2017 Annual Giving Congress Sessions


Industrial Alliance

Sessions and Presenter Profiles


How many times do I have to ask?
A case study in walking the line between nagging and reminding donors to renew

Meghan Whitfield, Associate Director; Nick Strazzabosco, Business Analyst; and Jennifer Murray, Development Assistant, Annual Giving, University of Waterloo

Research tells us to ask donors multiple times for gifts, but we also hear that charities ask too often. The University of Waterloo’s Annual Giving team went from 1 or 2 asks a fiscal year to 10. At the same time, they combined their renewal process for the Annual Fund and Leadership Annual Giving programs. Associate Director Meghan Whitfield, Business Analyst Nick Strazzabosco, and Development Assistant Jennifer Murray will discuss the cycle timing, content, some of the unexpected complications, and the resulting 5% increase in donor retention.

Attendees will learn:

  • The relevance of increasing the number of renewal asks to improving retention rates (along with other factors).
  • The complexity of changing renewal patterns in a large shop.
  • How these changes might be easier to facilitate in a smaller shop.


Meghan Whitfield, Associate Director, Annual Giving, University of Waterloo

After studying fund development as part of her cultural studies program in university, Meghan started her career in fundraising at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She was integral to the launch of the ROM’s Young Patron’s Circle, a dynamic program designed to engage a younger demographic in philanthropy. Shifting to higher education, Meghan moved to the University of Toronto, where she worked to help alumni fulfil their philanthropic goals. Most recently she has continued this work at her alma mater, the University of Waterloo. Meghan holds the CFRE designation and received CASE’s Rising Star Award in 2015.


Jennifer Murray, Development Assistant, Annual Giving, University of Waterloo

Jennifer Murray has been in Annual Giving at the University of Waterloo for 2 years. Her B.A. from Waterloo included a non-profit management specialization. Jennifer has spent the previous 12 years at other non-profits, working on grant writing and a capital campaign at Hospice of Waterloo Region, followed by roles in events and sponsorship, volunteer management and education programing at Family and Children Services of Waterloo Region Foundation and The Arthritis Society.


Nick Strazzabosco, Business Analyst, Annual Giving, University of Waterloo

Nick Strazzabosco has worked in fundraising for 15 years. He has expertise in a variety of areas, including prospect research, data analysis, proposal writing, and annual giving.



Thinking about a digital strategy? Take the leap. It’s easier than you think.


Ayesha Mayan, Senior Consultant, and Anita Nielsen, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.)

Carving out your digital strategy in a paper-based world can be a challenge.  Changing trends offer overwhelming options that can lead to choice paralysis. Join Anita and Ayesha for a look at some inspiring and innovative examples of pairing digital solicitation and stewardship strategies with the tried and true already in place at your organization. With a little creativity and authentic messaging, you will engage your donors like never before. And whether you come from a small, medium or large shop, these strategies will resonate with your budget.

Attendees will learn:

  • The benefits of multi-channel solicitation and stewardship strategies.
  • Simple but innovative digital applications to build long-term relationships with donor
  • Some “dos and don’ts” in crowdfunding.


Ayesha Mayan, Senior Consultant, KCI

Ayesha Mayan joined the KCI team with over 15 years’ experience working in development. She is an advancement strategist who brings expertise in the areas of donor engagement; annual, major and planned giving; prospect pipeline analysis; digital philanthropy; and campaign planning and implementation.

Prior to joining KCI, Ayesha held the role of Director, Annual Giving and Donor Engagement at McGill University. Leading a team of 10 staff and over 100 volunteers, she was responsible for raising $11.5 million annually. Ayesha directed the strategic reframing and implementation of a number of key areas, including bolstering data-informed programs to allow for more effective prospect identification and solicitation; re-designing and leveraging volunteer and alumni engagement to complement giving programs; and introducing new technologies like a crowdfunding platform and  the university’s first digital day of giving.

Ayesha holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Certificate in Leadership Development from McGill University.


Anita Nielsen, Senior Consultant, KCI

Anita Nielsen is an esteemed development professional with over 25 years’ experience working with nonprofit organizations in a variety of roles. She is currently serving as Campaign Specialist for University of Toronto Schools and their $60  million Building the Future campaign. Prior assignments have included Director of Development at Harbourfront Centre, Vice President, Resource Development at Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, and Director, Annual Giving and Events at Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation.

Prior to joining KCI, Anita held increasingly senior positions with the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation, culminating in Associate Vice President, Annual & Planned Giving. 

Anita has also served as Senior Development Officer and Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations at SickKids Foundation, and as a Development Officer for the ROM Board of Governors.



Innovation and integration: A strategic acquisition campaign case study

Laura Clark, Director, Annual Giving; and Emma Nguyen, Director, Online Marketing and Communications, University of Toronto


Every year 20% of annual donors and revenue are lost through attrition. Laura and Emma were tasked with developing U of T’s first fully integrated strategic acquisition campaign to start to solve this problem. They will discuss social values marketing and other tools used to define target audience, and show their innovative communications including direct mail, e-mail, telefund; and ads on Google, social media and in the alumni magazine. Laura and Emma will share the results, challenges and successes they faced, and their plans for what’s next for the campaign.

Attendees will:

  • Learn how to use social values marketing and other tools to define a target audience and case for support for non-donors.
  • See print and digital samples of the innovative campaign.
  • Learn about successes, challenges, and lessons learned and results from U of T's first multi-channel strategic acquisition campaign.


Laura Clark, Director, Annual Giving, University of Toronto

Laura Clark has always been a storyteller. After the initial panic of graduating with a degree in theatre and no plan, she discovered that fundraising was the perfect way to unite her interests in stories, data and what makes people tick. Focusing on annual and leadership giving throughout her 15-year career, Laura brings a unique blend of frontline fundraising, annual giving strategy and direct marketing agency experience to her role as Director, Annual Giving at the University of Toronto. She is a proud first-generation university graduate from Queen’s University, and a graduate of Humber College’s Fundraising Management program.


Emma Nguyen, Director, Online Marketing and Communications, University of Toronto

Emma Nguyen was born a fundraiser and accidentally became a digital marketing expert. From the time she was able to walk, Emma was selling raffle tickets and raising money for local organizations. After graduating from Humber College’s Fundraising Management program, she began to fundraise professionally at War Child Canada. Working in a smaller non-profit, Emma turned to digital channels to raise funds. She moved on to a role as a consultant for hjc, a digital consulting agency for non-profits. Now, as Director, Online Marketing and Communications at U of T, Emma oversees alumni and advancement digital channels. 



Tag - you're it! Building a culture of philanthropy on campus and beyond

Sharline Doss, Development Officer, Annual Giving;  Danielle Braun, Alumni Officer, Students and Young Alumni; and Jennifer Caldwell, Communications & Design Specialist, Wilfrid Laurier University

This session presents an annual giving, alumni relations and communications perspective on leveraging student-volunteers to build a culture of philanthropy on campus and beyond. Learn how Laurier has seen success in working with its Student Alumni Association to engage student volunteers in an ongoing efforts to solicit, steward, celebrate, and educate donors.

Attendees will:

  • Discover the ways, from concept to implementation, that Wilfrid Laurier University has worked successfully to build a culture of philanthropy on campus and beyond.
  • Learn how Laurier is seeing success using a multi-channel, AG-AR and Communications integrated approach to engage student volunteers in fundraising and awareness building efforts.
  • Learn and share tips, tricks and ideas of how to celebrate donors with the help of student volunteers, while educating current students about the role philanthropy plays in their university experience.


Sharline Doss, Development Officer, Annual Giving, Wilfrid Laurier University

A proud Laurier alumna, Sharline is the Development Officer overseeing Community Campaign. Celebrated daily for her relationship-building skills and her "can do" attitude, Sharline is the colleague you call in when you need to get something done. With nearly a decade of experience working in post-secondary education, Sharline transitioned to her current role last summer. Previously, she worked on Laurier's alumni relations team and managed the Student Philanthropy portfolio.


Danielle Braun, Alumni Officer, Students and Young Alumni, Wilfrid Laurier University

Danielle joined the Alumni Relations team at Laurier last September and is currently the Alumni Officer responsible for Students and Young Alumni. Another proud Laurier alumni, Danielle is the colleague to call on if you're looking for fresh, strategic ideas. She is truly committed to driving the planning and execution of student and alumni outreach projects and programs, including the Student Alumni Association and the programs this innovative group implements on campus to help build a culture of philanthropy.


Jennifer Caldwell, Communications & Design Specialist, Wilfrid Laurier University

Jen helped to design the first Tag ever printed at Laurier and has gone on to work with both the AR and AG teams to use her communications skills to further expand and improve on Laurier's ongoing efforts to build a culture of philanthropy on campus through Laurier’s amazing Student Alumni Association.



The mysterious 3-brained donor (a neuropsychological adventure)

Fraser Green, Chief Strategist & Smartypants, Good Works

When we communicate with our donors and prospects, we speak to their brains. We all know that. But that donor actually has three brains. Which one is most important? And how do you learn to speak to it? Join Fraser Green as he takes us on a fascinating and funny journey through the three brains we all have:

  • The neocortex, or mental computer, is the brain we always talk to. But it’s the brain that least  drives giving behaviour.
  • The limbic system drives emotions – NOW we’re getting somewhere.
  • The reptile brain drives instincts – and that’s the most powerful brain of all.

Fraser promises to inform and entertain – and to make participants laugh several times and cry at least once.

Participants in this session will:

  1. deeply understand the role of the subconscious in making philanthropic gifts.
  2. learn how to communicate with the 'other two brains' that actually drive the decision process.
  3. gain confidence to speak to donors in new and more powerful ways.

Fraser Green, Chief Strategist & Smartypants, Good Works
Fraser Green, widely considered one of Canada’s most strategic and creative thinkers in the fundraising sector today, is the Chief Strategist and Smartypants at Good Works – a consulting firm that propels charities to build deeper relationships with loyal donors and constituents.

Fraser is a gifted communicator whose books, articles, blogs and contrarian rants are widely read by fundraisers and CEOs around the world. He has presented sessions and plenary addresses at hundreds of fundraising conferences in Canada, the USA and Europe. Fraser is a self-confessed ‘donor research freak’. He believes deeply that creating a superb donor experience is the key to great fundraising – and that listening carefully to donors is all-important first step in doing so.

When he’s not staring at his laptop, Fraser loves to bike and ski, bend his body into ridiculous yoga postures, play his guitars and generally explore the world around him. One of these days he’s going to be a great songwriter and a half-assed novelist.



Personalized direct mail for leadership donors…how is that possible with limited resources?

Fred DeVries, Annual Giving Officer – Direct Response; and Sheri Cole, Director, Leadership Giving, Western University

Best practice tells us we should treat leadership-giving donors differently than annual gift level donors. But how do we do that through direct mail when we have limited resources?

Personalized stewardship. Identifying them as a special group. Compelling renewal message. These are some of the ideas Western has implemented that we will explore in this session so you can create a similar project at your institution.

Fred, a communication specialist and Sheri, a seasoned fundraiser, will provide an overview of Western’s first Leadership Direct Mail strategy, including the objectives of the mailing, the criteria and segmentation they used, key messages and final results.

Fred DeVries, Annual Giving Officer – Direct Response;

Sheri Cole, Director, Leadership Giving, Western University


Crowdfunding: Letting annual giving professionals say “yes” . . . and when to say “no"

Amy Ramnarine, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, Carleton University

Carleton University has been crowdfunding on the Future Funder web site for nearly five years.
Integrating that volunteer-based model into a staff-driven, centralized annual giving program has given fundraisers a chance to say ‘yes’ to more people looking for project funding, but has also required some hard ‘no’s and a renewed appreciation for the value of early and frequent management of expectations.
This presentation will give an overview of how Carleton created a tiered resource-allocation approach to solve some of the most difficult challenges of crowdfunding in advancement and some case studies of how it’s been working.
Participants in this session will learn about:

  1. Integrating crowdfunding into annual giving.
  2. Managing expectations of project ‘champions’ and volunteers.
  3. Creating a tiered resource-allocation model.

Amy Ramnarine , Specialist, Fundraising Strategy, Carleton University
A proud Carleton alumna, Amy Ramnarine is a passionate fundraiser and ‘digital-first’ ambassador with experience that spans annual giving, prospect research, development and crowdfunding, Amy’s involvement in the #GivingTuesdayCA movement dates back to its inaugural year in Canada and at Carleton University. Amy received the Annual Giving Congress’ New Professional Award in 2013 and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Ottawa Chapter). Amy is working towards an M.A. in Organizational Psychology, and is continually looking for innovative, data-driven ways to help organizations raise their voices and place donors at the center of causes that matter most to them.


How to work with students to raise more money: A panel discussion on different student engagement models

Panelists: Belmira Montenegrino, Senior Development Officer, Leadership Annual Giving, University of Toronto; and Kendra Lealess, Executive Director, Annual, Leadership and Planned Giving, Western University; Allison Verville, Development Officer, Bishop’s University


Allison Verville, Development Officer, Bishop’s University

A proud graduate of the Bishop’s University class of 2014, Allison walked off of the stage and into the world of fundraising. She started in her role with BU focused on building a relationship with fellow recent graduates and the Alumni Association. Over the last three years, Allison’s role has evolved into managing the student calling program and the graduating student class gift campaign, and leading fundraising and stewardship efforts throughout the annual fund program.

Passionate about sharing her experiences of building a relationship with the Bishop’s Alumni Association as a recent graduate herself, Allison hopes to share successes and lessons learned throughout her introduction to philanthropy in higher education.



Meet our new teammate, ThankView

Allison Verville, Development Officer, Bishop’s University

In the world of annual giving we all wish we had another teammate to support our solicitation and stewardship efforts. As professionals, we hope to achieve the perfect combination of crafty language, inspiring design and imaginative creativity in our efforts.

What we also really need are tools that work with us and for us. Witness how Bishop’s achieved ultimate personalization, with a program that gave a small shop a big reach.

Attendees at this session will:

  • Get an inside look at the ThankView platform and see a campaign come together.
  • Be inspired to consider how shops of all sizes can achieve powerful personalization.
  • Discover opportunities to integrate students into the school’s philanthropic culture.


Table Topics

  1. Social media
  2. Working with your major gift/planned giving teams
  3. Traditional campaigns: Student calling, tele-funds & the value of direct mail
  4. Breaking down silos
  5. Measuring success
  6. One-day challenges & flash campaigns
  7. Awards programs
  8. New and innovative stewardship activities
  9. Community campaigns: Parents, staff
  10. Class giving and recent alumni giving
  11. Incorporating volunteers into annual giving
  12. Monthly donor programs
  13. Leadership annual giving: Booking personal visits


It’s On Me

Meghan Cocurullo, Digital Engagement Officer, Department of Alumni Relations and Development, Western University

Learn how Western University developed and implemented a successful pilot campaign to connect alumni with students during an often stressful time. Understand how a simple concept proved valuable in bridging alumni relations and fundraising, and sparked awareness on campus. 

Attendees at this session will learn how to:

  1. Use audience listening to tailor campaign themes.
  2. Maximize organic growth by simplifying the call to action.
  3. Collaborate for the win.

Meghan Cocurullo, Digital Engagement Officer, Department of Alumni Relations and Development, Western University

Having worked at Western University for 12 years, Meghan started her career in Alumni Relations with a focus on student and young alumni engagement. Last year, Meghan shifted to the position of Digital Engagement Officer, Alumni Relations, where she has developed and implemented campaigns and initiatives with a focus on peer-to-peer engagements.

Register Today!