At the National Convention

I don’t know what the collective noun is for fundraisers. A flock? A formation? A collection, maybe.

Whatever it is, there will be one large gathering of fundraisers at the London Metropole this week for the Insititute of Fundraising National Convention.

Now, I’ve been going to such events for long time. I remember the very early days. How excited we all were by the capital campaign for the Great Ziggurat of Ur and the potential of the carrier pigeon for direct response. Great days…

In truth, I’ve always felt rather in two minds about Conventions. Being British I find anything which is a bit too enthusiastic ever so slightly cringe-making. So campaigns such as this year’s “proud to be a fundraiser”, I find in principle praiseworthy but in practice rather embarrassing. And there are times at events like these when you think you might as well be at a conference of accountants or dentists. Nothing wrong with those of course but you do wonder what our donors would make of it all.

But then I speak to some people who are passionate about our profession, who are achieving great things with hardly any money or organisational support and I really do see the point. I remember the amazing feeling I had when I attended my first Convention that there were all these other people who were facing the same issues and challenges as me and who were incredibly open, friendly and helpful to newcomers to the profession. One of the really lovely things about fundraising is the sense of collective solidarity (comrades) and Conventions are a great showcase for this.

The IOF Convention is certainly one of the strongest fundraising events in the world and there is much to admire. It isn’t perfect. Personally, I’d like to see more hands on workshops and fewer big presentations. I think people like me who’ve been around for a long time are too much in evidence amongst the presenters and I’d like to see more new faces each year. (I’m happy to stay in the bar with the other codgers). The Convention is about sharing and I’d like to see people sharing more of the stuff that didn’t work which is usually more interesting than the things that did. I’d like to see more debate and challenge. And more outside perspectives, particularly on areas like technology and analytics where our sector can lag behind other industries. Oh and the awards ceremony could do with a rethink.

But these are minor quibbles. The National Convention demonstrates so much that is good about our sector and the fundraising calling. Every fundraiser should go at least once. I am, really, proud to be a fundraiser even if you won’t catch me wearing the t- shirt. And I will enjoy this week amongst the collection of our finest and most inspiring fundraisers in London.

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