A Snapshot of the Scottish Conference

A Snapshot of the Scottish Conference

| 30 October 2012

Last week’s Scottish Conference featured an array of internationally recognised speakers from the world of fundraising, third sector and the wider community. Ollie Williams gives his highlights, including the incredible fundraising of six-year old Jack Henderson and learning 1 to 10 in Japanese!


While the Scottish mist sat heavy on the Westerwood hotel golf course and International delegates and speakers alike struggled with fog-affected flying, Scotland’s fundraisers settled down to two days of fundraising inspiration. Day one began with an opening plenary from Lucy Gower, who heroically stepped in to replace the fog-stranded IoF Chair, Mark Astarita. Encouraging fundraisers to tell stories that are simple, unexpected and concrete, Lucy challenged the conference to take risks in their fundraising campaigns, quoting Henry Ford ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ This opening message was one that would be repeated throughout the conference.

The highlight of the day for me in one of the five simultaneous tracks was the presentation by Maureen Harrison from Sick Kids Hospital about the incredible fundraising of six-year old Jack Henderson. With the help of his web designer father, Jack has taken his drawing skills to incredible heights for the benefit of the Sick Kids Hospital – he has drawn over 500 pictures, raised over £33,500 and received global recognition in as far-flung countries as Brazil, South Korea, South Africa and Australia. Inspiring indeed! And why did it work? The story was simple, emotive and unique – a six-year old boy drawing pictures to support his sick brother. Lucy Gower would have approved.

Closing out day one was the energetic Bernard Ross, who explained the benefits of engaging donor’s multiple intelligences in fundraising campaigns. Bernard argued that people think and process information in different ways, so fundraisers should embrace a variety of mediums in their work, such as kinaesthetic (touch) – although this could be risky in a face-to-face campaign! Proof of the power of this method was 200 fundraisers learning 1 to 10 in Japanese with the help of some interesting dance moves. 

With the Japanese word for six (roku) and accompanying hip wiggle permanently emblazed in their minds, Scotland’s fundraisers had just an hour to transform themselves from tired delegates into glamorous dinner guests. Although I was disappointed not to see a single kilt, everyone looked very smart as they sipped champagne and waited with excitement for the Scottish Fundraising Awards 2012 to begin. The quality of all the entries was high this year, but ‘there can only be one winner’, as they say, so congratulations to the winners: Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, Yorkhill Children’s Foundation, Alzheimer Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, Seymour Monro, the O’Shea family and Rita Hopper. Following a fine three-course meal the hotel bar was kept busy into the wee hours by celebrating and commiserating fundraisers alike. 

Due to their commitment to ‘networking’, Wednesday morning began as a struggle for some; however the cobwebs were soon blown away by a few cups of coffee and an inspiring presentation from Tanya Steele, Director of Fundraising at Save the Children. Tanya’s impressive fundraising efforts, which contributed towards the charity’s goal of saving 15 million children’s lives over five years, shows the importance of being ambitious, of getting crystal clear clarity of the mission and outcomes, and of coordinating all arms of an organisation around a common goal. There was an inherent risk in this ambitious target, such as what would happen to the reputation of the organisation if they failed? But as Mr Ford says,’ if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ 

The final plenary of the conference was a celebration of Scottish fundraising, titled ‘Scotland the Brave’ and delivered by Helena Sharpstone and Caryn Skinner. Bravery is expressed by embracing change, stress and potential. Their key message, like many at the conference, was that fundraisers should take a risk; it is better to sometimes fail trying to do something different than to keep doing the same thing. 

This I felt was the most important theme at the Scottish conference. We can all keep doing what the organisation, and we personally, have always done. It’s safe, and the results are reliable and known. But in the competitive world of fundraising, and the current economic climate that fundraisers are working in, to make a true difference we could all do with embracing innovative and unproven strategies that may be risky, but which have the potential for great success. Mark Astarita praised UK fundraisers for being the best in the world, but if we want to keep that title UK fundraisers must keep pushing the envelope and driving innovation.


Ollie WilliamsAbout Ollie Williams

Ollie is Policy and Codes Officer at the Institute of Fundraising, and is responsible for assisting with the ongoing development of the Codes of Fundraising Practice.

More about Ollie



Vanessa Rhazali, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland | 1 November 2012

Thanks for this Ollie. You have brilliantly summed up the Conference with a great piece of writing.

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