With 250 conference delegates arriving in London for the first bbcon in the UK for eight years, we wanted to make sure their whole experience was inspiring and fulfilling. So, after a full first day of over 20 available sessions covering everything from GDPR, to story-telling, to virtual events – the closing plenary needed to be something special.
Who better to close the first day with words and advice from their many years in the industry – than Liesl Elder, Director of Development for Oxford University and Amanda Bringans, Director of Fundraising, British Heart Foundation. We brought together two of the most successful fundraising leaders from two sides of the sector, charity and Higher Education, in conversation with Blackbaud’s VP of Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud. Here are a few choice quotes and takeaways from their chat…
Discussing how they got to where they are:
Liesl Elder: I moved to the UK 14 years ago. I knew I didn’t want to stay where I was, I didn’t want my kids to grow up in Silicon Valley! A head-hunter approached me, and I interviewed for a job in the north of England. I thought why not – if I didn’t get the job, I would at least get a trip to England!
The next thing I knew I was working for the University of Durham and that eventually led to the role I’m in now at the University of Oxford.
Amanda Bringans: I made a conscious decision to do something different, but I didn’t know what different was. I saw an ad for Comic Relief, and I fancied the job. I went for it and I got it.
I think you should keep your eyes open for things you think you might love. I just urge you to do what you love.
What’s the thing you most enjoy about the industry?
Amanda: There’s nothing more exciting to me than a grass roots group of people that have come together. I love going to coffee mornings and fetes - and putting up a gazebo! That is a skill that I’ve discovered many fundraisers across the country have.
And what do you least enjoy?
Amanda: I’m not keen on the people you come across who try and tell you what to do. For example, ‘have you thought about putting logos on balloons?’ – oh really, no I hadn’t thought of that!
One piece of advice you would give?
Liesl: Have the confidence to hire people who know more than you.
Something you’ve done you would describe as ‘royally misguided’?
Amanda: I was daft and young and inexperienced. Once I put up with being bullied at work, by a boss. And I put up with it too long. Don’t allow that to happen to you – and don’t allow it to happen to others either.
Occasionally I open my mouth and the wrong stuff comes out…
I made a mistake and I got massively defensive about it. A couple of times I’ve said things that are hurtful and I didn’t mean for them to be hurtful. And they stay with you.
Liesl: I’ve made plenty of proof-reading errors; I managed to offend the whole of Canada once.
Pay attention to the tone of your emails, and if you’re at all irritated or angry – do not send it. That’s one I keep forgetting.
Thoughts on GDPR
Amanda: I like consent. What’s not to like?
Creating work/life balance
Liesl: It’s about having boundaries. When I go home, I go home. And I make sure my team do the same.
I don’t have guilt and I never have. I choose not to.