Although the Institute of Fundraising's annual convention lasts for only three days, it is the result of a full year's work by a committed team of people. That team is headed by Gill Raikes, who finds time away from her job as fundraising director at the National Trust to chair the convention board.
"Most of the work is done between September and January," she says. "In those four months, the board meets four or five times, and a lot of work goes on to prepare for those meetings. My main role is to lead the board, establishing interim targets and chairing meetings at which track leaders report on progress."
Combining this responsibility with a day job might not be easy, but Raikes believes it is essential that members of the convention board are in the centre of the industry so they can get the content right. Raikes could hardly be more central. She has worked in fundraising for 20 years, spending each day dealing with the fundraising issues in her own department at one of the largest charities in the UK, and is an avid reader of the trade press.
According to Raikes, the biggest challenge is planning a programme that will attract delegates who have between five and 10 years' experience. "Those who are new to fundraising come here to learn, and those at the top of the profession know that it's an unrivalled networking opportunity," she says. "We work hard to ensure that the agenda also appeals to those in the middle. It's hard to please 2,000 people, but I think we generally get it about right."
Visitor numbers leapt in 2003 when the convention moved from Birmingham to London. "It reduced the time commitment for many people and meant it wasn't a residential event," says Raikes. "The continued growth in numbers is a reflection of the relevant content we provide."
In fact, the convention has so much content that it could be daunting. "Plan each day carefully," advises Raikes. "Work out what you want to gain from the event, and then decide which sessions you'll attend. Get to them early. But don't forget to walk around the stands and see your industry in its widest sense. Finally, if you get lost, don't be afraid to ask our volunteers for help."
2001: Fundraising director, National Trust
1994: Fundraising manager for the regions, National Trust
1991: National promotions manager, National Trust
1987: Coast & countryside appeal manager, National Trust
1983: Press officer, National Trust
1981: Reporter, Wrexham Evening Leader
1978: St Andrew's University