The profession has moved on a lot since I started fundraising, but my motivation for doing it remains the same, says Paul Jackson-Clark
I love this story: During a visit to Cape Canaveral in the mid 1960’s, President Kennedy was touring the facility when he met a man in overalls, enthusiastically sweeping the floor. He asked the man: “What do you do here?”. The man smiled and replied proudly: “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon, Mr President”.
Whether or not that story is true, the sentiment is an excellent one. My job title may well be director of fundraising, but my real job - and my passion and motivation - is to improve the life of people living with Parkinson’s and to help find a cure. And what drives me today are the same things that drove me in my late teens and early career – the unwavering belief that collective action can and does change the world.
Then and now
My younger self, new to fundraising in 1992, was simply focused on trying to raise as much money as I could, do good, be a world citizen, give more back to society than I took... Those were great ideals - and ones I still believe in to this day.
I also recognise that the world of fundraising has significantly moved on since then. Back in 1992 we did a lot of muddling along, and I learned all the elements of fundraising on the job. In 2015, we are a very expert, highly sophisticated workforce, with a professional institute, codes of practice, and a regulator. In 1992, many dropped into fundraising at the end of other careers; now it is a career of choice for graduates and other first jobbers.
Today, more than ever before, fundraising is viewed as a true profession, underpinned by many and varied skills and drawing practitioners from marketing, law, health and safety, social media, event management and more.
Making it possible
The range of complementary sub-professions and their diversity is not only incredible, but also essential if fundraising is to continue to be effective for the beneficiaries it serves. After all, today the UK voluntary sector is tasked with supporting and managing multibillion-pound initiatives. Our professions detractors might have you believe otherwise, but the fact is that in this country whole swathes of essential, critical health and social care - including end of life, elderly, childhood social care, scientific and medical research and much more - is provided exclusively by voluntary sector professionals. And we, as fundraisers, help to make that possible.
Despite all the challenges and criticism fundraisers face today, our work as a collective still can - and will - change the status quo. So whatever your job title, and in whatever corner of the office they’ve put you, just remember: we’re all helping to send rockets to the moon.
Paul Jackson-Clark is director of fundraising at Parkinson’s UK