2020 National Conference Sessions

That hurts - how leaders cope with hostile criticism
Julie Davis - Vice President External Relations & Advancement, Trent University

The ability to cope with criticism is an important competence for leaders, who face criticism as a normal reaction to their role and the decisions they make. Hostile criticism and personal attacks are a source of stress for leaders. If unmanaged, this stress affects their physical and mental health, job performance, and their employees. Accepting that criticism is normal, developing emotional regulation skills, accessing social support, and engaging in proactive planning are all proven approaches to coping with the stress of hostile criticism. The session will review and help participants develop these skills. Given the normalization of personal attacks and public criticism in our society, leaders at all levels will benefit from this session.

Learning Objectives:
  • Help leaders develop skills to cope with the stress of hostile criticism
  • Help leaders understand and accept that hostile criticism is a normal part of leadership


3...2...1... Lift off: How to launch a $2-billion campaign and a new brand platform, all in one morning
Derek Cassoff - Managing Director, Communications, McGill University
Gabrielle Korn - Managing Director, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, McGill University

With a bicentennial anniversary on the horizon, McGill University's advancement team had a small window in which to launch its next fundraising campaign and roll out its long anticipated new brand platform -- and a strategic imperative to go live with both initiatives at the exact same time. In this session, learn how the Communications and Alumni Relations teams worked together to build a new brand, prepare a series of launch events that would not soon be forgotten, and develop a communications and engagement strategy that would keep the campaign's momentum alive long after everyone had gone back home.

Learning Objectives:
  • Learn how to align institutional priorities and fundraising goals with the need to engage alumni, donors and volunteers
  • Discover best practices required to engage campus-wide partners on a University-wide branding, marketing and special events journey that can otherwise be fraught with pitfalls
  • Better understand how advanced preparation and multi-unit collaboration can make or break the most well-intentioned plans


If they are not surprised and delighted, you are doing it wrong
Claire Lewis - Senior Development Officer, Principal Gifts, Carleton University
Shannon Wilmot - Development Communications and Strategy Specialist, Carleton University

This session will offer lessons learned and examples of how frontline fundraising and central office staff work in close alignment on a daily, hourly and yes, even minute-by-minute basis, on crafting and implementing effective engagement of the university’s top donors and potential donors. Focused discussion on overcoming the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ mantra; improving the quantity and quality of thank you notes from students; and how to organize your internal team for optimal success in securing the next transformational gift. Carleton recently completed its largest fundraising campaign — success that demands some nimble and creative donor relations strategy.

Learning Objectives:
  • Increase collaboration among your teams and pilot new donor-focused initiatives
  • Improve stewardship for top donors through enhanced, individualized reporting
  • Share strategies, ideas and lessons learned — insights you can take back to your workplaces to help make your organization the recipient of your donors’ most generous philanthropy


Working in the Data Wilderness: The University of Guelph's Experience
Duncan Malcolm - Director, Advancement Services, University of Guelph
Mary MacLeod Lindsay - Manager, Advancement Research, University of Guelph

The advancement department at Guelph has a limited data analysis/datamining infrastructure. Fundraisers have a growing need for this work/resources in this area. Throughout 2019, Advancement Research, in coordination with the Information Services and Business Analysis teams, has designed and executed basic data analysis/mining projects for specific colleges within the university. These projects, which provided concrete aggregated donor/alumni information, have proved extremely popular and useful. Three units have received this type of analysis to date. We’ll discuss how Guelph hit a tipping point on this need, how it has been executed, and successes coming out of the projects so far.

Learning Objectives:
  • Describe how an advancement shop with no/limited data analytics/mining infrastructure can start fulfilling basic needs in those areas
  • Outline how fundraisers and support personnel collaborate in a basic datamining program
  • Describe how the University of Guelph has made use of its early datamining projects so far


Students and Donors Benefit When Silos Disappear: How to break down barriers between the Student Financial Aid and Philanthropy functions at your institution
Kathryn Davidson - Philanthropy Director, Lakehead University
Josh Levac - Associate Registrar, Student Awards and Financial Aid, Lakehead University

Canadian post-secondary philanthropy departments play an important role in helping to fund many of the projects that their institutions undertake. One major component is the solicitation of funding from donors to help establish scholarships, bursaries and awards. In many cases the responsible departments are silos, understanding only their work, and the lack of communication can result in frustrated employees and donors. Over the past 5 years, Lakehead University has started to break down our interoffice barriers, communicate, and develop an internal methodology that can help other siloed institutions to develop synergies and create an open dialogue and understanding of processes.

Learning Objectives:
  • Demonstration of best practice in procedures and communication between departments
  • Development of Student Financial Aid Policy
  • Demonstration of benefits to students and donors when silos are broken down


Legal, Possible and Practical: Drafting Effective Gift Agreements that Capture Donor Intent
Debbie Meyers - Assistant Vice President for Advancement Operations, Chautauqua Institution

Learn how to create effective gift agreements that will honor and document your donors’ intentions while benefitting and protecting your organization. We’ll look at ways to identify restrictions and preferences that are legal, possible and practical. We’ll also discuss how to create a toolkit to educate and collaborate with gift officers during the process.

Learning Objectives:
  • The importance of gift documentation
  • Must-have elements in an effective gift agreement
  • Legal and practical considerations in drafting gift agreements


Small but Mighty - How a lean and mean university creatively ploughed through its campaign goal
Jo-Anne Ryan - Vice President, Philanthropy, TD Insurance
Jacqueline Scott - Associate Vice-Principal, University Advancement, Bishop's University

Located in the beautiful Eastern Townships of Quebec, with a student population of 2,500, an alumni population of 20,000, and a shoestring advancement budget, Bishop’s University managed to surpass their Leading the Way Campaign goal of $30M to reach $44M in only six years. We will share innovative strategies used to engage alumni in fundraising, volunteering, and formal mentoring over the course of the Campaign and beyond. This session will highlight emerging trends in Canada such as the landscape of donor-advised funds, women and philanthropy and giving trends among high-net-worth Canadians.

Learning Objectives:
  • Share trends in philanthropy among high net worth donors
  • How to succeed on a shoestring budget
  • Creative ways to engage volunteers and donors


Calling All Colleges - An Affinity Session for Community College Advancement Professionals
Tom Meadus - Director of Advancement, New Brunswick Community College

Some say, College Advancement is merely University Advancement with fewer zeros; well it isn't, and it has unique challenges and opportunities. For example, How to build affinity only having students for 1-2 years? How to engage alumni when the average participation in campaigns is less than 1%. How do we connect our senior leaders to big donors - Industry? This session is a calling to all college folks to connect, discuss college advancement. An open session with submitted topics for discussion. Topping it off would be a business card and collateral swap to build connections beyond the conference.

Learning Objectives:
  • Hold an Open Meaningful Discussion on Issues and Realities of Community College Advancement
  • Make peer connections from the College Advancement System that can continue post conference
  • Facilitate a Collateral Exchange of tools of the trade used by other organizations


Beyond Regional Events: Increasing the Menu of Experiences for Alumni
Sami Brar - Regional Coordinator, University of Alberta
Jennifer Jenkins - Regional Coordinator, University of Alberta

In today's busy world, we are all grappling with ways to appeal to, and engage with, our alumni. Join the discussion for tips on how to meet your alumni "where they live" to provide regional opportunities for engagement. We will offer specific relationship building ideas such as welcome and mentorship programs that pair established alumni with younger grads and how to utilize data, LinkedIn and personal visits to expand outreach. Let Jennifer and Sami share some tools on how to create a menu of experiences for your grads around the world.

Learning Objectives:
  • Moving beyond events to diversify alumni programming
  • Increasing the variety of volunteer opportunities
  • Utilizing data to direct activities


Gamification: Improving Engagement and Giving
Karen McQuigge - Director, Alumni Advancement (Alumni Relations & Annual Giving) Office of Alumni Advancement, McMaster Alumni Association
Mirko Widenhorn - Senior Director of Engagement Strategy, iModules Software

Everywhere we look, indicators of progress, badges, and more drive us to take action. That’s the expectation and now it’s a matter of incorporating it into your engagement and giving strategies. See how McMaster University and others have applied gamification to increase engagement and giving of alumni and supporters. Hear results of a national alumni communications survey and how these apply to deepen relationships with your graduates. You’ll leave this session with new ideas about engagement, ways to adjust annual giving campaigns, and how to connect with less engaged constituents by gamifying their experience!

Learning Objectives:
  • To inform attendees about opportunities around gamification to help reach new constituents and to build deeper relationships
  • Provide tips and suggestions on how to incorporate gamification into engagement and fundraising strategies, and how to adjust messaging to resonate with different audiences
  • To share examples of relevant, successful gamified engagement and fundraising campaigns and highlight best practices


Planning on starting a campaign? Come to this session and find out how!
John Kearsey - Vice-President (External), University of Manitoba
Stephanie Levene - Associate Vice-President, Alumni and Donor Relations, University of Manitoba

If you are considering a major campaign or are in the early phases of planning, this session is for you! In this session, we will be discussing some of the most important early steps we took in planning for the success of our Front and Centre Campaign.

Learning Objectives:
  • Discuss how best to engage the campus community in articulating the Case for Support
  • Share the impact of the feasibility study
  • Staffing for success


Building The External Relations Function – so you can prepare for a campaign
Ann Brandt - Interim Vice-President (External Relations), Lakehead University
Clayton Browne - Communications, Marketing and Web Development Director, External Relations Lakehead University
Mark Tilbury - Annual Fund and Alumni Engagement Director, Lakehead University

Since 2012, Lakehead University has been laying the ground work for an institutional philanthropic campaign. The first step in that journey was to re-establish a fully functional and comprehensive External Relations portfolio, where none existed for the past 20 years. Learn how we defined the elements of External Relations and set out to gather them under one umbrella. Learn how we built credibility and respect, and worked with willing campus partners and champions. Learn how we established the portfolio at two campuses, and a Toronto Office; setting the stage for the University to launch its first major institutional philanthropic campaign in over 30 years.

Learning Objectives:
  • Defining the functional areas that made up our ideal External Relations portfolio
  • How to build institutional support for gathering those areas under the External Relations umbrella – kicking and screaming if necessary
  • Determining what success looks like – are you ready to launch?


University of Manitoba’s Next Generation Website Experience - A Case Study
Paul Lacap - Director, Digital Strategy and Engagement, University of Manitoba

In fall 2017, the University of Manitoba discussed our vision of a new umanitoba.ca – a website that would bring us up to speed, continually evolve and establish UM as a leader in accessibility and digital communication. Over the last year, more than 1,000 students, staff and faculty participated in workshops to explore website features, information architecture, wireframes, intranet and content lifecycle. Close to 700 provided further feedback through extensive online testing. This presentation explores:

  • How design thinking, lean and agile were used to frame the project
  • How project and change management practices improved the odds of success
Learning Objectives:
  • Understand how principles of design thinking, lean and agile approaches were used to move an institute wide initiative forward
  • Examine how global project management and change management practices were used throughout the initial build


Learn from the donor history of over 77 million donors and 224 million gift transactions
Stéphanie Mathieu - International Marketing Coordinator, DonorPerfect
Isabel Brinck - Communications Coordinator, The Sacred Heart School of Montreal

This session is designed to help you chart the growth of your organization through data-based decisions. We've collected and analyzed data of the entire donor history for over 77 million donors and 224 million gift transactions. Join us to see the numbers supporting the statement that multichannel donors are your hidden treasure. Learn from what’s worked and apply these lessons to your fundraising strategy. From these numbers, we've learned a lot about: channels of choice for first-time donors and amount of first gift, recapturing lapsed donors, donor types (episodic, recurring, major, etc.) and pyramid of gifts, upgraders, downgraders, & repeat givers versus major donors, how many donors made gifts of $10,000+, and more.

Learning Objectives:
  • Learn from giving trends over time
  • Gain knowledge about donor behavior
  • Take away the strategies that generate the most fundraising success


Snap Sessions - May 21, 3:45 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

How Alumni Volunteers are Supporting Student Mental Health at the University of Alberta
Vanessa Welz - Volunteer Coordinator, University of Alberta

In 2018, Alumni Relations at the University of Alberta launched the Alumni Student Support & Engagement Team (ASSET), now consists of 38 alumni volunteers passionate about supporting student mental health and wellness. These volunteers receive specialized training and volunteer in partnership with several campus support services. ASSET strives to champion an inclusive campus community, foster connections between students and alumni, enable meaningful and supportive interactions, and have a positive impact on the well-being of students. This presentation will outline how and why we created this volunteer initiative, what we learned in our first year, what our impact has been so far, and how we plan to grow the program.

Learning Objectives:
  • Discover a high-touch, high-commitment volunteer opportunity that works
  • Learn the unique way alumni can contribute to campus support services
  • Discover why alumni should have a role in supporting current students


Uniting campus, fostering engagement and making a real difference
Lyndsay Montina - Manager, Alumni Relations, University of Lethbridge
Karissa Hartley - Alumni engagement coordinator, University of Lethbridge, 2019/2020 TDIMM Fellowship in Advancement

Faced with the sobering reality that an alarming number of students were struggling with food scarcity, the University of Lethbridge banded together to launch Nourish, a collaborative effort to address the issue. Nourish brought together existing and new programming in a concerted effort to raise awareness and maximize the collective impact that the University could have in supporting students. By highlighting the multiple ways that stakeholders could help make a difference in the fight against food insecurity, barriers to participation were reduced as there were diverse opportunities to get involved in ways best suited to their needs. Whether someone wanted to make a difference by donating food, volunteering their time or providing financial support, there was a role for everyone to play. The Nourish initiative pushed boundaries by making a tangible difference in the lives of students in need and raising awareness about the impact that a collective group can have.

Learning Objectives:
  • Identify the value of highlighting multiple engagement opportunities within one initiative, especially when encouraging stakeholders to get involved
  • Construct a central narrative that unites a community towards one goal and understand the value that a united front can have
  • Build relationships across and beyond campus that can make an impact well into the future


Lessons Learned: Engaging in Reconciliation
Julie Davis - Vice President External Relations and Advancement, Trent University

The Truth and Reconciliation commission calls for action include many of relevance to institutions of higher education. Moreover, indigenous communities may be important constituents for your institution's community engagement efforts. Finally, many grant providers who support indigenous students now require applicants to co-apply with indigenous communities. For these, and other reasons, it is important to have meaningful and productive relationships with indigenous communities. Trent University, a leader in indigenous education, has embarked on a journey to be a leader in institutional indigenous relations. This session will explore what approaches have been undertaken, and lessons learned on this difficult and important journey.

Learning Objectives:
  • Share lessons learned from Trent's focus on engaging indigenous communities
  • Propose possible steps others might take to enhance reconciliation practices
  • Generate conversation about the importance of, and risks inherent in, embarking on reconciliation


Stronger Together: Formalizing relationships between Post-Secondary Institutions and Municipalities
Richard Longtin - Director, Government Relations, Lakehead University

Higher education has gone through many changes in the 21st century to adapt to the needs of modern society. As a result, post-secondary institutions now have a greater influence on regional innovation systems and economic development than ever before. Collaborative partnerships between post-secondary institutions and municipal governments, often referred to as “town-gown” relationships, are increasingly becoming the norm, and are often seen as being mutually beneficial. Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) are a key example of formalizing these relationships between these two parties. While not legally binding, an MOU formalizes a working relationship and helps to articulate a common set of goals between the University and the Municipality. Both parties in each conversation need to start out by asking themselves where they can bring real value to a possible partnership. Once both parties ask themselves this question then they can begin to map out joint areas of priority. Sometimes organizations have strategic plans or stated goals and by simply going through these documents to see where commonality exist, they can save time and build a plan forward. Once these initial steps are taken a draft MOU can be developed. These documents will look very different for each relationship but ultimately the purpose, goals, measurements and governance are common areas in most MOUs.

Learning Objectives:
  • History of Town-Gown
  • Understanding that Memorandums of Understanding are becoming an important tool in Town and Gown relationships
  • Formalizing partnerships and pursing new collaborations