Travel is a theme I keep coming back to. In those moments on the road, when you get to see, hear and feel the essence of motivation and inspiration becomes a tonic freely fed, It’s easy to reflect on the higher order of the jobs we do rather than the day-to-day detail challenges. I like to tell stories and I like to write in this zone. The more I see the more I feel the need to share it. I’ve given up worrying if people don’t like it or I may embarrass myself, but even then I often write in a moment and when it’s passed I forget to share. So here’s a piece from my recent trip to New Zealand an Australia. Whilst watching paragliders sail from the sky to the beach in Olu Deniz, Turkey, I rediscovered it when looking back at my writing, and it was clear this was a special trip and I think I had caught the essence of it. I regret not posting it directly so here it is.
I’m sitting in a cafe, next to the lapping waters of the harbour at Sydney. Its late afternoon, and the autumn sun is powerful and bold. Across the water is the iconic Harbour Bridge, with the Opera House to my right. I have a cup of tea and the brightest coloured bird you have ever seen has just landed at my table to eat the sugar. For once I am present.
Last week I attended the FINZ (Fundraising Institute of New Zealand) Conference in the glorious Queenstown. Having arrived the weekend before in Auckland, I had flown in between mountains capped with snow and sparkling lakes, bounded by a carpet of pointing deep green pines. The bus ride to the town, was followed by a short walk through the streets to the hotel, perched so close to the lake you could throw a stone and see the ripples. One by one, Fundraisers arrived from all over this remarkable country and after breakfast, I began my Legacy Masterclass. The room was bounded on the right with a complete window from ceiling to floor, and beyond the full-scale of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains beyond, the edge of the Remarkables as they are called, framing the view. No second was the same. Clouds, light, shadows and sun competed to draw our sight. Every so often the steamship TSS Earnslaw sailed by, a 1912 coal driven ship, blowing its horn to say look at me. We did of course. No point I was making could complete with such a sight. Through the day we circled the legacy challenge, explored our fears, challenged our views and developed a bond. By the end of the day we were practically family.
By the end of the week, and several sessions later, a gala dinner arrived at by a ski gondola, and the ups and downs of the bar we had arrived at the final plenary that I presented with relish. Become a Fundraising Leader was the theme and I found myself connecting with the faces before me. I finished on spirit and why it matters in a country where I had seen nothing but spirit.
Afterwards I found myself on a walk around the lake in the sunshine and clear blue skies. It was cold but the light was crystal clear, like seeing in high-definition someone said. Five of us, who through the magic of connections and previous worlds and then present opportunities had found ourselves reflecting on everything there was to reflect on as we walked. Eventually, we arrived at a cafe directly on the lakes beach in front of the town. The lake was still, with no wind and a clear blue sky, and there we sat with a beer, blankets and a fading sun. The temperature dropped. We talked and laughed and then reluctantly, not wanting to lose the moment, went for dinner. It was a truly magical few hours.
Yesterday, as I arrived late in Sydney city centre, I went for a final late night beer. In the bar the music was playing. Some songs can conjure a moment from many years ago. A recall button. The song was irrelevant, but there i was arriving for the AFP conference in San Diego 15 years ago, and meeting with other British fundraisers organised by the ever thoughtful Tony Elischer. There he stood, bringing people together, hosting, connecting, giving. A San Diego bar and a moment with Tony. As I remembered the moment and sipped my beer, I reflected on the times we had worked together. And one moment when we had mapped out an approach that we felt certain was what fundraising and donors needed to understand. Hearts, minds of course. But spirit was the key. We drew it, rehearsed it, explored it. I never forgot it. The ever brilliant Tony Elischer and his spirit. Remembered.
So, today as the sun goes down I was thinking about spirit and the moments I have connected with in this latest travel. How they are woven together. How it gives depth and meaning. How random unplanned moments collide. How memories come back to guide us. How people in the past and in the present can still shine. How the natural world can speak to us, when we least expect and most need.
I have not mentioned a single fundraising technique or tip or idea here. They are important of course. But every so often we need to have given space to spirit.
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