For fundraisers, by fundraisers. It’s the fundraiser’s circle of life

: Matthew Sherrington

Fundraising Convention board member Matthew Sherrington explains why this year's event is a real opportunity for the community to come together, share and support the sector - and be part of the fundraiser's circle of life.

With supporter expectations and the fundraising environment changing, it’s more important than ever to be able to adapt, skill up and learn from each other. 

That’s where the IoF Fundraising Convention comes in.

The world of fundraising has changed dramatically in the last twenty years (and after the last couple of years, more is upon us). Technology has sped things up, reduced costs, made it easier to reach more people, and as importantly to feed back and engage them, even in real time. More people support charities because more have been presented with the opportunity to do so, and more people are fundraising themselves. There’s more charity fundraising activity, more competition. Different activities have come in and out of fashion as their performance and cost-effectiveness has changed. But overall, an awful lot more money is being raised from an awful lot more people, who fundamentally want to do good in the world. 

There’s also been more public disquiet about different fundraising techniques. What has ‘worked’ for fundraising, hasn’t always ‘worked’ for the supporter, and fundraising is having to respond to new regulation and raised expectations, and lift its game.

Things have moved on from when fundraising appeals were deliberately designed to look as home-spun as possible for that from-the-kitchen-table typewriter look, though people still imagine charities as cosy amateurs (why issues like admin costs and salaries jar). Of course, for the majority of charities, local and volunteer-run, a lot of that still happens. But it matters to be seen as cost-effective and not wasteful, professional, if not corporate. 

Some things stay the same. Fundraising is still about people, relationships, and engaging people in the cause and moving them to support it. Every generation of fundraisers is anxious about their ‘aging’ pool of supporters and reaching younger audiences. The public always just want to know they make a difference to the cause, so want to know the money gets there. People don’t generally think about fundraising costing money, or see it as an investment that allows charities to do more good. And so charities have to keep doing better and communicating progress and reassuring supporters about the difference they make. 

Fundraising today is more professional. It has to be. Fundraisers need to be the best they can be. The challenge with kitchen-table fundraising is that everyone makes it up as they go along (though even that is simpler and smarter with the help of peer-to-peer giving sites). Larger charities are by no means immune from not learning lessons, All charities want their services to be secure and stable into the future; they want to be able to plan ahead with greater certainty about their income. Pressure on fundraisers to deliver is immense. 

Luckily for us, there isn’t another aspect of charity work where you find as much sharing and support between colleagues in different organisations. Fundraising Convention in July is the pinnacle of that: three days of training, insight, learning the latest as well as the lessons from the past, getting inspired, and yes, networking over coffee. It only takes putting one small but great idea into practice to raise more money than the cost of the ticket. The return on investment is huge. All fundraisers have an eye on that. But it’s not all money: fundraisers are a passionate bunch, they care about their causes and they care about their supporters. 

I’ve been coming to Fundraising Convention since 2000 I have made friends I trust, can ask for help, and share ideas with (all ‘networking’ really is). Everything I know as a fundraiser I have learnt from others. That’s why I’m delighted to be a proud volunteer on the IoF Fundraising Convention Board, where we organise the content and recruit volunteer speakers – all expert fundraisers in their fields who give their time willingly to pass on their insight and acquired knowledge to others. The Fundraising Convention is organised for fundraisers, by fundraisers. It’s the fundraiser’s circle of life. As Hector tells his students in The History Boys, “Pass it on, that's the game I wanted you to learn. Pass it on."

Take a look at Matthew's Convention session: Goose or Rabbit? Leadership lessons from animals

Matthew Sherrington, independent consultant at Inspiring Action Consultancy and member of the Fundraising Convention Board


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IoF Members get the best rates at Convention. Why become a member? Through belonging to the Institute, members show the greatest level of commitment to the profession and to the highest standards of fundraising. 

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