Volunteers' Week: Working with such a passionate, committed and enthusiastic group of individuals is the highlight of my year
This year will mark Gary Richardson's twentieth year of volunteering at Fundraising Convention, of which he has spent many of those being responsible for organising the 50+ volunteers who work together to make the three-day event the success that it is. To mark Volunteers' Week, he explains why he volunteers and why he loves working with such a passionate group of individuals.
• How and why did you first get involved in volunteering?
When I first joined the charity sector 20 years ago I started working for a small learning disability charity who really didn't have the funds to send me on the conference. However they did put me through the foundation course in Fundraising Management (now the Certificate in Fundraising) which made me even more determined to get to Fundraising Convention and experience the unrivalled opportunities – for not only the sessions on offer but the chance to network with others in the sector. It was actually one of my colleagues who said she was applying for one of the volunteer positions and I should too. As it turned out I got in and she didn't – fortunately she didn't hold this against me!
• What do you get out of volunteering personally?
So many things really. It truly is the highlight of my year working with a group of fundraisers at Fundraising Convention who are so passionate, committed and enthusiastic about what we all do. Over 50 people come together on a Sunday afternoon and open a huge three day event the next morning. This shows just how much talent we have in the sector and how adaptable and creative people are. I love seeing a team come together so quickly and work together more as a family than anything else.
• Why do you encourage others to volunteer?
First of all it is the chance to work as part of a volunteer team who are there for each other through the course of Fundraising Convention. Volunteering at Fundraising Convention is about working really hard, but playing hard too (you may have seen us all in the bar at the end of the day!). You have a unique chance of seeing speakers and delegates at first hand with what is effectively an access all areas pass. I think it also gives us all a real understanding about how to manage and work with volunteers in our own organisations. What motivates them and what the challenges are that they will face. The IoF training and the Fundraising Convention every year made me a better fundraiser and without that, the sometimes lonely profession of fundraising would have been much more of a challenge than it was.
• What has been your highlight from volunteering at Fundraising Convention over the last 20 years?
From Birmingham, to the Hilton Edgware Road, and now the Barbican I can honestly say the highlight has been the amazing men and women I have had to privileged to work with over the years. The volunteers are an amazing group of people who remain friends year in, year out. We are all there for each other through emails and WhatsApp messages all year long and that is something I think we all value.
We have volunteers who have become speakers, award winners and even board members. Having been involved for so long the real joy for me is to see so many of the people I have worked with progressing their careers and making a real and tangible impact on the sector and their organisations.
• How do you balance volunteering with your other commitments?
I don't sleep! The IoF team are so supportive in the preparation work that they do and in supporting the team during Fundraising Convention itself. For me, though, these few days are so important for my own continuing personal development and well being that this is the first thing I put in my diary every year – everything else has to work around that! (Don't tell my Trustees that though!)
• What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting to volunteer for the first time?
Do it and enjoy it. I always say to the team, if you don't enjoy it, you're just not having enough fun in show business! It is a really busy, long and sometimes tough few days, but I can promise you that you will never regret it. Great learning opportunities, the best networking opportunity you will ever get and above all the chance to make real life long friendships. If you have just started in fundraising, you will be totally enthused with what we as a sector can achieve. If you've been around for a while, like me, there's no better reboot for your passion and commitment to this amazing sector.
Fundraising Convention is held annually by the Institute of Fundraising and each year sees thousands of fundraisers gather at the largest professional fundraising event in Europe. Book now before prices increase on 17 June.