Four fundraisers show how gaining skills and experience outside of fundraising have benefitted their career development
Being a trustee of Tree Aid has helped me understand the pressures of being an organisation with very limited resources, and where people have to multitask across disciplines. This has proved particularly useful in my current role at GOOD Agency, where we work with a whole range of charities from the very big to the very small.
For example, Tree Aid has just launched an appeal to raise 250k for its Grow Hope appeal, and to put together the business plan and work with the trustee body to approve it is a very different thing in a small charity like that. It’s given me a real insight into some of the stresses and strains for our smaller clients, especially when you’re trying to find the right kind of focus to deliver big new projects. It’s relatively easy for a larger organisation to come up with a coherent appeal and get it launched; it’s really tough for small charities.
It works in reverse too: At Tree Aid, I can use my experience in fundraising to help the others on the board to understand the plans that are being put forward by the executive team, and to share the management and strategic skills I’ve developed as a fundraiser and consultant.
I’ve found it really useful to step away from my professional discipline and put myself in the shoes of those who are responsible for the governance of the organisation and who have to think much more broadly, in a much more strategic role. When you see the other side of the coin, you see how difficult it is for trustees to find the time to give everything the attention they’d like to.
Charlotte Otter is new business development fundraiser at Naomi House & Jacksplace hospices. She is also a creative writer and food blogger.
The way you tell a story can move people and help you to get a message across. As a fundraiser, you are a storyteller; you have to paint a picture of what your organisation does, sometimes in very few words, and sometimes just with visuals. You are trying to sell the charity with your story, to demonstrate to people why they should support your cause over any other. To achieve that, you have to be passionate, and to really believe in your cause.
Writing persuasively is a real skill - not just for creating pitches and proposals where you have a limited amount of time or words to get your point across, but in creating emails and letters of introduction. It’s so important as a charity to share the impact of the work with their supporters, to make them feel like they are a part of everything an organisation does, and to acknowledge what their support has helped you to achieve, or could help you to achieve.
My job as new business development fundraiser is to find a way to set Naomi House & Jacksplace apart from all the other wonderful organisations out there. Often you only have a few words to do this, so having experience with creative writing gives me the confidence to believe I can make those words count.
The performing arts is a competitive world; to win a role, you have to stand out - much like in fundraising where you are competing for support and for a greater share of the public purse.
My background in performing arts has given me the confidence to speak at fundraising events, and the skills to project and speak eloquently. It’s also taught me how to flex my approach in different professional scenarios, which you need to do to ensure you’re enabling the people you’re working with to get the best possible outcomes.
Another thing I’ve learned in my acting roles is to keep practising until you get there. It’s so important, when you’ve invested so much in a project, to get it up to standard and ensure it’s the best it can possibly be before it’s taken out to the public. That runs across all manner of fundraising activities, be that developing packs and communications for supporters, right up to planning and delivering pitches and presentations.
Similarly, I’ve learned that you have to change the way you tackle things as they evolve. In different theatre productions, you see different interpretations of them and they need to move with the times, so you need to revisit and reimagine things from time to time - and this applies just as much in fundraising.
Jonathan Jacques is head of legacy development at Barnardo’s. He started out as an account manager and copywriter in marketing agencies.
Fundraising is essentially marketing, especially in individual giving. In agencies, the copywriter and account manager roles will often be jumping around between multiple accounts, whereas in-house you can focus solely on your cause and the messages that will have impact right across the organisation from services to retail, from volunteers to trustees.
As legacy fundraisers we are responsible for inspiring and nurturing our supporters to consider leaving a gift in their will to fund an organisation’s mission in the future. Whatever channel you’re using - whether it’s written communications, using the telephone, face-to-face at events, or online content - to really inspire supporters, it’s important to think like a creative team and to understand what the single most compelling reason and need for support is, before identifying what the optimum channel mix is to get your message out, for your budget.
The most important thing I learned from my time in the advertising world is the importance of supporter research to help clarify objectively what the key messages of any proposition need to be, and where possible to validate a creative route before investing budget. This has served me very well, not least when developing a legacy television advert at British Red Cross and introducing our ‘leave a vulnerable child someone to turn to’ proposition at Barnardo’s.