Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What does the National Convention mean to me?

Once again the Institute of Fundraising have pulled together a smorgasbord of fundraising wisdom for our delectation in July at the National Convention. We can’t underestimate the amount of work that goes into this for the IOF and their trusty band of Convention Board volunteers *

But with so much choice available to fundraisers it can be hard to know what to attend. I’m already planning what I’m attending (with the caveat that I might sneak away on Monday afternoon to catch some of the Tour de France as it finishes its Grand Départ).

One of the ‘rules’ I’ve set myself every time I’ve attended the Convention is to go to sessions that give me the best chance to learn something new. 

Whether that’s about fundraising, or about myself, that’s what I try to do. For me, this now means not attending all the sessions within my comfort zone i.e. digital and individual Giving.

At the beginning of my fundraising career I hoovered up anything individual giving related and what I learned is still with me. I still have the notes I wrote at these early conventions. (And I still look at them and share them with my team).

Obviously I’m not saying I can’t learn anything new about digital or individual giving, but I enjoy being challenged in a different way. And I want to develop into as well-rounded a fundraiser as possible. 

So, over the years I’ve attended many of the major donor, corporate, trust and community fundraising sessions. And I’ve learned a lot about other areas of fundraising – the principles, the technique, the donors.

Importantly I learned a lot about what makes my colleagues tick and gained an understanding of their work, why they need the information they do, and how different personality types can work together.

Attending these sessions helped me grow as a fundraiser and a person. Rather than 'fighting' every (perceived) battle with other teams they helped me see where they were coming from and how we could work better together. And how I could be more persuasive so that we could achieve a beneficial outcome.

After all, isn’t why we work in fundraising to raise money for the charity we work for? Not ‘fight’ internal battles.

Now? It’s important to me that I progress and develop. I’m a firm believer in development and that I need to take control of that. I hear a lot of ‘how can you help me?’ when we should be asking ‘how can I help myself?’

So, this year I’m focusing on the Personal Effectiveness and The Bigger Picture streams. What will I attend? I’ll blog about that soon. But the most important thing for me is to become a better fundraiser, a better manager and a better leader. Anything that can help me do this is A.Good.Thing.

The next best thing about the Convention? The networking. It’s not something we all like doing. I hated it at first. It made me uncomfortable. It made me feel awkward. Doing this was the first thing that really pushed me out of my comfort zone. (I know you’ll find this hard to believe if you know me – but it is true).

The people I have met over the years at the Convention have become friends, mentors, career advisors, support – many things. So, if you come with your colleagues – break away from them! Force yourself to talk to new people. Exchange email addresses and stay in contact. It will make you a better fundraiser.

And the next time you go you will find there is always someone you know.

Danielle Atkinson

*Of which I am one. 

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