Fundraiser, campaigner, mother and windsurfer, Tracy Griffin explains how community fundraising is the ideal foundation for career progression and why working at Shelter is the best job she’s ever had
How did your first role at a charity come about?
I ended up working for Action Aid with child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Because that role needed to be funded I got involved in fundraising, as well as campaigning to increase the minimum age of soldiers to 16.
What followed when you came back to the UK?
I did community fundraising at Save the Children. My role was mobilising and developing new volunteer fundraising groups in London and the south east. What I loved about it was the work of Save the Children was both fundraising and campaigning and because at that time I had the very close link to overseas development, it played to very aspect of what I liked to do which was to connect people to vision. My whole thing is that I like bringing people together, helping people to inspire each other and then moving the energy up to create a difference.
How did community fundraising prepare you to become a director of fundraising?
It’s an excellent foundation because it teaches you a million different things. You’re out in the community on your own, so it teaches you how to use your initiative, how to formulate a plan, time management, and all of the different income techniques.
What kind of person makes the best community fundraiser?
They can use their time effectively, not get immersed in the details and then empower other people to do the job. You get community fundraisers that run around without any clear objectives and end up being swamped in small requests but actually generate no money, profile or awareness for the cause they’re working for. An experienced community fundraiser is able to stand back and look for the tipping points in the community, then empower those people to go forward and take action.
So it helps if you are strategic?
It allows you to release control because lots of things happen in the community that you have to run at. It’s so multi-faceted, intuitive and adhoc in a lot of ways. Lots happens in the community that you have to take advantage of and if you don’t have a frame work that you’re hanging it on, that’s when you become somebody that’s just running around madly, feeling exhausted and actually not achieving very much.
What attracted you to Shelter?
I love Shelter, it’s the best organisation I’ve ever worked for. It has a great senior management team, it’s quick on its feet and it’s in touch with what’s needed – it moves very quickly.
What does it have that your past jobs didn’t?
It’s more agile, more innovative and much more joined up than other organisations. The CEO is a real driving force and leads in a way that is very integrated. We work really well across all of the departments, which is not how I’ve been able to work before. It suits my personality to work like that, I like networking things together.
How does that inform the way that you run the fundraising department?
The service teams will operate their strategies with an absolute understanding of how they need to be articulated and set up in order to generate funding. We have a shared communications spend and work together on all of the campaigning and policy work that the organisation does. I bring out the core messages in my fundraising and the communications materials have text to donate messages on them, so it’s a completely integrated set up.
What’s your ambition for Shelter?
I want to achieve an end to people’s housing needs.
That’s quite an ambition, how do you aim to do it?
We’re putting in place a new strategy at the moment which will help more people in housing need. The senior management team is looking at being very clear on where we will have the biggest impact in terms of policy, campaigns, research and direct services.
We are aware that statutory income will fall in the next number of years and that independent income is going to need to increase. So we’re looking at how we connect people to Shelter more. At the moment we’re potentially a little bit difficult to understand, so we’re doing a lot of work on giving our brand a more human face.
What do you enjoy most about fundraising?
I come into work and meet people that are passionate about making a difference.
What would you change about society to make fundraising easier?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the US and the giving mentality in the UK is not as great as it is there. Giving is part of everyday life there, they talk about giving and the impact of it much more and they teach philanthropy in schools. So if I could change anything I’d try to make the UK more like that.
Do you get a chance to switch off at the end of a day?
I do loads of windsurfing, I play squash and I’ve got three teenage boys so I spend my life at football and cricket matches.
About the interviewee: Tracy Griffin is director of fundraising at Shelter
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser, Issue 11, November 2011