With 4 weeks to go until this year’s IOF National Convention, I asked some fellow fundraisers to join me in reflecting on their top memories and best bits from their previous convention experiences, to help us start looking forward to what we can expect this year.
Let’s face it, you won’t come away from every session armed with a stash of insights you can directly apply to your work. But with the right approach to choosing sessions and an open mind, there are absolute gemstones of useful info to be found.
Danielle reflects on a session she saw at her very first convention, ’20 top tips to developing a successful career in fundraising’ by Alan Gosschalk. “I still have the notes and slides. And I share it with every member of my team. It really resonated with me and I listened and adopted things he talked about”.
And both Danielle and I have strong memories of last year’s session on personal resilience run by Sarah Lane, with Toni Learey and Jane Bardsley. It was a fantastically personal session which delivered a huge amount in terms of things to take away and think about – and, perhaps unusually, use in everyday life, not just the workplace. There are over 130 sessions to choose from this year, and I can’t wait to see which sessions everyone ends up talking about!
The career development opportunities
It’s always fantastic if you have time at Convention to attend something that’s outside of your specialism. Sessions on personal development, lunchtime sessions – all of these offer a wealth of insight that can help you in your current role and to move on to your next.
Sara attended a Guardian Jobs session about what Chief Execs are looking for in Directors of Fundraising. Whilst this is still a little way off her next job level, “some of the things said there gave me real insight into what the career ladder looks like, and the sorts of skills I should be looking to develop.”
Whilst you may be perfectly happy in your current role right now, there’s no harm in looking at how you can grow and develop, and having one eye on how you might make that next step.
Let’s face it, most of us cringe when we hear the word “networking”. The contributor who told me she recalls hiding under a table with colleagues to avoid the networking will remain anonymous to protect the innocent!
But if we call it instead “chatting to shedloads of likeminded individuals and making new friends in the sector” it doesn’t sound half as scary.
Danielle says that she has gone “from hating it to loving it - it’s great to catch up with so many fundraising friends, and make new ones.”
Convention is simply one of the best opportunities to do this, and to meet fundraising peers of all levels. Over 2,500 fundraising professionals under one roof and willing to chat. Definitely something to make the most of – you never know, you might meet your next boss too!
Last year a campaign that I had worked on was shortlisted for one of the awards and I was beyond delighted when our name was called out! For me it was a fantastic moment and one that will stay with me.
Danielle trumps that though – with Merlin she and her team won a stonking four awards in four years – “a highlight to have our work and results recognised by our peers.”
Awards night, though, is about so much more than winning (though, yes, the winning is AWESOME!) – it’s a brilliant celebration of successes from across the sector. It’s so inspiring to hear about all the amazing work that makes the shortlists, and the ones recognising individual commitment to the sector in particular always draw standing ovations and usually tears too. It’s a joyful night to be a part of.
The volunteering opportunities
Those committed individuals who give up their time to ensure that Convention runs smoothly are absolutely fundamental to its success year on year. It can be a great way for individuals who wouldn’t be able to go otherwise to attend.
And the experience is overwhelmingly positive, by all accounts. Lianne recalls the “great sense of achievement being involved in making something so huge happen” and Sara talks about “the amazing sense of teamwork and camaraderie I got from being a volunteer."
The Convention Twittersphere
Twitter takes on a life of its own at Convention. Though you can’t go to every session, rest assured SOMEONE will be tweeting nuggets. In years when I have not been able to attend it’s been fantastic to get a sense of what’s going on. Danielle’s a massive fan: “I love the twitter community, and at Convention time it really comes into its own.”
Great to hear about other people’s memories. I’m starting to get really excited about what this year’s Convention will bring! If you have any other standouts from your Convention experiences do drop me a line in the comments section below.
Supporter Retention Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer