Inspiring plenary speakers at Fundraising Convention 2019

Inspiring plenary speakers at Fundraising Convention 2019

Institute of Fundraising | 5 July 2019

This year’s plenary speakers did a phenomenal job of firing up a crowd of thousands of fundraisers across three days in the Barbican Hall during Fundraising Convention 2019, sharing their insight and personal journeys of success overcoming adversity. Challenging us all to think a little differently about what it takes to succeed and inspire others, they articulated the importance of self-belief, resilience, commitment and determination.

Nicolas Hamilton

Racing driver, Nicolas Hamilton – not to be confused with his brother, Formula 1 champion Lewis – spoke about the challenges of growing up with cerebral palsy. Born two months early, doctors believed that he’d never be able to walk or talk, but he put his wheelchair aside, trained incessantly in the gym and on the track, secured his own funding and became the first driver with disabilities to compete in the British Touring Car Championship.

Likened to a Paralympian in the Olympics, his story inspired countless others; the able-bodied, those with disabilities and a room full of fundraisers of the determination it takes to fundraise your way into motorsport.

“I reached out to hundreds of people, spending days and days at my computer on Linked In. I kept going. I knew I just needed one or two bites to make it work.”

An incredible story-teller, Nicolas encouraged us all to be unique, honest, take pride in ourselves, do everything to the best of our ability and to always keep on trying!

Nicholas Hamilton


Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn

Who could fail to be moved by the inspirational story of Jonny and Neil’s encounter on Waterloo Bridge in 2008? Amid a sea of commuters, Neil was the one to stop and ask Jonny why he was sitting alone on the edge of the bridge. Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Jonny had reached rock bottom and was intending to take his own life. Neil’s openness and willingness to talk without judgement gave Jonny the glimmer of hope that sparked his recovery.

Six years later, Rethink’s ‘Find Mike’ campaign reunited the two men. Neil (AKA Mike) and Jonny have since worked tirelessly to encourage people to open up about mental health, launching the charity Beyond Shame, Beyond Stigma.

Jonny’s honesty about his ongoing battle with mental health and the importance of his friendship with Neil highlights the potential we all have to influence the lives of others, personally and in a fundraising capacity; a powerful reminder never to be afraid to be the one that steps up and asks if someone is okay.

Neil and Johnny


Col Dame Kelly Holmes MBE

Best known as an awe-inspiring athlete, Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes gave a fascinating speech about her journey to achieve her dream of becoming an Olympic champion. Coming from an incredibly tough background of council care, she highlighted the influence of her PE teacher, the one person who spurred her on and encouraged her to aim higher and to believe in herself.

Joining the military at 17, she never let go of her dream, first going to the Olympics at the age of 26 and eventually became a gold medal winner at 34.

Wanting to turn her career into a legacy that would inspire others, she is now a mentor for young sportswomen, initiated National Sports Week and created the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, helping elite athletes transition into everyday life.

Dame Kelly Holmes

Her session highlighted the power of self-belief, determination and resilience. She left us all feeling that anything is possible, if we don’t give up and so long as we are prepared to open up and ask for help when we need it.

Find out more about all the sessions that took place at Fundraising Convention 2019 here.


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