Op Ed | Grit, resilience, and disruption

publication date: Dec 6, 2018
author/source: Kimberley MacKenzie

Did you feel the disruption at AFP Toronto Congress?

If you are a fundraiser in Canada, you likely know that we recently had our annual Association of Fundraising Professionals Toronto Conference. If you have read any of my previous articles you may also know that I am a self-confessed conference junkie.

The theme of this year’s congress was DISRUPTION.

Doing things the same way because that is how they have always been done is safe. However, it is not what our sector needs. Our sector needs more GRIT and RESILIENCE right now and I suspect that is exactly what it took to organize this year's conference.

The AFP Congress committee sure delivered on their promise to disrupt. Doing so required daring leadership and a boldness to risk potential complaints from people who are expecting the familiar and safe.

Perhaps you were one of the people I saw in stunned silence with their jaw on the floor during the luncheon plenary. Yes, inviting a drag queen to be emcee was a risky choice! I’m sure not everyone embraced it. I am also sure everyone will remember it.

What about the traditionally exclusive dinner for speakers only the Sunday before? I know that when I’m speaking I like the invitation to an exclusive party. I know that when my colleagues are speaking and I am not, they are discreet about what their plans are the night before. People do like being a part of the special club – when they are IN the club. Were you a speaker who expected exclusivity only to be surprised that the event was opened up? How did you feel about that? The party was different than previous years. It was also lively and fun and set a tone of camaraderie for the coming week.

What about the land blessing and smudging ceremony that slowly eased us into conference? It was quiet and created intention. Not the thing that usually happens at a conference with over 1,000 delegates waiting to be inspired motivated and energized.

There were other surprising things that quite possibly created friction. The planning committee had a lot of new energy. Space was intentionally created for a younger, less senior more inclusive decision-making committee. That was a courageous move that was obviously supported by a leader who had a vision and was determined to realize it, no matter how uncomfortable for some.

What about the intention to ensure that a newer cohort of diverse speakers, with less experience was given the opportunity to spread their wings and take the podium? Did you go to one of those sessions? Or did you grumble at being passed over? Are you at all concerned that this choice will impact the overall marks of the conference? If those speakers don’t hit the much-coveted 90% should they be invited back?

From my perspective this conference felt really relaxed. I noticed more laughter, more fun and even buttons - tonnes of funny little buttons. You know you have succeeded in creating disruption when even something as superfluous as buttons garner complaints. Not even kidding! I wish I were.

Here’s the thing…change is hard for a lot of people. Change can be uncomfortable, scary, threatening and even… DISRUPTIVE.

It was very obvious that this was a year that deliberately created friction in order to spark progress and change. I applaud the commitment to do that and am grateful for the people in the trenches who may have had some discomfort around it and supported the effort anyway.

After 17 years of attending this conference and watching it grow and change, I wholeheartedly applaud and congratulate this year’s Conference Committee and the AFP chapter board for everything they accomplished this year.

The charitable sector as a whole needs a major disruption and this past week it started with AFP Toronto Chapter Congress. So let’s all be grateful to the people in the trenches who volunteered their time to do that for us.

Kimberley is an award winning fundraiser, CFRE, AFP Master Trainer and has consistently delivered double-digit growth for fundraising programs. She works as a consultant with a variety of organizations to advance a culture of philanthropy and create transformative results that raise more money for their missions.

Kimberley has served as Editor for Hilborn Charity eNEWS, was a member of the Advisory Panel for the Rogare Think Tank at Plymouth University and an executive member of the Planned Giving Council of Simcoe County.

You can contact her on twitter via @kimberleycanada email her k@kimberleymackenzie.ca or at www.kimberleymackenzie.ca,

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