Getting the most from NOT Congress


At this time of year, many fundraisers – including the THINK Canada team based here in Canada and in the UK - are preparing themselves for a trip to Toronto to take part in the biggest annual gathering of fundraisers in Canada, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter’s Congress. For many this is a chance to learn, connect, be inspired and to celebrate all that is great about fundraising. Whether a first timer or a many timer, Congress is a key date in the fundraising calendar.

Of course, life in 2020 has become different from anything we have experienced previously; and this year’s Congress is no exception, as delivery goes online. Inevitably the experience for delegates will be different, however what will be consistent is the richness of content and the time and effort being put into the development and delivery of speaker sessions. The Congress Board, AFP Greater Toronto Chapter team and all speakers are to be commended for all the hard work which is going on to ensure smooth, high quality delivery.

It’s always true that the more effort you put into preparation for your time at Congress, the better the experience you have across the three days and this is as true as ever for this year’s Congress. At THINK Canada, we’re preparing for our attendance this year, following many of the same planning techniques as if we were physically going to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, rather than accessing via our Macs from our homes.

Here are our tips for how to get the best out of NOT Congress 2020.

  • Plan your days
    Take the time to dive into the schedule beforehand, read the session information, and plan what sessions you are going to “attend”. If you plan a day’s worth of sessions just as if you were going to be physically there, you can focus on the ones that are the most relevant and important for you and join in with the conversation around those sessions on social media. Resist the temptation to surf across a range of sessions, only partially listening or watching, as this might impede your learning.

  • Protect the time
    Make sure your diary is clear and you commit the time to watching sessions across November 23 - 25. Don’t let anything else creep into your diary and don’t let yourself become distracted on those days. Put an ‘out of office’ message on your email, so people know what you are doing and when you will be able to respond. Don’t try to watch sessions whilst doing something else – you will not get the value of the session unless you give it your undivided attention.
  • Find your spot
    Whether you’re at home, or in the office, make sure you’re set up and comfortable, and have what you need.

  • Figure out the technology in advance
    Technology that functions smoothly is key to an enjoyable virtual conference experience; so make sure, before the first day, that all the platforms you need are working for you.
  • Take breaks
    It can be hard to keep fresh and focused when you are watching and learning online. Schedule 15-minute breaks between each session and an hour for lunch if you can; make sure you get up, walk about (maybe even walk the dog?!) and grab drinks and food during those breaks.
  • Join the conversation on social media
    Use the Congress hashtag #NOTCongress to tag your comments and see what other people outside of your usual network are saying about sessions. This is also a great way to find new contacts and expand your network.

Michelle Chambers is Director of THINK Canada. 
Click here to meet Michelle.