Make it easy for your boss to send you to IFC

“Who the hell had four Bombay Sapphire martinis? No … wait … which TWO of you had four Bombay Sapphire martinis? Each?”

The voice that was rising above the subdued dinner noise at a New Orleans eatery belonged to my boss at the time. She was looking at the
check. She was looking at me. And my colleague. Until that moment, we were so proud of ourselves for saving some money on this group business dinner at a long-ago conference in New Orleans. We had shared an appetizer and an entrée and a dessert. But we didn’t share our drinks. Nor did we skimp on them. Her surprised outburst and the choice words that followed reduced all 12 of us at the fancy-set table (boss included) to a fit of tipsy giggles.final-logo

Even the stodgiest of professional conferences leaves room for kicking back. And most “networking opportunities” involve gossip, cocktails and maybe even a little dancing.

Although the International Fundraising Congress  is no exception, don’t let that fool you. Or your boss. An investment in the IFC is in an investment in real learning and true professional development. But it still can be a big investment (of both money and time), and you just might need a little help convincing the guardians of the budget.

Meet Sandy McGregor. She’s the fundraising team leader at Mercy Hospice Auckland. Earlier this year she was determined to convince her bosses that the investment to send her to the IFC would benefit the organisation many times over.

“The board needed convincing, with some trustees thinking this was just an excuse for a holiday,” Sandy shares. “My CEO was my biggest advocate and helped me to get my attendance over the line. As you can imagine, it was a huge decision for the board to make, with the extra cost of getting me to the other side of the world.”

Sandy was kind enough to share with us what she did and said to make it happen. The letter that Sandy wrote to her board began by stating exactly what the organisation was lacking — the ability to reach a growing online demographic:

“You may be surprised to know that we are currently not reaching the fastest growing demographic online. The growth of older generations using social media has been staggering over the past three years, in fact the 50-and-over age group is the fastest growing demographic online. Not only is this generation going online on a daily basis (76% according to Pew Internet), they also account for the majority of our current supporter base.

“We can no longer wait to make improvements to our online strategy. We need to react now, or face being left behind. To do this, we need to seek expertise from others who have already made great advances, and hear the pitfalls too. We need to look overseas to hear how other charities are succeeding, and what changes are on the horizon.”

Then she explained why the IFC would be the place to learn how to fill that void:

“This conference is renowned for being the very best in the world for fundraisers to attend. It has a reputation for bringing together the very best strategists and tacticians in the not-for-profit arena, all of whom are willing to share what they know. As a bonus they also have a masterclass focusing on online strategy.”

Finally, there were five solid reasons for her attend, which Sandy smartly borrowed from our Convince Your Boss information packet:

  1.  The IFC is great value for investment.
  2.  I will come back with ideas I can actually apply.
  3.  It’s a great networking opportunity for me.
  4.  I will also learn from experts outside of the sector.
  5.  I will return more motivated and inspired.

(Check out the Convince your Boss Pack  for more details on each of these points.)

She closed with a specific ask and what it would cover, and provided a link to the IFC website so her trustees could get more information.

In addition to her letter, Sandy recommends that fellow fundraisers looking to convince their bosses to approve a trip to the IFC focus on any of these points that apply to them:

  • Loyalty to your charity. (Sandy had been with Mercy Hospice for 10 years.)
  • A commitment to working longer for your organisation. (She agreed to continue working for Mercy for at least 18 more months.)
  • An agreement to apply knowledge on return and willingness to create strategy and KPIs following the conference.
  • A history of fundraising professional development that improved outcomes for your organisation.
  • An ongoing commitment to the fundraising profession. (Sandy has been accepted to take the CFRE exam in November.)
  • A history of successful campaigns and events. (Recent benchmarking showed Mercy exceeding other hospices, which Sandy attributed to ongoing education and professional development. “Keep sending that message!,” she says.)
  • An explicit need that IFC can help fill. (For Mercy Hospice, it was social media savvy.)

It took some effort on her part, but we’re happy to see Sandy’s name on the IFC 2016 delegate list.

Meg Gardner is chief scribe and content curator at The Resource Alliance.

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