Sessions & Presenters

Harnessing the Power of Marketing & Communications Workshop


Communicating Impact to Donors                   

Derek Cassoff, Office of University Advancement, McGill University

In the high-stakes world of fundraising, where success is measured by gifts closed and cash in the door, communications teams often devote most of their time and energies to crafting pitches and solicitations to new donors.

In this session, learn how the Advancement Communications team at McGill University used the aftermath of a highly successful fundraising campaign to reinvent itself as a central player in the university's stewardship efforts. The team developed novel strategies and a new suite of materials that remind donors of the impact of their giving and convey the two most important words in fundraising: Thank You.

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The Quintessential Role of Communications: When the Music (Campaign) Ends

Richard Fisher, Chief Communications Officer, Development & Alumni Engagement, University of British Columbia

As communicators, we have been conditioned to respond to goal setting, benchmarks and all the paraphernalia of brand campaigns, fundraising/alumni campaigns and anniversaries. But what, quintessentially, is the nature of the communicator’s role? Does it depend on ‘promotional activity’ or is their something more constant beneath and between the churn? (Hint: there is).

This session will explore:

  1. How to keep the wheels turning without a campaign.
  2. What is the essential difference for development and alumni communicators between a campaign and “going dark”?
  3. Is the light at the end of the tunnel an illusion, or is it the tunnel itself…?

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Social Sesame

Ernest Barbaric, Digital Marketing Strategist; Dax Justin, Entrepreneur, Social Media Marketer; and David Wald, Founder and Chief Idea Guy, Social Sesame

Should you snap it, post it or tweet about it? Tech moves so quickly, we decided to maximize time and talent with a dynamic panel. These industry gurus will break down the top tips, trends and ideas behind various platforms and social media tools.

This session will explore:

  1. How to position your institution using digital marketing.
  2. The Do’s and Dont’s of digital when engaging with students.
  3. How to use cross-platform storytelling to build trust and engagement.

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Issues Management: installing smoke detectors vs. putting out fires

Sonya Gilks, Director, Communications, University of New Brunswick

This session will help you proactively prepare to mitigate and respond to risks to reputation facing your organization. Every Canadian PSE institution has been faced with issues such as sexual assault on campus, contentious statements made by faculty, race/gender issues, etc. This session will take you through real-life case studies to demonstrate how you can prepare your organization for a reputational crisis, how to scan and identify issues, how and when to take action and how to evaluate your response.

This session will explore:

  1. How to prepare your organization to be ready for unforeseen issues.
  2. How to scan for and identify issues.
  3. When and how to take action to address/mitigate an issue.
  4. How to evaluate responses.

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The 140-character campaign: Using Social Media to build alumni engagement

Joyce Yu, Digital Communications Strategist for Advancement Strategic Communications, University of Alberta

Engagement surveys show that alumni who feel part of the university community, who feel the university is proud of them and who use social media are more likely to donate and recommend their alma mater. Our largest alumni audience also represents the greatest proportion of our social media users — 2/3 of our alumni are digital natives. As advancement administrators, we need to understand and honour that online space.

To move our grads from only being aware of their alma mater to being actively engaged alumni, we need to foster a relationship of trust and give back more than we are asking. Using social media, we can change the tone of conversation and highlight our pride in our alumni; cultivate a culture of loyalty among alumni; and motivate first-time participation and engagement with projects, campaigns and giveaways. It’s about what they want and are asking for, and not what we want them to hear or have.

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Presenter Profiles

Ernest Barbaric, Digital Marketing Strategist

Ernest Barbaric is a digital marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and writer. He has been featured in HubSpot, Forbes, Mashable, USA Today, and Canadian Business. In 2010, he developed the  Social Media for Business certificate at Mount Royal University, and more recently the Digital Marketing Strategy certificate for the Canadian Marketing Association.

His love of collecting, analyzing and sharing knowledge has led Ernest to design and launch Analog Camp – a wilderness retreat for professionals, and host Art Of Meaningful Work – a weekly podcast where he interviews entrepreneurs, authors and thought leaders on doing work that matters. Outside of business pants, you’ll find him pursuing a mix of interests that include urban sketching, restoring vintage straight razors, building motorcycles, and black and white photography. You can connect with Ernest on Twitter or LinkedIn – or you can read the latest articles on his website.

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Derek Cassoff, Director of Communications, Office of University Advancement, McGill University

Derek Cassoff is the Director of Communications for McGill University’s Office of University Advancement, where he oversees a team of writers, editors, graphic designers and digital communicators tasked with producing print and online communications tools to engage the university’s vast network of alumni and donors.

Derek’s communications teams have won several awards in both national and international competitions, and played a pivotal role in providing a full range of marketing strategies and materials that were instrumental in helping McGill raise more than $1-billion during Campaign McGill: History in the Making.

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Crystal DeCnodder

Crystal DeCnodder is the founder of and Vice-President of Full Blast Creative, a digital marketing agency in Calgary. She is also an educator at Mount Royal University and SAIT, teaching social media advertising, social media analytics and social media for web integration. 

Since 2011 Crystal has worked with nonprofits, emerging business groups, the financial sector, tourism/recreational organizations and technology/startup companies to help share their unique stories and develop their online presence. 

In 2015, Crystal launched SocialBulls offers live, guided workshops to teach practical digital marketing and social media skills. Attendees learn how to use marketing services such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Facebook and social media advertising platforms, e-mail marketing and more to share their great ideas and products online. 

In April 2016, InkPlot, a company Crystal founded with a focus on social media marketing, media buying and social advertising, was acquired by Full Blast Creative where she now focuses her time on digital marketing education and business development on behalf of FBC. 

When Crystal isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her family, skateboarding, playing guitar, traveling as often as possible and keeping her nose in a good book.

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Richard Fisher, Chief Communications Officer, Development & Alumni Engagement, University of British Columbia

Richard Fisher has 25 years of marketing experience in London, New York, Toronto and Vancouver, working at agencies with clients as diverse as KFC, Mooosehead, Hasbro and Shoppers. Richard also spent seven years as York University’s first Chief Marketing Officer.

Richard is UBC’s first Chief Communications Officer, Development & Alumni Engagement. In September 2015, UBC closed the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history – start an evolution – having raised $1.6 billion and engaged 130,000 alumni. He also successfully led the university’s Centennial year which finished in 2016.

He has a B.A. in French and Spanish from Exeter University, UK.

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Sonya Gilks, Director, Communications, University of New Brunswick

Sonya joined UNB in 2014 where she led the planning and execution of the Saint John Campus’s 50th Anniversary. She was then appointed Associate Director of Communications; Acting Director of Communications and Marketing, where she co-led the reorganization of the department into two separate offices. She was most recently appointed to the role of Director of Communications.

Sonya has more than 15 years of combined professional experience in corporate, government and post-secondary communications, including at New Brunswick Community College, Communications New Brunswick, the Office of Official Opposition, and Canada Post.

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David Wald, Founder and Chief Idea Guy, Social Sesame

David is Founder and Chief Idea Guy at Social Sesame Inc., a social media marketing company dedicated to helping organizations rock their social media. This self proclaimed information junkie with over 10 years of experience has had gigs as Marketing and Account Manager for various sized organizations and agencies in Calgary. David is a father of two, husband of one, and enjoys travelling, sports, good food and amazing life experiences.

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National Partners


2017 CCAE National Conference Sponsors



Manulife Tempo Framing  


Canada Life   



The Offord Group Tourism Hamilton


Global Philanthropic