Andi Best Freelance Designer

Donorfy Together Conference 2023

  • Published 13-06-2023
  • Share
Donorfy Together Conference 2023
Bemasked individuals were scarce, pavements were discoloured from the remnants of segregational tape, and gallons of public hand sanitiser were absent, presumably emptied into the Thames. With COVID restrictions scant around the city the Donorfy Conference was free to return for the first time since 2019.
As a sponsor and speaker of this year's event I'd been looking forward to attending for several months, so it was disheartening upon arrival to learn that I couldn't get in.
Despite the sprawling size of the former Museum of London building its entranceways are frustratingly elusive. Myself and several other exhibitors lost time to the Barbican architecture, edging around the external labyrinthine causeways and staircases looking for a way inside. At one confusing moment we were beneath the venue, looking up at its underside. It's true I've not worked outside of my office for quite a while but I'm confident accessing buildings is a skill that shouldn't diminish over time.

Back on an upper-level, squinting through partially obscured glass, we recognised some of the people within and beyond them, on the far side, rectangular shards of daylight bearing the promise of entry.
Finally inside, there was quick work to be made of popping up our exhibition stands as the official opening time for visitors was closing in (though in theory, they too would likely be exchanging punctual arrival for scouring nearby car parks and corridors, wondering how to break through).

My stand was especially modest; a table, a large vertical banner with my logo on it, and a laptop primed for showcasing my services. Little more than myself. I'd no merchandise or gimmicks like some of my exhibiting neighbours, nor had I packed enough business cards as it turned out. The mysterious law of business cards is that those who have surplus will never give them away, and those who have few will dispense them long before demand is met.
Donorfy Together Conference 2023
Fundraisers, marketers and data managers from approximately 160 charities suddenly began filling the exhibition space, raising the din to indoor swimming pool proportions. Among them were a few of my existing clients who had sought me out for our first in-real-life exchanges - terrific to finally meet people without Zoom framing their faces.
There were also strangers whose opening gambit with me featured phrases like "Andi Best... I know your name. I've heard good things about you..." or variants there of. It's testament to how tight the Donorfy Partnership community is that conversations about my work have been paving my reputation among the user base; to have charity representatives approach me armed with positive preconceptions did wonders for my confidence speaking with them.
We chatted about their digital needs, how I could build online experiences to meet them and parted ways with a vow to connect in the coming weeks.
Soon after, the first speaker sessions of the day began and the space thinned until it were once again just us exhibitors and the waitstaff remaining. This was pretty much the tidal pattern of the day - the crowd came and went as presentations in the main theatre commenced and finished, leaving the break times between my opportunity for networking.
After sufficiently fuelling myself on a generous buffet lunch of sandwiches and cake (no doubt one of the primary motivations for attending the event) it was time for my presentation.
I was to regale the Donorfy userbase with my knowledge and insights on how it's possible to integrate external scripts and apps with the CRM platform to enrich website UX, improve data capture and bolster comprehensive reporting. It was a chance to showcase some of the custom donation integrations I've developed for charities over the years, including direct debit setups, e-commerce syncing and bespoke app development. It was also a fantastic opportunity to unveil my brand new Charity Toolkit service offering; a suite of apps and integrations rolling out that connect and automate various charity systems, the first of which being for Access Charity Websites (formerly Raising IT).
The A/V technician laced my outfit with a microphone and bestowed me with a remote control for navigating my slide show. I entered the stage by way of compère introduction and looked out at my audience. The room was cinema-esque; cavernous, low-lit, with tiered, red upholstered seating and an illuminated window in the rear wall targeting me with technical sound and lighting equipment. It was a very different setting from the previous Donorfy Conferences I'd spoken at which were by contrast contemporary, airy office spaces with my audience close enough to breathe directly into the microphone were they to lean forward.
Donorfy Together Conference 2023
Eyes were upon me. Most likely. It was simultaneously too dark and too bright - I couldn't see much beyond my teleprompter. I took a swig from my water to release my voice. I did this copiously throughout.
I'm a decent enough public speaker; I may waver and flush but altogether I get my points across and I do so with authenticity and a semi-colloquial delivery. Today I'd hoped I could slip into autopilot and dump out the script I thought I'd committed to memory, and yet, with the smell of the stage boards in my lungs and the lights pouring over me, it became difficult to marshal my mind from the present - to not fixate on the stoney silences, the ripples of laughter, the elapsed duration, the warming brow. It'd been some time since I'd spoken to more than a handful of people at one time and I was out of practice. Words were coming out of me for sure, only, less polished than they were rehearsed at my desk. I honestly couldn't tell you how I thought it went.
I ran aground on my final slide, prompting for questions. This was the pivotal moment. If I had in fact just made a colossal bore of myself, now would come the evidence. I'd be joined on stage by a thick cloud of embarrassing static, my wooden audience soaked in kerosene would refuse to ignite, and the hidden microphones underfoot would abruptly crank to full volume and amplify my defeated shuffle off stage to all of surrounding London.
Thankfully this was not the case.
Hearty dialogue ensued. People wanted to know much more, and so I riffed a little longer, elaborating and dissecting my topic. In fact, the queries didn't end in the theatre...
I returned to my stand in the exhibition hall and was perplexed at what I found - an actual queue of people had formed. A solitary chair was occupied at my table and behind it a trail of individuals were awaiting their turn to sit in it. What I'd said back on stage had seemingly engendered curiosity and now charity after charity were eager to discuss their specific cases with me. Some wanted to know about my code injection methods for enhancing Donorfy Forms. Others wanted to know how third-party systems could be automated to share their data with Donorfy. I was keen to help them all.
After the closing remarks, the conference concluded. Exhibitors around me were packing away their wares, the waitstaff were prepping tablecloths for laundering, yet I was steadfastly in my chair, speaking at length with the final few enquirers. It certainly was a long queue.
This was indisputably the best Donorfy Conference I've attended - not only because engagement with my contribution was higher than in previous years, but because the overall standard had noticeably climbed. The team organising the day had gone to great lengths to strengthen the conference offering, to scale up the quality of venue, and to maximise the opportunity for learning.
If you attended my session - thanks again for your time, I hope you learned something new. If you didn't get a chance to speak to me during the day and still want to, please do send me a message or book a meeting video/call.
Want to read blog updates as they're published? Sign up to my newsletter for blog update alerts. Join my newsletter
Back to blog

Posts from:


Forge a Project


Fair and Square


Recycled Tube Clock


Motel Lion Idea


Being Freelance


Draw, Win and Lose


The Wobble


A Dog On The Telly