Hats off to the organizing team at the AFP Toronto Congress.
A week out from the event and they have nearly 900 delegates signed up for the three day event. That mean's Mark Hierlihy and his team look likely to have attracted more fundraisers to Congress than ever before. Great stuff!
Recession, re-schmession I bet they're saying.
Here's why I think the team has managed to engage fundraisers in a time when so many organization's have cut, even slashed professional development budgets:
Damn good marketing
The communications I've received about Congress have been frequent, but relevant. They've been fun and made me think Congress looks really cool. They have embraced new media, using Vismail video technology, video slideshows, facebook and twitter postings plus more traditional (but still interesting) e-blasts.
They've kept it fresh
Over 50% (39 out of 74) of the speakers are first speakers at Congress. You could argue that's risky, and perhaps it is. But we live (in the fundraising sector) in a risk averse world, so good on em' for having the willingness to give new people a go.
Added to that is the list of new speakers includes a bunch of well credentialed (and I know eager) people who are bloody good fundraisers. A nice international flavor too (says the Aussie whose home is now Canada).
The format invites itself to actually learning something
You may remember me posting a while back my views on how to make fundraising conferences genuinely useful.
One of the things I'm most critical of at the majority of conferences is that the vast majority of sessions are far too short, the breaks far too long.
At Congress we have seven educational sessions in three days. Yes! Perhaps next year we could move to just three sessions in three days? Full day sessions where you come out with real, practical solutions and even physically produced something, I.e. a DM pack?
Great work Mark and the Congress team. You've overcome the biggest barrier to conferences in a long time ("we have no professional development budget") and look like having your best event ever. Bravo.
The challenge is still upon us however. Organizers, speakers and delegates. To make Congress the best ever please come prepared to share, challenge, meet, absorb and inspire.
If you do this will be a remarkable event.