Katherine currently works at Bioregional and is studying for a Diploma in Fundraising at the Institute of Fundraising
What course did you study and where?
I studied History at the University of Southampton, which has proven to be incredibly helpful as a fundraiser. It taught me how to gather together huge amounts of information, and present this information in a digestible way. In my job, this means collecting stories and data from all of our project delivery teams, and presenting the best bits to funders.
It also taught me how to meet deadlines, vital when you have two applications due the same week.
How did you get your job?
My first job out of university was a bit of an accident. I ended up working at a radar manufacturing company writing grant applications for their innovation work. I was quite good at winning these bids, but since I had no interest in radar, I wanted to use my new skill for a cause I cared about.
I was always interested in the environment and preventing climate change, so when I saw my current role advertised on a job listing site I had to apply. I didn't have as much experience as they wanted, but my passion for the cause, my can do attitude and my written communication skills convinced the CEO to take a chance on me.
What's a typical day like as a fundraising manager?
My time is a 50/50 split between trying to raise funds, and planning how we'll raise funds in the future. Since I'm a lone fundraiser I do all the grant applications myself, so a lot of my time is spent working with the delivery team to put together applications, create project plans and budgets, and collect inspiring case studies.
The rest of the time I spend working on business development, researching new funders, finding potential new partners and trying to diversify our funding portfolio.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love my job because it's helping an amazing organisation do amazing things. As with all jobs, a lot of my time is spent sitting in front of a screen, in an office, surrounded by coffee, paper and phones, but on days where I feel like a part of the rat race, I remind myself what it is I'm working towards, and the fire is quickly sparked back into action.
Working at a charity is also great because everyone around you is equally as passionate and caring of the cause, so we all get on really well and supports each other through the highs and lows.
What are the challenges?
Raising funds. It's exciting when you get awarded funding, it's equally disappointing when you get that dreaded 'no' and you have to tell your team that you have to try plan B. However, everyone knows this is just a fact of fundraising, so they help you get back up, and motivate you to keep going until that next big yes.
How has your role developed?
When I first came into the role I was only tasked with writing grant applications for the projects I was asked to. Since then, the senior management team have trusted me to create a brand new fundraising strategy, open up new areas of funding like individual giving, and given me more authority over what sort of projects I fundraise for. I'm hoping to employ a new fundraiser soon so that I can have my own team.
I'm also currently studying for a Diploma in Fundraising at the Institute of Fundraising. I was thrown into the deep end in my role, and was just about managing to tread water. Once I got my head around the ins and outs of the charity and their existing fundraising practices, I realised there was a huge amount of potential for diversifying income and growing fundraising activities. I wasn't sure where to start and that's where the diploma's come in. It's given me a really thorough understanding of the different types of fundraising, as well as invaluable skills in leadership, team management and communication techniques.
How do I get into charity fundraising?
- Find a cause or charity that you really care about, and whose mission you really want to support, then go and ask them about the opportunities they have available. Even if they don't have anything going, they may know someone that does, or have some work experience opportunities.
- Practice persuasion. At its core, fundraising is all about making people care about something enough to part with their hard earned cash, so practice storytelling and positive communication as much as possible.
- Understand what you can bring to the role. Are you an extrovert that loves to chat to anyone and everyone? Or are you a bookworm that loves to be neat and organised? Charity fundraising has a place for you, whether it's the sales area of corporate fundraising, or the precise art of grant writing, there's something for everyone. Find your niche, find the best area for you, and look for jobs that match.