It was almost a year to the day that you were diagnosed with cancer. Where does time go? Did I ever properly thank you for how much you helped me when I was finding my feet as a fundraiser and especially when I was taking the leap into a freelance career?
That said, my heart used to sink when you appeared at the back of my presentations, taking notes, occasionally heckling, bounding up to me at the end with candid feedback. If I wasn’t up to scratch you would not hold back in letting me know, and whilst that was terrifying at times, you always did it in a way that was kind, because you wanted to help. I’m still not entirely sure I agree that my slides were dull at the Scotland conference that time! They certainly didn’t compete with your interactive and flamboyant style – but who’s could?
I know that at the start of my career you spoke well of me to influential people, encouraged them to give me a chance, and I know you did that for many other fundraisers over the years. I think part of your DNA was about encouraging people to shine.
That’s why a couple of years ago when I had the opportunity to work with you at IFC on an emerging leaders session I was astonished at some critics accusing you of only supporting new talent as a way to further your consultancy business. I don’t think anything was further from the truth. You just liked to help people and encourage success. Not just for individuals, not just for you, but for the ultimate benefit of a sector you passionately believed in.
You never accepted mediocrity. At the IFC run through I did a less than average job, you sent me, and I quote to ‘go and sit quietly over there and think about what you just said and then come back and do it well’. We did laugh about it afterwards. You were right. Although I still maintain that the t-shirt with FEAR written across the front was a bad idea. We didn’t know that would be your last IFC big room session and to have been a part of it makes me immensely proud.
Dear, dear Tony. I will miss your exuberance, your critical friendship, your flamboyant plenaries, your passion for fundraising excellence and innovation and how you always helped others to step up. And of course putting the world to rights over a gin and tonic or two.
I figure you, David Bowie and Alan Rickman are hanging out together – swapping stories and making plans. As they say talent attracts talent.
So I say it now, thank you dear Tony. It was a pleasure and a privilege to know and work with you. Thank you for everything you did for me and for fundraisers across the globe. We will miss you. Rest in peace.