Who are we missing at fundraising conferences?

Who are we missing at fundraising conferences?

Who are we missing at fundraising conferences?6

Fundraising | Jonathon Grapsas | 4 Aug 2009

I read a great piece in the latest edition of Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy's e-newsletter about Canadian fundraising stars missing from conference stage.

Hot on the heels of an earlier post of mine endeavouring to make conferences really useful, this caught my eye.

The author, John Webster Hochstadt goes into some detail about some of the inherent problems of fundraising conferences, like the domination of consultants speaking and lack of senior staff attending. Both true.

I talked about something similar last year when I called for sole fundraisers to start flying the flag, to come out from under their desks, beat their chest a little and start sharing.

As someone who does the conference rounds a lot, I too am constantly frustrated and let down at the lack of charity representation, particularly from 'small shops' (I love that term and my Aussie colleagues think it's hilarious).

I can sort of understand their absence. I'd ask myself if I was a fundraiser, from a small or big shop, why should I present, how can I possibly do it and when will I find the time?

Now each of these has a quick rebuttal, but the purpose of this blog is simply to put this back on the agenda and challenge fundraisers to knock us agency folks off our perch.

Frankly, I get sick of people whingeing to me about lack of charity speakers. My answer to anything like this is if you want to make change, create your own destiny and don't sit on your hands waiting for someone else to do it.

Thanks for brining this up John, I hear you wholeheartedly.

Let's share your story fundraising folks - you have something to tell, and we're waiting to hear it.

Tony Moore
6 Aug 2009

Surely it's the elite, more well-off charities, who attend these fund-raising seminars. How can small charities find the fees for such events? Why not have a "freebee" for groups who are, I would suggest in greater need of such advice. There must be some experts who would waive their fees to support those groups in need!


Jonathon Grapsas
6 Aug 2009

Hi Tony,

We (Pareto Fundraising) runs a significant number of free workshops on the other side of the pond (specifically in Canada) - and I am sure other groups do as well. But I don't think free training is necessarily the answer. Free is not free, it still requires an investment in someone's time and thats not cheap. Also its about value. If something helps you do your job better than its worth finding the money to pay for.



5 Aug 2009

Perhaps there aren't enough fundraisers from more modest charities speaking at conferences because we are never asked? It's also slightly scary to think of sharing thoughts with an auditorium of seasoned practitioners....!

Jonathon Grapsas
4 Aug 2009

Thanks for your comments. To the point about charity speakers, you're right - when I ask people who I know are great speakers and whom having something to offer why they don't speak - I often hear "why would I"? I'm not trying to sell something. I think thats a sad indictment., what happened to sharing for the greater good? Yes there is a profileration of many of the ame people, but frankly thats often because others won't put their hand up, and consultants etc will. Simple math.

Thanks for your comments Kirsty, that was evident from this years Convention, for sure. On this side of the pond at many conferences that is pushed really strongly also. But its the same issue, people either not having the time or choosing to do other things. I guess we're all saying the same thing here. All you brilliant charity folks, put your hand up and come present at conferences.

We need you.



4 Aug 2009

I get tired seeing of the same tired old 'gurus' at every conference. I'm a consultant myself, but more charity speakers would be fantastic.

The only problem is, if they are really that good they won't be wasting all their time in shameless self-promotion.

Kirsty Thomson
4 Aug 2009

In the UK there is a strong tradition of innovative fundraisers sharing their knowledge with the rest of the sector. Speakers at the Institute of Fundraising's one-day conferences volunteer their time, for which we're very grateful, and the great majority of these speakers are fundraisers.

At our annual National Convention, which offers over 250 speakers, less than 20% of the speakers are consultants. We encourage any "commercial" speaker to present with their charity partner so that attendees get the full picture. Previous attendees will know that we ask for their feedback from all of our events. We use this to ensure that we continue to get the balance right and deliver compelling presentations on what fundraisers want / need to know.

Kirsty Thomson, head of events, Institute of Fundraising



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