In at the Deep End
When you start a new job, you expect your first week to involve a series of introductions to people whose names you will instantly forget, a lengthy lesson on how to sit correctly at your desk, a stack of company propaganda to wade through, and a pile of forms to fill out.
Not for me! The week before I started life as an Account Manager at Chameleon, I received an email telling me that I had an induction on Monday, followed by two days representing the company at the Institute of Fundraising National Convention. I was also invited to attend the Tuesday night convention event which, somewhat worryingly, was fancy dress. Not bad for a first week, I thought!
Having spent the past eight years working for charities, I was relishing the challenge of returning to an agency environment. The convention would be a good opportunity to catch up with some old colleagues and meet some new people from the fundraising world.
Chameleon had stand 49 at the expo, just inside the main entrance. A prime position we thought, though it soon became apparent that the location wasn’t ideal as most people were rushing past us to grab a coffee or get in the queue for lunch. However, we had two weapons in our arsenal to attract visitors – the chance to win an iPad, and a tempting selection of retro sweets.
The lure of a desirable piece of tech and a much needed sugar rush meant that we managed to draw a decent crowd. Some people had worked with us in the past, some had never heard of us, and some had been impressed with work we had done with other charities. Two sites we had built - UNICEF’s My Fundraisng and Mind’s Memory Space were particularly popular amongst our visitors.
The other aspect of the convention was the opportunity to attend a wide range of presentations from charities, agencies and industry experts. These sessions are particularly popular, so the old adage of “arrive early to avoid disappointment” was the best piece of advice I received.
Michael Hoffman, CEO of see3 communications gave an excellent presentation on the power of video. Simplicity, engagement and purpose were the key messages he delivered, citing The Girl Effect, UNICEF USA Tap Project and Charity Water's 5th Birthday as examples of effective use of video by charities. I later discovered one of my tweets about this presentation had made the back page of Convention News, although I was slightly surprised to discover it was the one complaining about the quality of the air conditioning!
The other presentation that stood out was by Tim Longfoot of Open Fundraising and my old colleague from UNICEF UK, Louise Lane. Before taking to the stage, Louise confessed to me that she was a bit nervous about presenting to a packed room. However, she nailed it like a pro and the audience were enthralled by the story of how UNICEF dealt with the huge volume of SMS donors they recruited during the Soccer Aid telethon event.
Tuesday’s fancy dress event was great fun. The theme was the best and worst of Great Britain, so my colleague Jon and I went as punks. The people we had been earnestly engaging during the day were now dressed in a variety of costumes, including cricketers, athletes, members of the royal family, a post box, and various components of a full English breakfast!
The highlight of the event was an attempt to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. I can report that Jon and I are now officially record breakers – we can proudly say that we were part of the Largest Agadoo Dance ever seen. I’m not sure this will be featuring on my CV!
If you are a fundraiser, I would definitely recommend convention. It’s a great opportunity to find out first-hand what is happening across the sector. It’s encouraging to see that people are prepared to share their successes, challenges and learnings so openly. As an agency, it gives us the chance to talk informally to clients past, present and (hopefully) future, and discuss their hopes and plans for the future. Plus the catering is excellent…