Tribute to Tony Elischer
February 17, 2016
Tony Elischer has died. It's hard to believe that someone who lived life so fully, who bounded into a room, who was perpetually enthusiastic, upbeat and loved our profession, is gone.
I first attended the International Workshop on Fundraising Management, now the International Fundraising Congress, in the early 1990s. There I was introduced to a remarkable group of British fundraisers: George Smith, Ken Burnett, Margaret Bennett, Richard Radcliffe, Bernard Ross, Stephen Pidgeon and others. But above all, there was Tony Elischer.
When Allan Arlett and I founded the Toronto Fundraising Congress in 1995, we brought some of these fine fundraisers over. Tony first came in 1997. All told, Tony appeared at 11 AFP Greater Toronto Chapter Congresses. After his successes here, we introduced Tony to the AFP International Conference on Fundraising, where he presented multiple times.
What did Tony talk about? Well, it's best summed up with the word "innovation." He wanted to make the world a better place. He challenged us to think and do things differently to make that happen—for our work, for our causes and for ourselves.
Tony raised our game. His enthusiasm and networking led to Canadians taking their place on the international fundraising stage. He encouraged fundraisers in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, India, Africa and beyond. A consummate networker, Tony connected so many of us and improved our profession globally.
Tony loved conferences, and most of all he loved conference plenaries. He did seven in Toronto, including the groundbreaking and inspirational Fundraising Theatre in 2012. It's still being talked about. Tony was then thrilled to take this concept to the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio for the Kaleidoscope in Philanthropy plenary in 2014.
We're going to miss you Tony. Big time. Here in Toronto, throughout Canada and around the world.
I don't know if there's a conference in heaven. But if there is, Tony Elischer will be asking God if he can do the plenary. And if God is smart, he'll say yes!
Steve Thomas, CFRE is the chairman and executive creative director of Steve Thomas, Ltd. in Toronto.