Why Fundraising Convention is important to me

11/03/2024 | by Donna Young, Convention Board member

I remember my first convention so well because it was where I found my community, let me explain…

I was lucky at the start of my career in fundraising. I had no experience when I began as a fundraiser and had so many brilliant people working around me who were willing to share their time and expertise, but I still remember vividly that nobody outside of my colleagues really knew what I did. Twenty years down the line and sometimes it still feels that way, but back then it really wasn’t a recognised profession at all. So, despite all those amazing colleagues, sometimes it could feel like you were on your own or doing a job that nobody really understood, a made-up thing that had no real value. It wasn’t really a job was it, surely, I should have been an accountant or a lawyer or done something that quote unquote mattered.  

So here I am just a few years into my life as a fundraiser, at my very first convention, I walk into the building and I'm immediately greeted by a smiling face welcoming me, (sidenote, convention volunteers are the BEST). I remember taking a huge breath and looking around me and, wow, here was this building full of people, all brimming with enthusiasm, all dedicated to helping others, all here to learn and share experiences. I can still see that image in my head as clear as day and remember the feeling that just like that I wasn’t alone anymore.

It was overwhelming for sure but in the best possible way. I must have spoken to a hundred different people that first time, people I still see today, people who I can still count as friends. People who I respect so much and who have helped me advance in my career to make me who I am today. It was at convention I met my mentors both official and unofficial, I learned about strategy, I discovered great fundraising products (everyone has them now but the first time I heard about tribute funds was at Convention and I immediately took them straight back to our team and helped launch them in my charity at the time).

I knew it then and I feel it to this day, this profession comes with a community and at its heart are people who are driven and determined to make our world better.

Fundraising is about money of course it is. In its most literal definition its ‘raising funds’. That is what we are here to do, but it’s more than that isn’t it? It’s about finding cures, making the world safer, it’s about fighting inequalities or injustice, saving lives, it’s about purpose driven people all wanting a better world and actually doing something about it.

Convention to me is about celebrating that. All these years later and of course it’s about learning and sharing what we have learned, but it’s also about feeling the unparalleled energy of a room full of fundraisers. It’s a magical feeling, and one I hope every fundraiser who is out there and feels like they are an island, can experience. 

Why then is convention important to me? It’s because when I am there I feel like I belong to that community, we share our woes, shake our heads talking about our challenges, we celebrate our successes and the successes of others, we hear stories, we learn new things and we leave knowing we belong to a group of people who are making the world better. I am so lucky to be a part of that, because (and here is the really important bit) what we all do, it matters and when you are surrounded by people who know that, you can go back to your charity, in fact you can go back to your lives full of passion, purpose and knowing that you are part of a community doing really important work.