Congress 2016 – My Learning Experience

My first Congress – My realization to Lead from where I stand

Wow, what a great theme for Congress 2016 – Lead from where you stand! During the opening plenary, Liane Davey said, “Every person has the ability to change the team for something better.” These words showed me the power of one, the power of believing in yourself and encouraged me to reach for the stars. I started my three days of Congress with this positive mindset.

Day 1:

There are two top learnings from the sessions I attended on Monday. The first one is to ask every single donor the question, “What inspired you to give today?” This question is so critical for every single donor, regardless of the amount because it gives you a better understanding of why people give.

The second learning was how we involve the donor in the challenge at hand. In other words, how to present the proposal. The proposal should contain: What is the ‘need,’ the ‘solution’ and how the donor can help? If this picture is portrayed the right way, the donor will feel engaged and confident that they are making a difference. As a fundraising professional, this is the art of the job and the end result will depend on the tools used, the efforts put in and the trick used to differentiate from others.

Day 2:

After the first day, I was pumped to start the second day of Congress, not only because of the interesting session I was about to attend but also because as a Fellow in Inclusion and Philanthropy I would be graduating that day. This Fellowship deepened my understanding of diversity and inclusion and demonstrated the role these elements play in our fundraising profession. Along with this, I got to know my mentor, Celeste Taylor, who made me look at my career and determine what goals I wanted to set for myself. I am ever so grateful to this program and all the people involved in making it a success. Receiving the certificate of completion for the Fellowship at Congress while in the presence of all involved and my manager, Roger Ali, made the day even more spectacular.

My top two learnings of Day 2 were totally different than the first day. My first ‘Aha’ moment was when the a session highlighted that the world is changing. Donors have many options to choose from when they feel philanthropic. Websites like and are just a couple examples of outlets where donors can go to help people in need. The donor chooses who he/she would like to help and can donate right at that time. They get a rewarding feeling right from the moment they donate to the needy. Need + action = reward. This means that we as fundraising professionals need to think creatively and find different ways for donors to find us.

My second learning was that there are many paths to Rome and that in order to navigate the path as Foundation fundraisers, we must step into the diverse community we are approaching. This will us give us an understanding of their culture and help others understand what we do. The process takes time and and a lot of effort but once the relationship has been established, the results will make the efforts worthwhile. Approaching and including diverse communities unites us all together to achieve greater impact.

Day 3:

I was very excited for my last session on the last day of Congress, “Exercising your ask muscle.” When this session started, the presenter said something that was very important for me to hear and take in: Think of yourself as an opportunity offerer! During this session, he discussed the five components of making a philanthropic ask and then we practiced through role play. Congress ended with the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Philanthropy Awards, where great community leaders were highlighted. I always find it fascinating to see the young philanthropist, as they are the future of tomorrow.

And that’s it – the end of Congress 2016! Now, I got to drive back home with novel ideas to implement, new learnings to build on and some great new connections with other fundraisers. This event is very inspiring and gave me the tools to do my job even better than before. Thank you, Congress!