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3rd – 5th July 2017
The Barbican

Fundraising Convention 2016- an ex-staffer’s impression

: Paul Marvell

Having worked at the IoF as Director of Professional Development and Membership and overseen six Conventions during that time, it might be expected that Paul Marvell would view the 2016 Convention with a critical eye. But Paul reports an overwhelmingly positive experience.

I decided to take a break from Convention in 2015 having overseen the previous six events as part of my day job, as well as having been a past Convention Board member and presenter at many Conventions over the past 15 years or so. So it was with mixed feelings that I decided to return to Convention in 2016 as a paying delegate in my new capacity at the British Red Cross. I had originally planned to attend for one day only, but, as I was invited to take part in a panel discussion on fundraising strategy on Tuesday, I was fortunate to be able to attend for two days.

So what were my impressions?

Well first of all let me get the venue out of the way. I had originally thought that the move from the Hilton to the Barbican was a massive mistake. I could not understand how the event would work in the sprawling, brutalist, concrete monolith that I know and love as one of my favourite arts venues and places to hang out on a sunny lunchtime (I work just round the corner!). But how wrong could I be? Not only did it really work (despite the monumental walks between some sessions!) but it felt like a perfect home for Fundraising Convention. It’s convenient to get to, there is plenty of outdoor space and other nooks and crannies to escape to and/or network in, and the main hall is a hundred times better than its equivalent at the Hilton. So the venue choice was a big success in my eyes.

Secondly, the delegate experience.

From the moment I arrived I was made to feel welcome by the fabulous volunteers (many of whom remembered me from my time at the IoF) but also the Barbican staff who were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the catering staff likewise. They are clearly not that used to running such large events so there were issues with topping up the food points at lunch time, but the standard of food was extremely good overall. Tea and coffee were plentiful when required and there was always water available. Although I didn’t take part this time, the social programme looked excellent.

Thirdly and most importantly the content and learning.

The opening plenaries were excellent on Monday and Tuesday. I particularly enjoyed the superb tribute to Tony Elischer on Monday, and it was a treat to hear Ken Burnett talking about relationship fundraising. I loved Rory Green’s spoof video malfunction but I was horrified for Peter Lewis the following day when the same thing happened for real! Technology heh?

Most importantly I learned loads. I now know what ‘purposology’ is, thanks to Carla Miller. I attended a fantastic session on fundraising talent in a changing world, which gave me plenty of food for thought and things to take away. I was reassured by the way Friends of the Earth had responded to last summer’s fundraising crisis. I was challenged by the intellects of Ian MacQuillin and Adrian Sargeant in their session on the future of relationship fundraising. I was impressed and inspired by what Murray Edwards College are doing in terms of their work with women in philanthropy. I was both depressed and encouraged by a session entitled ‘Fundraising is dead!’ And I thoroughly enjoyed being on the panel hosted by the brilliant Joe Jenkins on the relevance of long term fundraising strategy (although I do have to admit to being daunted by being on stage in the Barbican Hall!)

As always the breaks are often as enjoyable as the sessions themselves and this year was no different. A few highlights were a chat with Giles Pegram about the Commission for Donor Experience, a catch up with my former IoF colleagues and hearing that many of the programmes I introduced during my time there (I am particularly proud of the Academy and Qualifications) are going from strength to strength, and lunch outside in the sunshine with some very old (though not as old as me!) friends and colleagues, all of whom who have gone onto do great things as fundraisers.

Will I be coming back? Yes I will. Is the Barbican the right venue? Yes it is! Would I recommend it to others? Yes I would. Thanks IoF for a great Fundraising Convention.

 

Paul Marvell, British Red Cross

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