After another record-breaking year (quite literally – we broke the world record for the most people doing the agadoo!) I am home and putting into practise some of the very best learning and development opportunities for fundraisers in the UK.
For the sixth year, I have attended the convention as one of the team of volunteers that give their time to help stage the Institute’s flagship event. And it’s a diverse group, from charity chief executives and directors of fundraising to consultants and people from very small charities.
What is involved
The event starts on the Sunday for us with briefings, venue orientations and the compiling of over 1,700 delegate packs (not for the faint-hearted!).
My first task on Monday morning was to assist with registration which appeals to my nosy streak – I get to see just how diverse a range of people are attending and the incredible causes they represent – with the calibre of speakers offering insight and experience it’s no surprise that delegates travel from across Europe to make the most of the event.
Each day started with an inspiring plenary, with Wednesday’s speaker, Sir Ranulph Fiennes standing out as a personal highlight this year; his dry-witted accounts of incredible adventures combined with the millions he has raised in the process certainly reassured delegates that adversity is there to be overcome.
Each day there were 36 sessions to choose from, with each one staffed by us volunteers. This year our duties got more technical; scanning delegates in to sessions to enable the Institute to provide people with personalised follow up of their learning and to measure exactly what people wanted to see and hear. Everything was covered from DM and legacies, community and individual fundraising, trusts, major donors and much more.
Attending some speaker sessions
As volunteers, we are asked to select the sessions that we’d prefer to see and do get to see some of them. And in between other duties we often find ourselves in a session that we haven’t selected. I have discovered that these are often some of the most enjoyable learning experiences of the convention – giving me new insights and increasing my knowledge of areas of work that I wouldn’t normally lean towards.
Of course alongside the learning there is a huge amount of fun including the IoF Awards and then the Convention Party – the Best (and worst) of British costumes were some of the best the event has ever seen!
As volunteers we work hard and play hard, we deal with lots of great people and though you might not believe it, some grumpy ones too! We also enjoy spending time with speakers and special guests and enjoy being both ‘back stage’ and ‘front of house’.
I would thoroughly recommend applying to volunteer in future years. And if you have volunteers working in your charity it will give you a great insight as to how they feel and what makes them do what they do.
Paul Courtney runs Kairos Fundraising Solutions, a small fundraising consultancy in the West Country working with a broad range of charities on all aspects of fundraising and development.