Opinion: debate and challenge is the best thing about the IoF convention

The fundraising sector is uniquely supportive. No other industry shares its ideas, results, and even tales of ‘that didn’t go so well’, so openly to help us all learn, grow and avoid future blunders.

The IoF Fundraising Convention is the place where this happens and that is why you should attend. I’ve been involved with the Convention Board for three years and I’m proud to be part of the team that shapes the agenda and secures our superb speakers – all of them eager to share their stories and experiences for the benefit of fundraisers everywhere.


What I love most about the convention is challenge and debate. I attend with a view to not only learn, but to unlearn; to listen to other perspectives and question my own way of thinking and change bad habits. As fundraising director at Age UK, it is part of my job to interrogate all of our activities, but leadership is within fundraisers at all levels and everyone attending convention should see it as an opportunity to gain a new perspective and to influence change in your own organisations.


With challenging our thoughts in mind, we’ve introduced plenty of opportunities for debate within the partnerships stream. Following the recent furore surrounding The President’s Club, I’ll be chairing a panel on fundraising, ethics and accepting donations. We also feature a panel debate on Charity of the Year to raise the question, ‘is it really worth it?’ The detailed bid process, the live pitch, the need to galvanise entire networks behind the staff vote, often in the knowledge that the usual suspects will win.

Gain new perspectives

Convention also gives a stage to hear perspectives from outside of our sector. Last year, Marks & Spencer’s Director of Sustainable Business, Mike Barry, challenged our approach to corporate partnerships and business engagement. He started by telling us that CSR (corporate social responsibility) is dead! Sustainable business is the future and charities need to act differently to secure long-term strategic partnerships. The session went down a storm and I’m delighted that Mike’s agreed to come back again in 2018.

Share ideas

But the session I most look forward to introducing every year is Perfect Pitch - the ultimate opportunity to see things differently. In these truly exciting sessions, corporate fundraisers take to the podium to ‘live pitch’ their corporate partnerships ideas. There’s a marvellous twist! Participants pitch on behalf of other charities, offering their own unique ideas. Now in its fifth year, we’re introducing a new format, giving you the opportunity to pitch that brilliant idea you’ve always harboured for another charity. Please drop me a line if you would like to take part.

Look beyond your job title

So as my final point on learning to unlearn, I hope that delegates will take time to attend sessions that are outside of your current remit. Listen to someone who has a completely different job to yours. Look for ideas and opportunities to join up your products and strategies. The sheer breadth and range of sessions is unrivalled – grab it while you can!

Laurie Boult is the fundraising director at Age UK and an IoF Fundraising Convention Board member.

You can see the full programme of Fundraising Convention here and book your place before 27th June.

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