First time for everything!



10 things I always wanted to know about the IFC but never quite got around to finding out!  Perspectives of a first time delegate…


have never attended the International Fundraising Congress in Holland before, partly because of the relatively high cost, but also because it always falls on my birthday! This year I resolved to go anyway and here’s what I learnt along with some tips for anyone attending for the first time next year.


Practical stuff:


1) “Because you’re worth it” (and so is the conference); IFC is an investment in you and in your organisation’s fundraising capacity. If you’re offered the chance to go, take it. If you’re not offered the chance, build a case.


2) Once you are there, work hard to get the most from it; opt to attend a masterclass – you’ll be learning from the best and you’ll make great contacts in an intensive 6 hour session over two days. Be prepared for late nights and early starts – hands off that snooze button!


3) Go on your own, or make sure you don’t just spend time with colleagues if you do go in a work group; October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month which is like Christmas (only more so!) in my organisation, so it’s difficult for us to have many fundraisers attend. It’s entirely natural to spend time in social settings with people you know well, but attending alone ensured that I spoke to people I didn’t know so well and met new people – push yourself to do the same – at least some of the time – if you are there with colleagues.


4) Make useful contacts and follow them up; I have been invited to do some skill-sharing in Austria (with a former colleague) and in Croatia (by a delegate who I met last week). If this does happen – and I’d like to do it – it will be good for me and good for my charity as developing a session about some of what we do will encourage some useful additional review which can be shared internally and can inform future planning.


5) Do the sessions in areas you don’t know so much about as well as seeking the practical tips in your own area of expertise. (There were some excellent sessions on communicating more effectively too). I found it more stimulating to do this and it gives greater understanding of colleague’s challenges and issues to know more about these


6) Take some running / swimming gear or go for a walk – the hotel is in the most Dutch-looking countryside possible surrounded by beautiful flower fields, polders and windmills! Plan your breaks or you can spend 4 days inside before you know it….


Overall programme quality:


7) It was interesting to hear the views of veteran attendees, some of whom felt that IFC2012 ticked the inspiration box but was perhaps not the finest year in terms of content. I heard of some sessions where the quality wasn’t fabulous but there was evidence of a high level of preparation, thought and planning in the sessions I attended, all of which offered useful insights. I do believe that there is real value in affirmation; much of what makes good fundraising is sound common sense done well and filtered by experience, so don’t be surprised if you know a lot of what is shared. Reinforcement of sound principles is probably more important than we sometimes recognise.


8) You will be inspired! Jeremy Gilley ( and Eric van Veenendaal ( brought the passion in spades at the plenary sessions, but so did many of the people I spoke to in and out of sessions. You can’t help but feel that your batteries are re-charging as you draw energy from others.


Two things for me to reflect on specifically;


9) I was very interested to hear IKEA Foundation’s CEO, Per Heggenes, describe how his organisation responded to UNHCR’s need for tents by asking; “what if tents aren’t the best temporary shelter for your needs?” This had real echoes of Henry Ford’s famous quote, “If I’d asked them what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” I’m not surewhether any aid agency had asked this question previously so I’m thinking about what are the things (beyond money) that only corporates can effectively bring to the table…


10) The value of emotion in fundraising is worth the energy we expend on defending our right to communicate effectively with donors. We need to get on the front foot with colleagues in debates about ethics and we need to pay real attention to our communications style, working hard to bring people with us so that we can produce exquisite fundraising in support of our missions.


I bought lots of chocolate at the airport to say thanks to the fundraisers in my office for their hard work during Breast Cancer Awareness Month – I think I have brought other, (even more valuable!) things back with me too.

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