running, Ashleigh thinks about new ways that Charity Campus can help nonprofit staff and volunteers grow, learn, and connect with each other. In addition to the charitable sector, Ashleigh loves cats, Gene Kelly musicals, and all forms of soup.

Follow Ashleigh on Twitter @ashleighsaith and Charity Savant @CharitySavant