The 30th IFC in Holland last week was in itself a showcase for the many things that brings fundraisers together. Stories, techniques, results, new people, old friends, a bar, a dinner and even an 80’s disco. There are always surprises, some nuggets, even some fakes, but what wins the assembled over every time is the authentic story, the true rooted honesty of personal adversity, triumphs and even a little vulnerability. 3 sessions stood out for me this time. Two I saw, one I heard about.
Firstly, in From Google to Gandhi – building social movements for non-profits, Bill Toliver from the Canadian Agency, The Matale Line, spoke about how, for all the tools we have at our disposal, they can be no substitute for a passionate cause. The opportunity to drive a simple truth or call to arms with these new ways must remain in sequence and in proportion. Bill, spoke with conviction and humour , with quietness and loud gesture. Describing the children whose hands had been hacked off by rebels in Liberia, Bill became visibly moved. The room fell silent as he described the impact this had on him and his determination to make a difference. We were all seared with his anger. This was about social change, emotion, ideas and movements, not social media – that’s just machinery.
Alan Clayton, from Clayton Burnett, is a fantastic fundraiser, marketer and speaker. He is brave. He takes risks. He is blunt, funny, insightful and sometimes even rude…Every so often he makes an astonishing connection with an audience a notch above everyone else. In The Donor is Queen – one of the celebration 30 sessions, Alan spoke with candid honesty and insight about his personal circumstances, his health, his wealth and the gift he has made. Although, I missed this session I heard from several people who spoke about it afterwards. What was fascinating was their version told to others. The authenticity, the emotion and above all their respect had not diminished as the story was told and retold. And now I am telling you.
In the final plenary, The next 30 years – what’s your story? – Dr Bill Magee, co-founder and CEO of Operation Smile shared his journey through the organisations history, how they were inspired to build a worldwide children’s medical charity whose networks of global volunteers are dedicated to treating children with cleft lips and palates and other facial deformities. His insight into the faces of children whose dignity he rescued moved the final session to a standing ovation. Sometimes you get to see what sort of man you hope to become one day, but all it does is remind you of how far off you are.
Conferences yield up all manner of content that fades in weeks and days. But authentic, human, kind, passionate makers of change stay forever.