Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Why start anything new? It’s all been done

Why start anything new? It’s all been done

Charity Slam took place on the 1 November. The goal was to do an event that hadn’t been done before for fundraisers. Something a little disruptive, something that lets you have the space to think and create; something that allows you the chance to be curious and be yourself.

The founding of Charity Slam was in essence, on a principle of negatives. i.e. establish what the negatives are and logic dictates, the opposites are the positive.

Steph (business partner) and I work in the CSR/charity field day to day, and in doing so have been to a lot of conferences, talks and events to learn about fundraising, employee engagement, customer service, CSR, HR, PR, marketing and the rest. About three years ago when we were starting our business, it felt a little like a never-ending cycle of conferences.

Scrap all of that!

Earlier in 2017 we were sat in a coffee shop in the Wellcome Collection (my personal favourite place in the world) and we were agreeing that conferences and all have some really common factors that are nothing, if not really dull. So, we took the negatives, and said, what would make them better? i.e. often has too many PowerPoints. So, scrap them. Conferences have too many sales pitches, scrap them. Speakers often pitch “top five xyz to be great” etc. as working styles or rules, created because they work for someone. But it’s not universal. So, scrap all of that, let people come up with their plans – if they want to!

Once we had established the format, we knew on our own this could never work. So, we established a Council. Again, in the process of not doing what’s been done before there was an echo of “I hate the word committee”, we toyed with a few terms – Fellowship was a favourite for a short while – we wanted the council to be made up of fundraisers from different stages in their career, a representation of those we wanted attending, and in different fields, so we can make sure what is being learned is what fundraisers want to know more about.

Rather than what those at the top of their game, think others need to know more about. I’ve been moving around in the charity and fundraising sector for coming on ten years, in various guises. I’ve always enjoyed it, and fundraisers never cease to amaze me. My god does fundraising get a raw deal of it. Fundraisers often have higher targets than most business sales teams, they get no bonus, they must invent and create things from scratch with little or no support, or worse, with a barrel of criticism. And let’s not start on budgets.

Yet somehow, through it all fundraisers have the most imaginative ways of looking at things; manage to be genuinely nice people (the ones I meet anyway); and whether they’re a cause-lead fundraiser or more career fundraiser, it doesn’t matter. The passionate tenacity fundraisers bring to the sector is amazing.

Space for creativity, fun and play

However, despite this field of innovation we technically operate in; creativity, conceptualisation, fun and play seem to be discouraged in the charity sector. Considered a waste of time, or not “professional enough”.

We critique all the time rather than praise, and more so, these dynamics are impeded by so many restrictions placed on fundraisers. Too many levels of sign off, so many ideas getting prodded and pulled apart till they die before they can breathe.


Eight new fundraising ideas in 15 minutes!

At Charity Slam, in one of our sessions hosted by, the room collectively came up with eight, never before done, and genuinely excellent fundraising ideas, in 15 minutes. All of them had legs, sure some would need a little polish, but there were more than one that could be launched there and then, and probably make an easy couple of grand just off the back of talking about it. It was inspiring to see, it offered new perspectives, and my hope is that some fundraisers will be able to go back to their office and say, “Let’s just do it”.

Charity Slam has always felt to us like more of a rebellion than anything else. More of a movement and way of mind, than a “day conference out of the office”, perhaps a little bit punk in its mind set. This hopefully offers an insight into the why. In a nut shell we heard a lot of ‘what exists is all the same’ so did something else. And all in all, it has been deemed a success, the feedback has been positive and the ideas for 2018 are flowing already.

Tickets for Charity Slam 2018 have just gone live, and small charity bursary spaces are available by application on the website.


Tom Downie is MD of Volume 48 and co-founder of Charity Slam.



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