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Interview: Terence Lovell, Teach First

Terence Lovell, fundraising, Teach First

Six months into his job as director of development (fundraising), Terence Lovell lets us in on his plans to diversify income, unlock talent and connect hearts and minds.


Why and how did you get into fundraising?


When I was at University of Durham, I studied Modern Languages and wasnít sure what career route I would take when I graduated. As I experienced the milkround and looked for graduate opportunities, there was a graduate management trainee programme that Barnardoís was launching, working in marketing and fundraising. I ended up working in central retail and trading there initially, before moving into marketing, new product development and then in fundraising.  


I studied a Diploma in Marketing, and my Certificate in Fundraising Management and was supported by some great managers. As someone passionate about making a difference, it was fantastic to find a role that has enabled me to do that and use my marketing, fundraising and communications skills to grow personally and build fantastic teams around me.


Since joining Teach First in June, youíve been leading on the charityís new fundraising strategy Ė how is it shaping up?


It is still early days, but one thing that is clear to me is the importance of developing a clear set of propositions we can take to funders, and also ensuring that we diversify our income portfolio and innovate to enable long-term and sustainable income growth. Teach First has experienced significant growth in voluntary funds over the past five years. As we enter our new chapter we will be connecting hearts and minds to further grow support, engaging people with the issues around educational disadvantage and engaging them to take action, be that from time, money or voice.


One thing that is absolutely clear to me is that we will only achieve our growth ambitions by working together as a team and unlocking the talent of our people. With this in mind, core to our strategy is the team and development. On my first day, I asked these questions of all team members: What do you do? What could you do? What is stopping you? I have subsequently met with all of the team to hear their thoughts on how we could do even better.  I truly believe so many answers sit with team members, if you just take the time to ask.


In terms of your own personal development, what would you like to achieve in the next six months?


I think we are constantly learning and developing. If we werenít, I would not be doing what I do. The challenge and opportunity to learn new things is so important. For me, one of my priorities is to further understand the amazing work that Teach First do. I am also keen to look at how I can work closely with the senior team to help enhance our culture and further build our appetite for risk.  


What current trends in fundraising interest you the most?


The current notions of value exchange and supporter centricity are fascinating to me. I suspect many organisations do not undertake sufficient insight work to truly understand their audience and ensure they communicate in a meaningful and timely way about the right things.  


You started your career 14 years at at Barnardoís. Is there anything you know now about fundraising that you wish youíd known then?


When you start out you want to be the best you can be, and I donít think that ever changes, but what Iíve learned since is how to respond when things donít work out. I am rightly proud of my achievements, such as launching mass participation at Save the Children with Christmas Jumper Day, but there were also some campaigns we trialled that didnít cut the mustard. However, we learned from these, and I strongly believe that the lessons from what hasnít worked can be even more powerful than the lessons from what has. I also think one line that will stick with me from early in my career is that ďwhen a donor says no, that does not mean never.Ē


What has been the best moment for you since joining Teach First?


Itís been a fast-paced and exciting rollercoaster since joining. I am constantly inspired by the passion, commitment and enthusiasm of the team here at Teach First. One standout moment has been when we ran our annual Impact Conference in July. Over 3,500 Teach First participants and ambassadors (alumni) joined together with leading figures in education, united in a movement to end educational inequality. The notion and power of movement is so critical to us as an organisation, and also to the sector as a whole. Seeing so many gathered together, all united in the vision to end educational inequality and ensure every child fulfils their potential, was truly inspirational.


What has been the proudest moment of your career?


Thatís a tough one. From a fundraising perspective, I feel privileged to have been involved in so many amazing experiences which I have shared with some outstanding fundraisers. I think playing such a key role in launching Christmas Jumper Day and taking it to a multimillion-pound campaign in a few years has to be up there, but I also felt incredibly honoured to be named as one of the top 25 fundraisers under 35 earlier this year. Ultimately, it is the opportunities to see the work of the organisations I have had the privilege to work for first-hand that stick with me; seeing the impact that our fundraising is having for real people, and knowing that I have played a part in that.  


What do you get up to in your spare time?


Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I LOVE to travel. I also love the theatre and spending time with friends. I have been known to tread the boards on occasion, and it is certainly a great release from everyday work and helps get the balance right. Wellbeing is so important.


Give us an unusual fact people might not know about you?


I once worked as an ice cream seller, on a beach on the island of Usedom in Germany. I did it for a month as part of my degree.


Head or heart?


That can vary! I think heart wins, but I am a strong believer in a rational argument to support an emotional connection.


What do you most love about being a fundraiser?


The amazing people I work with, both within my own organisation, but across the sector. We are all united by a desire to make the world better, and each of us plays a role in improving society.


Terence Lovell @tejlovell is director of development (fundraising) at Teach First

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