Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Looking ahead to IOF National Convention 2014

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.

The sessions
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.   

The networking
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!

The awards
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.

Lisa Clavering
Supporter Retention Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Thank you to: Danielle Atkinson, Head of Public Fundraising at Breast Cancer Campaign (@roxymartinique); Sara Thomas, Area Development Manager (North) at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (@lirazelf); Lianne Howard-Dace, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at RLSB (@LianneHD)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Becoming an IOF Trustee - third time lucky!

This is the third time in a row I have put myself forward to be a Trustee of the Institute of Fundraising (IOF). 

Third time lucky hopefully :-)

So why have I decided to stand again, despite being unsuccessful for the last two years? Here are a few reasons.

-         I really am passionate about fundraising and to its development through the IOF. Standing again proves my commitment to this. I’m not in it for the glory, or for having this on my CV. I want to shape the future of fundraising and the future of fundraisers.  I do believe in developing the profession of fundraising and ourselves as fundraisers. 

I     I want to be a new face on the Board and really feel I can offer the engagement and representation that fundraisers across the sector need, and demand. I am a fundraiser – I do it, day in and day out. 

-          As I said in my nomination, all too often I talk to fundraisers who are frustrated by a lack of representation of people like them. People like me. I agree. By putting myself forward as a Trustee at the IOF I can assure you that I will listen and champion ideas on how fundraising should, and could, be developed.

-          I am not afraid to challenge or debate, and will fight for what I believe. If you want someone who will stand up and stand behind what they say, then I will do that. If that means ruffling a few feathers on the way – then so be it. Anyone who knows me will know that I will always push the Institute to work hard to deliver what is best for us as fundraisers, in terms of policy, training and advocacy.

So just a few thoughts. If I’m not successful, I’ll probably stand again. This is important and is not something I take lightly.

Thank you

Danielle Atkinson
Head of Public Fundraising at Breast Cancer Campaign

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My personal picks for the 2014 National Convention

I blogged a while ago about what the National Convention means to me. In a nutshell, what can I learn that’s new. This year I’m focusing on the Personal Effectiveness and Bigger Picture streams, although I might stray :-)

So, what are the sessions I’m particularly looking forward to?

My first pick on day one – Monday 7 July – is Talking talent – the key to success.

Liz Tait and Sarah Lane presenting an interactive session on talent management. What’s not to love? I make no secret of my admiration for Liz, and Sarah co-ran what was, for me, the best session of the whole Convention in 2013.

Liz Tait has developed hugely successful – and motivated – teams over the years. The fundraising team at Battersea is one to be admired, watched and feared (in the best way possible). Sarah’s joint session last year on personal resilience was, simply, brilliant. Incredibly useful, personal, and full of take-aways I am still using.

If anything can stop me going to watch the Tour de France it’s this session.

And following on from this, how can I resist learning how to Become a Derren Brown of Fundraising.

I am truly intrigued by this session. Although I have visions of becoming a master manipulator of everyone I meet and taking over the whole fundraising world (*stifles an evil laugh here*), I really do want to know what this session is all about. It’s a wild card – but I’m bound to learn something. Which is why I’ll be queuing outside the room early to get a seat.

If I get invited to the National Awards on the Monday night (massive hint), I’ll have to choose Tuesday carefully. Something that won’t rock my inevitable sore head. (If I’m not, then I’ll be filled to the brim of fundraising beans).

Either way, I’m a bit torn for the 11am slot on day two. Two good sessions here pitted against each other. Number one is How PR can transform your results: Bestpractice case studies from the commercial world.

Hearing from outside the sector is always useful. We can be quite mired in a ‘them and us’ mindset, and even if the budgets involved are way beyond our reach this is no reason to ignore the case studies and the learnings.

The second session is an old favourite, Mr Bernard Ross. This session is about Emotional Intelligence in Fundraising: how to improve results by developing EI as a coreskill. Nobody does this sort of thing better than Bernard. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. We fundraisers are a passionate bunch and stating that emotionally intelligent individuals are more likely to succeed professionally and personally has to be a reason to go to this session.

I suspect it might come down to a coin-toss as to which I attend.

From 3pm I’ll be part of the Convention Career Advice Clinic. So do book in with me if you think I’ve anything to offer you (I promise I’ll try to be interesting, useful and maybe even a little bit inspiring).

Wednesday sees day three and the sadness that is the last day. What will I be going to? First stop is Eight Great Global Arts Fundraising Ideas. An area of fundraising historically underrepresented at the Convention. An area about which I, to my shame, know little about. And as it’s all about learning new things, this is where I’ll be headed at 3pm.

And to finish the Convention I’m going to a session that might infuriate me as much as inspire me: David vs Goliath. Having recently had a discussion with someone from a well-known large charity after they stated “there is nothing we can learn from small charities,” I’m hoping there will be time for questions and debate in this session. After all, that’s always a good way to end three days of fundraising immersion.

There are, of course, many many more fantastic sessions (I might even blog about these), but these are my personal ‘must-attend’ picks. I’ll be at others. I might even see some of you at them. Make sure you say hi!

Danielle Atkinson