By Michael Brooke
Foundation Magazine had an opportunity to attend the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Toronto Chapter Fundraising Day at the end of May. This was the first time that the AFP had the chance to gather face-to-face in over two years.
A quick glance over at the lanyard table indicated that most attendees were choosing mostly yellow badge and green holders. The yellow colour meant that you were comfortable with an elbow bump. Green meant actual handshakes and hugs would be welcomed ((if ok’d by both parties). Thankfully, the red pile (no contact please and keep a strict distance of 6 feet) of lanyards was quite large. This confirmed my suspicion that people were anxious to get back to some type of normalcy (or a reasonable facsimile of normalcy).
The opening presentation was from Randell Adjei who is Ontario’s first Poet Laureate. Randell also founded R.I.S.E. (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere). It’s a non-profit that creates inclusive spaces for youth and emerging artists to express themselves in a positive way. Randell’s presentation highlighted a number of issues as they relate to inclusion, diversity, equity and access within the world of philanthropy. After his thought provoking words, the several hundred delegates headed into their workshops.
I have to confess that attending the conference was initially a rather curious and surreal experience. Like many delegates, this was my first live meet-up in several years. It was quite extraordinary seeing people with no masks, breakfast buffet tables and people shaking hands. These were small yet significant signs that the timing felt right to begin the process of connecting in person once again.
I asked several event attendees about their feelings on coming an in-person event. Stephanie Silva works as a Senior Development Officers at Pathways to Education. The charity provides resources and support for youth in low-income communities to graduate from high school. This was Stephanie’s first gathering in some time. “I have not travelled or gone to events like weddings in quite some time” she explained. “I wasn’t expecting to see so many people and it’s so nice to see this,” Stefanie said. She noted the coloured lanyards were “a great way of making people feel comfortable. It all feels very respectful and nice to be back.”
Isabel Perez-Doherty is the Director of Philanthropy at Community Food Centres Canada. The organization builds vibrant, financially stable food centres that bring people together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food. “I am excited to be at the conference because it has a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion” she says. “I think DEI is at the core of what we do and should be made a priority for people to learn in these kinds of events.” Isabel felt the organizers had made the day very accessible and liked the idea that people had a choice of how to interact. “I feel safe being here.”
I had a chance to meet up with a number of delegates from Fife House. The non-profit provides secure and supportive affordable housing and services to people living with HIV in the GTA.
Faiza who recently joined the organization as an intern says she came to the conference to learn new ways to network. “I wanted to learn from other fundraisers and understand how they communicate with donors.”
Sarah, another intern came with the expectation of building career skills and become more comfortable at going into job interviews. “I wanted a better sense of what is expected of me in a fundraising role.”
Natalie, the third intern I met, says she wanted to learn new things and develop new strategies. “I am really interested in how people use art to create stories within the world of fundraising.”
For the lunchtime presentation, delegates were given a live video presentation by Vu Le. Vu writes the blog NonprofitAF.com. He explained to the audience that he was overwhelmed by the tragic school shooting in Texas and you could sense his pain. Vu’s presentation was from the gut and much of what he said was thought-provoking. I sense that many delegates were inspired by his call for re-evaluation and change.
Michael Brooke is a writer for Foundation Magazine.