Fundraising Congress delights, inspires fundraising newbie

publication date: Dec 12, 2013
author/source: Kathleen Herbinson

As a student of Georgian College’s Fundraising and Resource Development program, I was excited to attend this year’s Congress, Accelerating Change. I volunteered to assist session hosts to keep the event running smoothly. Truthfully, the event was so well organized that little help was needed.

The orientation breakfast connected first-time conference attendees and was led by a Congress ambassador. I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful, warm and welcoming everyone was to me, a young philanthropy enthusiast who is new to the field. Congress provided valuable networking opportunities with members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and other experts in the development field.  

Congress had a diverse selection of sessions to choose from. Many of the speakers were excellent story tellers; it seemed impossible to leave Congress without feeling inspired and motivated to bring new ideas and development strategies back into our respective workplaces.  The sessions which impacted me the most were those that encouraged participation, questions and stories from the audience.

Build relationships: ask for ideas as well as treasure, time

A main theme of the conference was fostering relationships through donor engagement. Our role as fundraising professionals is to build relationships based on trust and respect. Being donor-centred means soliciting people’s ideas in addition to their treasure and time.

By actively engaging our stakeholders, we allow donors and volunteers to develop a sense of ownership within an organization. They will become stronger advocates for the cause and take their gifts to the next level. People must always be sincerely thanked for their contributions; neglecting to do so would mean a missed opportunity.

Tell those stories!

Another recurring Congress idea was to market our missions through emotionally compelling storytelling. We had the pleasure of hearing one such story from Helene Campbell, a double-lung transplant recipient and organ donor advocate. With her self-deprecating humour and authentically friendly character, she moved the audience to laughter (and many to tears) by sharing her journey of illness and hope. (You can learn more about her story here.)

My favorite sessions were about safely advocating change in the nonprofit sector and about a system of bartering for education. The talks were interactive and intimate with exciting ideas that were “outside the box.” They reminded me that we need community mobilization, activism and change to sustainably improve the status quo of our social and environmental state.

The Congress 2013 title Accelerating Change would suggest that we should embrace these types of creative ideas even if they are outside of societal norms.  After all, we are a part of the platform of professionals who stand for social justice. Isn’t it time we really embraced change?

Kathleen Herbinson is Volunteer Coordinator/Assistant at the Alzheimer Society of Guelph-Wellington. Contact her by email.

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