INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Twenty years of offering assistance to fundraisers

Lindsay Boswell is chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

Twenty years ago this week, a group of fundraisers met up to discuss the issues they faced. I doubt very much that they were the first group to meet like this and to share their concerns about the lack of knowledge around their roles among their peers and masters. But this group decided that fundraising was an identifiable and established activity and from that meeting came the intention to establish a professional body for fundraisers.

Originally established as the Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers (ICFM), the membership has grown as the profession has developed. Just as then the Institute of Fundraising, as ICFM became, relies heavily on its volunteers. We have had many debates and discussions about how we should celebrate our 20th birthday. In the end, a volunteer team put itself forward to organise a dinner with the aim of establishing a bursary fund to allow members to benefit from professional development, training and attendance at conferences and courses. Tonight's dinner, at which the guest of honour is Greg Dyke, the director-general of the BBC, is a good old-fashioned fundraising event and has been organised by John Gray, Judith Rich and Jill Nadolski. There are two principal supporters of the event, The Webb Group and ShareGift, which along with the money raised from ticket sales and corporate supporters paying for tables, have raised a five- figure sum for the bursary fund already. Credit where credit is due. Thank you to the three people responsible for making the evening possible and to all those who have supported the bursary fund.

While much has changed over the past 20 years, the role and contribution of volunteers has been a constant feature of the Institute. My challenge as chief executive is to grow and develop the organisation but to do so through the strength of the volunteer network. One in ten of the membership is actively giving of their time and energy as well as expertise. They help to run the 13 national and regional groups or the 12 special interest groups or the various committees both in London and Scotland that develop training, policy or membership work. Many of the other nine in every 10 were doing the same thing before the current volunteers.

The problem with expanding the Institute through the volunteer structure and system is that it can be difficult to strike the right balance between putting these groups at the heart of our work and not drowning already seriously busy volunteers with more to do on our behalf. However, it is really interesting to look at the break down of our membership for guidance.

There is still the external perspective that the Institute is dominated by the major charities and is too focused in London and the South-East.

Yet even a quick flick through the membership handbook shows that our membership is very wide and diverse and, given the numbers of fundraisers employed in the larger charities, we are badly under-represented in this area. Most of those who are members from the larger charities tend to be regional or community fundraisers. This diverse and well-spread membership is directly down to those members who have helped provide meetings, seminars, workshops and training days for fundraisers across the UK.

One of the key challenges we face is to take the messages about best practice to a much wider audience. To do this we need to develop our organisational membership as well as supporting individual members in their jobs. One of the key areas of volunteer work that has been carried out over the past 20 years is the development of the Codes of Fundraising Practice.

They are what the Institute really stands for and are our core value. Even if I had an accurate record of them all, the number of lawyers, financial advisers, marketing experts, direct mail and data protection professionals, fundraisers and advisers from the Charity Commission who have given their time and expertise to develop these best practice standards is far too many to mention.

Fundraising faces massive challenges. The best possible way to rise to them is to do our jobs as well as possible. By making the Institute work hard for you, in support of you and in support of fundraising, the next 20 years will flash by.

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