Stephen Cotterill: My takeaways from the IoF Convention

07 Jul 2017 Voices

Fundraisers are one dedicated bunch. A warm summer breeze rippled the pond by the terrace area of the Barbican as the fountains twinkled in the glorious London sun. But where were the fundraisers? Hunkered down in concrete seminar bunkers learning their craft.

From 9.15am to 5.30pm, for three days, thirsting for knowledge. Like a juggernaut of inspiration, the annual Institute of Fundraising Convention had pulled into town. It really was a lot of fundraising to take in. So, as it's Friday, let's settle in and get us some takeaways from this year's fundraising feast.

GDPR is coming and no amount of Brexit is going to stop it

It's on its way - the General Data Protection Regulation – and the fact that we are leaving the EU makes not a French doily of a difference. Penny Bygrave, senior associate with Bircham Dyson Bell, underscored the intention of the Information Commissioner's Office to impose fines for breaches in data protection once the new rules around consent and legitimate interest come into force next May. "If you cannot evidence clear compliance, you will be fined," she said during a panel discussion on the subject. "There is not much time left to make sure you are prepared." So, time to get those data ducks in a row.

Diversity rules (we're just not very good at it yet)

Fundraising painfully lacks diversity and we need to encourage a culture of inclusivity that helps attract talented people from all communities. But conscious efforts to increase diversity within the sector have to be authentic at all levels to get any kind of real traction. Luckily, some people in the sector are addressing this. A panel discussion organised by one of the founders of Charity Women, Lizzi Hollis, took a look at how the sector can attract people from BAME, LGBT communities, as well as across gender and physical abilities. "We are entirely missing out on a variety of skills and experiences, if we do not bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the industry," said one of the panellists, fundraising consultant and trainer Carol Akiwumi. "We must also look to attract more bright young men to the sector or we will be simply replacing a white male order with a white female one."

Facebook Live and Facebook Donate are about to rock your world

One of the most disruptive sessions on the Monday (disruptive as in markets, rather than in knocking over tables and screaming) was on fundraising lessons from overseas by the guys at digital agency Open. The key takeaway from this session was the impact Facebook Live and the integrated Donate function has had on fundraising campaigns in the US. Due to become available in the UK next year, the technology was used in a telethon to raise money for the American Civil Liberties Union. It was the first major telethon to be broadcast using Facebook Live and the first telethon that used the new Facebook Donate functionality. "These features are going to be a game changer for fundraising in this country," said Paul de Gregario, Open's director of digital engagement. "I urge you all to read about it and learn about it because it is going to change your world." There, you've been told.

Cleve Jones is literally the coolest man on earth

All the plenaries this year were very good. Jon Snow: down to earth, straight-talking, remarkably involved in the sector. Kanya King: inspirational role model, committed pioneer and visionary. But it was a savvy piece of programming to put Cleve Jones at lunchtime on the middle day of the fundraising fest. He was never a fundraiser, but he is an outstanding political and social activist who has effected real change to improve the rights of the LGBT community and campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of people living with AIDS. During a time when it can feel like we are beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men, it is a salve to the wounds to hear a story of a person who never gave up and stayed entirely committed to making the world a better place. "The fight goes on" saw him get a standing ovation in the Barbican main hall.


It is not often that journos give out compliments, so Peter Lewis should enjoy this rare slip of countenance, but the IoF CEO's staunch defence of the fundraising community during his address on Tuesday was timely and provided a much needed boost to morale. Following comments in the mainstream media by the Fundraising Regulator's Chair Lord Grade, calling fundraisers "cowboys and rogues" and charities "laggards", there was a heady sense of injustice hanging over the convention. Lewis took the moment to reboot the #proudfundraiser campaign and reiterate to the audience the importance of the work they do. The profession has come a long way in 18 months and real change is happening now. You should be proud of this.


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