All fundraisers know the power of volunteers. Properly channelled, the right volunteers have drive, energy and enthusiasm and those operating to a central strategy can transform an organisation.
Given the close links between fundraisers and volunteers it comes as no surprise to find that the mainstay of the Institute is its volunteer network. The voluntary sector has a bias towards London and the South East and it is easy to forget that so much happens across the UK as a whole.
The National, Regional and Special Interest Groups deliver a phenomenal range of activities all year long and all events are planned and delivered by volunteers. The stars here are not just the committees that plan the many training days, networking events, conferences and seminars, but those who come and speak as well.
You don't have to come to London to hear the Joe Saxton, Andrew Thomas and Stephen Pidgeons of this world speak. The sector's experts appear to be prepared to travel huge distances to address training days run by the Institute. (And it's always dangerous to pick out a couple of names, so many apologies to all those other wonderful speakers who give up their time.)
Last week in Leeds, the regional group for Yorkshire ran a fantastic training and networking day that attracted more than 50 fundraisers. They had the opportunity to learn about future trends in fundraising, recruitment issues, how to maximise Gift Aid and a whole lot more.
It was interesting to see the range and diversity of people at the training day. By no means were they all members of the Institute and by no means were they all local.
With a bit of planning in advance, travel can be cheap - even on a train!
As a result, many of the regional conferences and training days offer excellent value for money. Let me just give you some examples of what is available over the next month ...
On 17 February in London, entitled 'More than just a database' is the Spring Conference of the Researchers in Fundraising Special Interest Group.
After the conference, Jill Nadolski will launch the new Diversity in Fundraising Special Interest Group, the aim of which is to promote an understanding of the UK's diverse society and cultures, and their potential for giving.
On the following day, there is a lunchtime session in Belfast entitled 'Cause-related marketing - a success story'. Then on 19 February there is an all-day session, 'Planning a major gift campaign' run by Andrew Thomas and Sion Lutley. This event takes place in Cheltenham and is only, (and I mean only) £35 to members.
A few days later in Nottingham there is an evening session run by Timothy Finn on 'The use of patrons in trust fundraising'.
In Scotland the latest in a series of lunchtime networking meetings takes place on 3 March. The following day, the monthly London networking evenings (called the 'First Thursday Fundraising Club') takes place.
On 9 March in Taunton, the SW Trustee conference takes place. Engaging and educating our trustees is one of the big issues facing us all. At the same time, in London the Fundraisers In Christian Organisations Special Interest Group holds the latest of its regular sessions.
The all-day Introduction to Fundraising course runs in Northern Ireland on 10 March, as does the Hospital Fundraisers Groups, which is looking at Major Gifts in the NHS in Birmingham.
To complete a busy week, the Trusts Special Interest Group meets in London on 11 March, with speakers from a variety of charitable trusts, while the North West group hold its Spring Seminar on the same day.
On 18 March in Edinburgh, the Scottish Individual Giving Group is holding a meeting looking at 'Major Donors, Major Giving' and, at the end of the month, the Chilterns Region holds its annual conference and training day in Oxfordshire.
A full calendar of excellent value-for-money events is listed on the Institute's website with details of timings, locations and costs. I have only covered some of the events taking place over the next month, but plan ahead and, with a little travel, you can plan a full calendar of training for any level of fundraiser.