Peter Lewis: Fundraising is a global community

Written by Peter Lewis

At the beginning of July, the biggest fundraising event of the year in Europe will take place. Around 2,500 fundraisers will descend on the Barbican, London, to take part, learn about and celebrate excellent fundraising.

It’s a fantastic three days where I get to meet hundreds of our members and hear their stories, but my favourite part is the feeling of community and togetherness that flows throughout. In my time at the IoF, I’ve always been bowled over by the collective spirit and enthusiasm of the fundraising community, the support they offer each other, the willingness to share, and the belief that through our collective endeavour, we will be able to do more for all of our causes.

This spirit of community and collaboration in fundraising is found at every level – in every region of the country, in every fundraising discipline and throughout the UK. But it also goes across borders and around the world. We partner with national fundraising associations across the world, which are working similarly with charities and fundraisers to help raise standards and develop fundraising skills, supported by networks such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals in North America and Mexico, and the European Fundraising Association nearer to home. And I’m really looking forward to welcoming many of them to London in early July for the International Fundraising Summit.

Last year’s event was hosted by the AFP in San Francisco and there were fantastic opportunities to share and learn from fundraisers across the world. While of course there will always be issues specific to individual countries – for example, regulatory systems will be different – I’ve always found there is more that unites us than divides us. Public trust and confidence, the challenges and opportunities of technology, and the diversity and skills of the fundraising workforce are common issues that affect fundraisers from around the world. And undoubtedly, the best way of working to meet the challenges we face is to do so together.

At the summit in July, we will agree a revised and refreshed ‘International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising’. This is an important symbol of international cooperation, as well as recognition that wherever fundraising takes place and supporters are asked for money, it should always happen to a high standard and according to ethical principles. From my point of view, it roots the UK Fundraising community, our professional skills and practices, in a wider international context, creates solidarity through a coming together of professionals and professional bodies who jointly agree and champion excellent fundraising and philanthropy, and is an important marker in demonstrating how seriously fundraisers take the issue of ethical practice not just here, but around the world.

The International Summit is also an opportunity to look around the world at examples of great fundraising and innovation. The fundraising efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Bernie Saunders have been hugely impressive as they respond to a challenging domestic political environment, while in CAF’s latest research Africa is the only continent to see an increase in all charitable and giving behaviours. At a time when the world seems to be more divided than ever, it is even more critical that civil society stands together. And the fundraising community is an important part of that.

The work of many of our members often goes beyond and across national borders, and it is often the only support for people and communities that is there before, during and after huge convulsions. But those organisations, providing that support and representation, can only survive due to the work of the fundraising community around the world. I’m proud that IoF is playing its part in that, supporting fundraisers around the world. I look forward to welcoming our international guests and am sure that by working together we can better meet the challenges we face.

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