How we are 'leading the change' at Fundraising Convention 2019

: Joe Jenkins

Joe Jenkins, Chair of the Fundraising Convention board, looks at why the focus of this year's Fundraising Convention is on 'leading the change' and what this will mean throughout the three days.

Here’s a fascinating result from much repeated research: diverse teams are demonstrably smarter than other groups.  

If you didn’t know that, give it a moment’s thought. The evidence suggests that the most likely indicator of your team performance is the diversity and mix of people within it. In fact, diverse groups will outperform homogenous teams of individuals even if in the latter group, the “average IQ” is higher. Working with people who are different to you can challenge your brain to think and perform more effectively than when you’re with other smart people like yourself.

It's oft said that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Perhaps that should be updated to if you’re in a room full of people like yourself, you need to find a smarter room!

I first heard about this research from June Sarpong, who delivered the brilliant closing plenary at last year’s Fundraising Convention. June challenged our sector to do much better on diversity and inclusion, making clear the economic and social benefits as well as the moral case for change.  

Since then, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what this means in practice for those of us who believe charities urgently need to transform and innovate if we are to deliver our missions effectively in the twenty-first century. As both Chair of Fundraising Convention, and a fundraising leader at The Children’s Society, I’m in a privileged position to open more doors to create smarter rooms of people.  I’m excited about how we’ll be doing just that at Fundraising Convention 2019.

Refreshed approach 

In the past year, we have renewed and refreshed our Fundraising Convention Board. We’ve always sought to harness the enthusiasm, experience and passion of talent from our sector – a strength of our convention is that it has always been curated “by fundraisers, for fundraisers” – and early groups had already contributed to a very high level. Yet we felt we needed to go further to bring more voices into the board room, from a richer range of backgrounds and experiences. Now, our board is even more diverse – with members bringing many different personal characteristics and professional experiences – and our conversation has been greatly enriched as a result.

Together, we decided to theme this year’s event as “leading the change”, building on our diversity theme in 2018. As June pointed out, it’s not enough to name the problem, we need to encourage bold leadership to drive the change we need. So we want to create the space for debate, discussion, the sharing of ideas, experiences and the platform to promote positive change. To keep us moving forward to solutions and positive impact.

'Authentic mix of perspectives'

And we’ve put in the extra hours to invite and support a brilliant spectrum of speakers – more new contributors than ever before, as well as fresh content from experienced leaders in our sector.  So that our programme reflects an authentic mix of perspectives, ideas, learning and provocations to inspire, inform and mobilise everyone and anyone involved in engaging people with our missions and causes.

Which will make the already difficult job of choosing which sessions to prioritise over the three days even more challenging!  High on my list at the moment are Virginie Kan and Sonya Trivedy exploring transformation and 21st century leadership; Catherine Andrews, Terri McBride and John Hitchin asking “are you the leader you intend to be?”; Yvette Gyles, Ruby Bayley-Pratt and Fiona Pattison encouraging more under-represented voices to be heard, asserting your rights and recognising the value you bring; and Lucy Caldicott, Rebecca Olokun and Shaista Aziz prompting us to understand power and privilege.

I also can’t wait to join Jo Swinhoe, Kate Collins and Paul Amadi for a panel debate on how we develop future fundraising talent and leaders – a topic very close to my heart!

Of course there’s so much more on offer too – we’re on the cusp of a new era of fundraising and supporter engagement, and so many fresh innovative thoughts, models and approaches to explore.  There’s a role in leadership for each and every one of us – and our aim is for this year’s convention to provide the encouragement and confidence you need to succeed.

All of which I hope will result in a Fundraising Convention with smarter rooms than ever before! We’re reaching out as far and wide as possible to encourage as many different people as possible to join us this year. 

Dear reader, whomever you are, it’d be great to see you taking part with us in 2019; and please do share the invite widely too.  Then together, we can lead the change we need.


Joe Jenkins is Chair of the Fundraising Convention Board and Director of Supporter Impact and Income at The Children's Society

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