What are you most looking forward to learning at FIA Conference 2020?

Next February, more than 700 fundraising professionals will descend on Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre for FIA Conference 2020. To get people in the mood for conferencing, we asked a few of our 2020 presenters and conference program committee members what they were most looking forward to learning.

Stories of success and failure

Claire Hughes, MS Queensland’s fundraising and events manager, always enjoys hearing about the latest campaigns and likes the ‘sharing’ that goes on at the conference.

“The conference is an incredible opportunity to hear from the best leaders in the sector about new and innovative campaigns. I like to hear about the successes (and failures!) through such candid accounts, and how these individuals and teams are making an impact on their cause,” she said.

“With so much information and learnings, I like to break down my key takeaways into categories – immediate, mid-term and long-term actions that I can make in my organisation and career to create change,” she added.

Meanwhile, Kristine Pillai, fundraising manager at International Women’s Development Agency, said she was looking forward to hearing more about how fundraisers can improve their trust factor.

“I’m looking forward to exploring building trust and accountability as an industry, as our donors become more sceptical about not-for-profits,” she said.

On a similar note, Elizabeth Grady, development manager for UNHCR, said she was “particularly interested in the session about a new narrative for better presenting our profession.”

Moving forward creatively

Creativity is another on-trend topic people are keen to explore as fundraisers cast about for fresh ways to engage donors.

“I’m looking forward to the creativity and innovation track, as I think these values are crucial to the future of fundraising. We need to evolve and adapt, while still knowing what works well,” said Kristine Pillai.

“Not all not-for-profit organisations have the budget to trial creative new things that could fail, so it’s important for larger organisations to share what has worked well and what hasn’t, so we can all move forward together,” she added.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s head of individual and community supporters, Rachael Lance, agreed the creativity track was something she was looking forward to as this subject area was particularly relevant for what she was trying to achieve at her organisation.

“We’re always trying to evolve the way we work, whether that’s through new ideas or doing existing things better, so the creativity and innovation track excites me! ‘Innovation’ can be a bit of a buzz word, but our organisation is trying to foster a culture of driving innovation and change, so I’m hoping there are some great learnings I can take back and share,” she said.

Hearing from the voices of the future

Some fundraisers, like Daniel McDiarmid, principal consultant at AskRIGHT, were keen to get out of their comfort zone and learn from emerging leaders.

“I’ve been going to fundraising conferences since 1982. What am I going to do at the Brisbane conference? I’ll go to at least one presentation of a topic of which I have no experience or no interest – because I know I won’t learn anything if I only go to the familiar,” he said.

“I’ll go to hear young fundraisers – these are the consultants of the future. I will look for people who are analytical about their programs and results, ruthlessly truthful, and who use language that values every donor as a worthwhile person, never reducing them to ‘data’ or ‘targets.’ I take note of these young professionals, and I watch their careers, and create opportunities for them where I can.”

Alex Struthers, general manager-supporters at Leukaemia Foundation, was interested in the sessions that would take her where fundraising was headed in the future.

“Different perspectives will be essential to forming a great plan for our future. Sessions that cover technology, data analytics (I see there is a masterclass on this!) and leadership will be high on my list to attend,” she said.

Elizabeth Grady was also keen on attending sessions around data, looking for information on how we ‘can better use data for success.”

Middle donor and personal effectiveness tracks capture the zeitgeist 

The new middle and major donors track also perked Elizabeth’s interest.

“Working with major donors, I’m keen to hear how my peers handle tough conversations,” she explained.

Rachael Lance agreed that it was thrilling to see such a focus on middle donors at FIA Conference 2020, as “they represented such a massive area of growth and potential across the whole sector.”

“The other thing I’m proud to see is a track dedicated to personal effectiveness. We often focus on finding the next Ice Bucket Challenge, but investment in core skills such as leadership and influencing could represent a far more significant impact on our organisations and industry,” added Rachael.

The (FIA) social network

While formal learning remains a priority, many people say they use the conference as a hub to network – whether it’s catching up with fundraising friends from other states, forging new business ties with exhibitors, or even putting the feelers out for the next job!

Claire Hughes says the conference offers a unique experience in that you often “come across fundraisers you might never have met otherwise.”

Elizabeth Grady said she particularly likes the networking vibe at FIA Conference herself.

“I’m looking forward to a time to share, collaborate and learn from my peers. There is always a great energy at FIA…reconnecting with people is always a highlight, and it’s these sideline conversations when you often learn something new and interesting,” she said.

“Networking is the key to gaining insights and making connections. There’s enormous learning to be gained from my peers in other non-profits, so I’ll be keen to find some like-minded fundraisers to chat to,” added Alex Struthers.

The sparkle and future factor

Finally, there were those just interested in what the future holds, like Raquel Dillon, fundraising manager, Foodbank South Australia.

“I’m hoping next year’s conference will be all about fundraisers being the sparkle that ignites change and puts our sector in motion. I want to see how stories with happy endings sometimes have the same beginning – a fundraiser celebrating a donation!

“I’m also keen on immersing myself on what the fundraisers of the future might look like, from being the connection between a ‘needy’ recipient and a ‘generous’ donor to a facilitator putting together people and projects that will bring about social change – and wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect otherwise,” she said.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Going to the conference? Let us know!

If you are also attending FIA Conference 2020, reach out to us on Twitter (@FundInstituteau #FIAConf2020) to spark some conference chat. We’d love to hear what you’re most looking forward to learning!