Fundraising Convention: Why I budget for my team to attend

: Esther Wakeman

Esther Wakeman, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Ashgate Hospicecare and Blythe House Hospice, explains why she makes sure to budget for her team to attend Fundraising Convention so they can develop their skills and become better fundraisers.

As Director of Fundraising for two hospices – one with £1 million + turnover and the other £10 million +  based far away from London I have never had great success in recruiting experienced fundraisers. This is especially true for specialist roles like direct and digital marketing and isn’t something unique to small or regional charities as demand for experienced fundraisers outstrips supply. I have found that recruiting people with the right values and attitude and then training them up, whist this takes time, has proved to be a rewarding solution. 

Giving my team the opportunity to attend Fundraising Convention is an important part of their development for 3 key reasons:

1. See the best examples of fundraising across different disciplines

Fundraising Convention showcases some of the best examples of fundraising across all disciplines. The people who attend are able to bring these fresh ideas back and share them with the team. It doesn’t replace the experience of working on campaigns at other charities but having solid examples of when things go well and any mistakes to learn from can add credibility to their own ideas. Trying something new can be seen as a risk for smaller charities so finding out what return on investment another charity achieved and asking questions will make for a more substantial business case.

 A good example of this is the session on Tuesday called ‘Journey to a new legacy campaign’ where you will hear two case studies from Save the Children and Marie Curie. Legacy giving is a major part of our fundraising strategy so this would be one of the sessions I’m keen for my team to attend.

2. Create a network of people you can go to for support and advice

There are lots of opportunities to network at Fundraising Convention and be really specific about who you want to network with. 

As the largest fundraising conference fundraisers from all size charities attend, from all disciplines and at all levels. Getting to sessions early gives you extra opportunity to meet people but also keep an eye on social media and see who is tweeting and connect with people you would like to meet in person. If you haven’t worked for another charity this is especially valuable as it gives you people to turn to when you face a challenge. Most challenges you face will be common to the charity sector so it is good to have a network to go to and ask advice.

In the Personal Effectiveness track there are some great sessions to help you develop your confidence in networking such as Yvette Gyles and Ruby Bayley-Pratt’s session on ‘Assert your rights - recognising the diversity your bring’ or other ways to meet new people such as volunteering with the ‘Why volunteer when you work for a charity’ session with Mandy Johnson, Kate Carroll and Paul Courtney.

3. Personal development and personal effectiveness

In any career, personal development enables people to be the best that they can be and Fundraising Convention has a personal effectiveness track and a big picture track which is designed for fundraisers at all levels who want to be more effective in their current role, or who are wanting to progress their career, or both. 

It isn’t always about making big changes and the session from Rob Woods on ‘The compound effect – how to raise a lot more money through incremental gains’ shares examples of fundraisers who are achieving income growth through this method. 

The sessions I’m most looking forward to are the panel discussions looking at ‘The sectors diversity challenge’ and ‘Developing future fundraising talent and leaders’ as these provide a great opportunity to hear from a range of experienced fundraisers like Lucy Caldicott, Joe Jenkins and Paul Amadi.

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