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Maximizing the Value of Attending Sector Convenings Like Skoll World Forum & OC

Filed in Relationship Advancement — July 13, 2022

In our blog we’ve pulled back the veil on our approach and methodologies through a largely ‘plug and play’ resources and Masterclasses so you can skillfully engage the funding partners your mission deserves.

Black Fox Global

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Black Fox Fundraising Handbook

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By Natalie Rekstad, Founder & CEO of Black Fox Philanthropy, Claire Wathen, Director, Network & Partnerships at The Skoll Foundation & Matthew Patten, Donor Relations Facilitator at Catalyst 2030


After a three-year hiatus, we are traveling back to Oxford for the 20th Skoll World Forum (SWF). As we prepare to pack our bags to attend one of the many social sector conferences, we came together during a recent masterclass hosted by Catalyst 2030 to share our experience on maximizing the value of attending convenings like the Skoll World Forum, Catalyzing Change Week, and Opportunity Collaboration.

Below you will find a collection of our combined wisdom and favorite insights for spending your time and energy wisely at sector convenings. May it be of service to you!

Not sure yet where you are headed?  Plan out your year using this Convenings Calendar.  It is an evolving document and not exhaustive.  Is there an important convening we missed?  Let us know by emailing

For SWF-specific tips, check out this dynamic document as it evolves!

Attending Sector Convenings: Begin With the End in Mind

Begin With the End in Mind – This beautiful intention was made popular by Steven Covey, to begin with the end in mind. Know your purpose for attending and choose your conferences wisely. 

Know Why You’re There – Center around your own purpose and the important work you do to build effective partnerships and collaborations toward impact.

Anchor in Intentions – Begin each day with mindfulness or prayer around your intentions to know “where I am needed most today” and expressing gratitude for the privilege to serve this community.

Preparation is Key: Preparing for the Convening

The process of preparing for an event, just like the process of preparing for a role in a play, can improve your craft and ability to connect with others. Bringing your whole self, clarifying your “why”, and showing up with the intent to serve can help maximize the relationships you develop.

Connect with People You Know – Plan for the event, review the attendee list and schedule time to reconnect or identify those you would like to meet to maximize your attendance.

Dive Into Your Storyworld – Fall into the story of your organization, get into character to be your authentic self to bring your story to life.  What is the story of the person you meet and more importantly what is the story you could write together? 

Conduct Thoughtful Outreach Lead with generosity, master the art of outreach, introduce yourself with purpose and really see the person in front of you. Bring your whole self, a deeper purpose, and seek ways of collaborating to move each other’s organization forward.

SWF Ecosystem Opportunities – While we may not be able to attend some of the large convenings due to travel costs, attend the SWF free virtual events (the plenary is a must attend) and in-person ecosystem events hosted by Marmalade. How to prepare for the SWF and delegate list.

Meet in New Spaces – Set up meetings in advance and think outside the box for spaces or meet a power walk that is energizing, fun and memorable if time permits.  

Lead with Value in Conversations – Plan for conversations knowing who you are meeting with “I’m thrilled that you’re here because one of the things I’ve admired about your work is your approach to X.  How did you arrive at that approach?” or “What is it in your personal story that would lead you to do this specific work in the world around X?” This will help begin a conversation, recognising you are interested in learning more about their journey. 

What Are the Drivers of the Problem You Are Trying to Solve – Know what drives your organization to intentionally work on a particular social problem.  What are the drivers of the organization or funder you wish to meet?  Where do you align with their work and how can the two organizations collaborate?  Knowing the points of commonality will help lead your discussions. 

Showtime: At the Event

We have been telling stories to engage others for over 9,000 years and attending events in person or even virtually provides you with a chance to shine.  While some of us are natural extroverts and are energized by meeting people, others need to prepare for the intensive two to five-day experience.  Bring your whole self, slow down for serendipity, be authentic and step inside your creative zone. Take breaks to recharge.

Slow Down For Serendipity – After the preparation, research and planning, surrender yourself and be fully present to be ready to accept magical encounters. Seeding serendipity takes deliberate planning and flexibility, both.

Be Authentic – Approach time with peers with humility and make it real. It’s an open secret that funders know when they’re being viewed as a walking dollar sign, and nothing is more off-putting. Funders are human too, be respectful of donors’ time and follow up with your “golden nugget” after the event, as one of the participants said – don’t be a “stalker”.  For insights, read the donor dance for more insights. 

Relax Until Your Brain Stops Spinning Find a quiet corner or retreat outside with a short breathing exercise to calm your mind and land back fully in your body.  Inhale through the nose to a count of 4, hold for 7, and exhale through the nose for 8.  Pause and relax until you are able to unlock the door to your creative state.

Step Inside the Creative Zone Once you’re relaxed, all the walls inside start to fall away, you are in a heightened state of awareness, your senses are in tune, and your imagination and creativity are set free. Fears disappear as instinct replaces overthinking. 

Active Listening – Active listening, not pitching, is the pathway to deeper engagement for both sides.  Be accountable and carve out time to take notes so that you can personalize your follow-up in a meaningful way. see the SSIR article, The Pitch is Dead. Long Live the Conversation.

Be GenerousWe all have gifts to share, but too often we fall back to a culture of transactions and prioritizing our own organizational health. See networking paradigm shift by Elizabeth Seagram, give what you want to receive.

Be Memorable – Share your personal WHY, stand out from the crowd, and be clear, concise and compelling, see this tool: “Crafting Your Why“.  

Systematic Approaches to Funders – Spend the time researching and preparing before to identify if your work aligns with the donor’s similar funding priorities. To prepare for the event, Blackfox Philanthropy offers open-source resources including the Fundraising Handbook and the Fundraising Masterclass Learning Series Resource.

Be Aware of Positions of Power Be aware if you hold a position of power, that we are all equals, we all bring our own unique talents to the conversation. If you are a funder or a social innovator, sign the Shifting the Funding Paradigm letter on how we are advocating to shift funding practices.

Protect the Asset Take care of yourself, take time for a walk, do yoga, attend the parties, meet up for drinks, and create the space to grow, but take time to recharge.

Let the Merit of Your Work Be Your North Star We are all doing important work, and we all add value to the shared vision for a better world.  As Claire Wathem said, “You are enough.” We are all contributing in our own unique ways on the front lines and behind the scenes fighting to end poverty and achieve the SDGS by 2030.

After the Show

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry This Zen saying reminds us to follow up with those we met with, and follow up in a meaningful way. For those seeking to fundraise, move away from the “ask” and towards building authentic relationships.

The point is to get started on developing those hard-earned connections and new friendships as soon as possible, making them the priority that they are.  Once we get home and are swept up into the day-to-day of our lives, the odds of reaching out in personal and meaningful ways goes down dramatically.

Concluding Advice

We ended this energizing discussion with last-minute advice for those who are attending upcoming convenings either in person or virtual.

  1. Protect your asset.  Take care of yourself and your team.  
  2. Make it personal.  Remember everyone’s a human being. 
  3. You are ready and you are enough!

Come into each convening space with a heart full of hope for the future and meet social impact leaders who are making a difference in the world.  You will be rewarded with deeper and more meaningful interactions that can translate into moving your work, and humanity, forward.