One day at Fundraising Convention
When I received a call from the IoF West Midlands Committee sharing the news that my bursary application for Fundraising Convention had been successful, I was more than a little elated. It’s been two years since I've attended Convention and with the sector continually changing, and many personal and professional growth opportunities in my role at The Haven Wolverhampton during this time too, I was eager to get down to London and learn.
The breadth of diversity among the tracks always amazes me and makes it very difficult to choose sessions throughout the day – often wanting to split myself into at least three different people to get around everything. As technology hasn’t quite evolved to this level yet, I did narrow my choices down and attended some truly incredible and inspiring sessions throughout the day.
First up was ‘Dames, Planes and Automobiles,’ focusing on how Childline maximised the opportunities around its 30th anniversary celebrations and featured none other than Dame Esther Rantzen as a guest speaker. With The Haven’s 50th year on the horizon, I wanted to get ahead of the game and really start to think about planning activities to make it one to remember.
The Q&A style of session worked really well between Esther and the project manager, Michael, successfully articulating their strengths and improvements for the campaign. A highlight of this session, and perhaps the whole day, was when they shared the story of a Childline beneficiary and they invited her to join them on stage. As fundraisers, we know our best storytellers are the ones who have truly benefited from the services we run at our organisations, and so to see this in the flesh away from my own charity reminded me how much of an impact this can have.
Throughout the day I attended some wonderfully interactive sessions, many that used roleplay and case studies to demonstrate their message – for me, these were the sessions that provided a strong learning outcome in my mind especially when I arrived back at the office, motivated and ready to implement everything I'd learnt.
The session, ‘No more silos – bridging the gap between fundraising and service delivery’, was one that drew me in straight away, and I definitely felt like there would be strategies I could take away from NSPCC and School-Home Support who were running the session – and I was right!
I think working in Silo’s is something that happens in almost every organisation, and if it doesn’t at yours, you’re one of the lucky ones! It can often be difficult to get the buy-in of service delivery teams and getting them to understand the importance of getting those stories through to fundraising.
NSPCC set up a system where the service delivery team would have an active involvement in bids and proposals from the off through an initial meeting that would be called when a request came in. It also implemented a turnaround time frame to which all applications of this nature had to adhere to.
The presenters talked through difficulties they faced and how they overcame them – all very interesting – lots of notes were made! They also talked about the language differentiation between teams and how they finally came to a mutual wording of services that was donor-friendly but also still accurately reflected each service in its own right. I found this session really helpful and I hope the IoF will run another similar at next year’s convention for anyone who missed it.
Lunch arrived at the right time and I was able to recoup, alongside some great networking with fundraisers from charities far and wide. Networking is always one of my favourite parts of Convention and often you can learn just as much from these ad hoc conversations with other fundraisers as those all-important sessions.
Following lunch, the inspiration continued as we were met with a plenary from June Sarpong focusing our attention on her new book Diversify and her life experiences which have led her to this point. There were many take homes from this and, with the IoF running an Access fund this year enabling a wider diversity of fundraisers to attend convention, it was all too applicable to us all.
My favourite session in the afternoon was focused on learning to say a better thank you. Our donors are so important and it is therefore vital that they feel valued and appreciated at the charity. The session was full of energy thanks to speaker, Jen Shang, who shared a number of studies she and Kathryn Carpenter had completed at Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy (Plymouth University) on how donors like to be thanked and how we can implement this.
Something I found really interesting was research they had done into whether donors felt more inspired when the story of beneficiaries read ‘over the next year, people like Susan will become homeless’ as opposed to ‘over the next few days…’. We as session delegates all agreed that it would be the latter option that would be more inspiring – with its sense of urgency, how could it not? However, their research found that it was actually the ‘this year’ option – providing donors with a feeling of making a real difference rather than a short term fix. Obviously, there are things we should consider when thinking about how this might apply to our own donors, but I certainly found a lot of their research findings very interesting and it was a truly inspiring session.
I finished the day with a session on personal development and learning how to bullet journal. As a self-confessed creative soul, and a lover of to-do lists, the idea of the bullet journal has always taken my fancy, however, I just simply haven’t had the time to sit down and take it all in. I actually thought it was a great session choice to have at Convention and really gave me time to reflect on my own time-management and how I could improve this in my role. As a team manager, and with a workload of my own, I end up with random lists for different activities EVERYWHERE. I found the session really helpful, showing us step-by-step how to set one up and utilise it in our day-to-day life. It was a very relaxing session and a great way to end the day.
I am so very grateful to the IoF West Midlands for the bursary as without the support, I would never be able to attend Fundraising Convention. I would highly recommend that any fundraisers who are keen to expand their knowledge through an amazing opportunity apply for next year’s bursaries.
Jade Secker, Senior Community Fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton