Behind the Scenes of a CAGP Conference

While my experience was different than most, I clearly recall my first CAGP Conference. Of course, it doesn’t date back 10-15+ years as with many who may be reading this; just five years, but what was unique for my experience was that my history with CAGP was just 8 days long, and I was now the leader of this organization. This was going to be my foreseeable future. 

With a 20-year background in the nonprofit sector, I had attended more conferences than I could count. This one was different, though. Of course, I was meeting new people, although there were a few familiar faces, but it had its own unique vibe. It wasn’t the famous CAGP hugs – I came from the volunteering field so that wasn’t unusual, and it wasn’t that DeWayne guy who could really dance. Perhaps it was that the organization’s membership seemed to attend the Annual General Meeting in numbers that would be the envy of any charity. Whatever it was, I realized I had made the right move. 

There are so many things about CAGP that make it a special organization – the depth of expertise of its members, their willingness to share, the impact it’s had on careers that so many mention, lots more – but the annual national conference really shines. That might be because of what happens behind the scenes. 

Close to 1,000 hours of volunteer time goes in to organizing the annual conference, collectively bringing a couple hundred years of experience in the profession. The Local Host Committee creates an ambience and atmosphere, and organizes activities that create a perfect storm for the networking, socializing and interaction that is so crucial to the conference experience – for new and repeat delegates alike – and for which the CAGP conference is so highly regarded. 

But of course it’s the learning, the education and the access to information on new issues and trends that is the reason for attending the conference. People go to conferences to learn, not socialize – right? Here too, the CAGP conference delivers. 

The seasoned professionals on the conference Program Committee contribute significant expertise as well as their career insights gained through networks and colleagues, to shape the program. They ensure the broad spectrum of professional development needs and interests are considered in identifying keynote presenters and mapping out the workshop agenda. A strong connection to the National Board and Education Committee also ensures that the conference program will support the established core competencies of gift planners and professional advisors, and injects a leadership perspective to identify and integrate emerging issues and trends. 

In a day-long session, six months prior to the conference, the committee maps it all out on a wall, selecting and scheduling workshop sessions to deliver variety, balance and equity in subject-matter and topic streams, and to meet the multi-faceted needs of delegates along the career continuum and spectrum, for each day of the conference and for the conference as a whole. 

As the Rolling Stones said, ‘It’s the singer, not the song’. While that may not be completely true, we’ve all been at workshops that missed the mark because of a presenter that was, well, meh. In planning the CAGP conference, we work hard to engage high quality speakers with a proven track record. Knowing, though, that public speaking is part of growing as a professional, we also give the opportunity to new speakers, perhaps pairing them up with a more seasoned presenter. And all presenters are provided access to two great webinars we developed to help hone engaging and dynamic presentation skills. Experienced facilitators told us they learned a thing-or-two as well by watching these webinars. 

How fortunate CAGP is to have such enormous human capital standing together shoulder-to-shoulder to make this organization the best it can be. 

Bias noted – how could I not be biased? – you won’t have to look too far for someone who will tell you that the CAGP conference is an outstanding event. For 2018, from Gail Asper’s compelling perspective as a donor and philanthropist at the opening plenary, to our friend and colleague Alen Okanovic’s closing with his moving story as a refugee that led him to the gift planning profession (seriously – do not miss this!), and everything in between, CAGP’s 25th National Conference on Strategic Philanthropy is poised to live up to the reputation of being “the most important annual conference in Canadian philanthropy for the knowledge, networking and total experience”. 

We invite you to Come explore the future of generosity at the 2018 CAGP national conference in just six weeks. Early bird registration ends this Friday.


CAGP is not just a network of professionals with their eye on a building a better Canada, it is a movement, a lifestyle, a culture. The vibe you describe is indeed palatable at every CAGP national conference - that culture is marked not just by those famous hugs but also by deep sharing of technical and 'soft' skills, of sharing meaningful moments of inspiration, and creating connections that form this special, inclusive tribe of people who care. You have been an outstanding leader these 5 years Ruth.


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