I've been involved in charity fundraising since I was fifteen. Alongside my studies I work as a fundraiser at Cheylesmore Community Association, a small charity in South Coventry. The charity runs a community centre that helps to enable local people to grow and thrive. We facilitate all types of groups from dance and karate to chess and Persian language.
I was looking for some support as a sole fundraiser on the Institute of Fundraising website and learnt about the upcoming Fundraising Convention. I looked at all the different sessions and it seemed like the event was perfect for me. An event where I could meet other fundraisers and learn more about the profession. In my excitement, I quickly went to my manager and asked if the charity could afford to send me to Convention. Sadly, they could not. But, I knew that I had to go and so looked to see if there were any bursaries available and fortunately there were.
I applied for a RAISE bursary for arts, culture and heritage fundraisers, and with fingers crossed waited. A few weeks later I received an email and was so excited to learn that I was accepted for a bursary to Convention. I work in Coventry so it was amazing that they could help with more than just the convention tickets.
Fundraising Convention was a truly eye-opening experience. The sessions were really engaging and helped me to further understand the work of a fundraiser. I enjoyed learning about how different charities tackled their fundraising problems. I especially enjoyed learning about how Essex University successfully implemented crowdfunding. It gave me lots of ideas and I could really see a similar system being applied at the community centre. Other sessions showed me the vast scale of the charity sector. I have worked in three small charities with modest fundraising targets so when I heard that World Vision was getting around one billion dollars in funds from the US alone, my jaw dropped. The stats, figures, ideas and knowledge that I gained really helped me to understand my position and to see the opportunities that were available.
The plenary speakers also provided a lot of inspiration. Fatima Bhutto’s talk really resonated with me when she was explaining how international charities were not always great at providing for local needs. This really made me think about my role and the community I work in. It allowed me to see how important it is that local charities exist as they can best deal with local needs.
As an arts and culture fundraiser, gaining funds can be difficult. The problems can stem from the complexity of showing the benefit of the charity’s work. Many charities provide for a specific need that has to be met, e.g. providing support to the homeless, but in the arts and culture sector the need is not always apparent. Therefore, it is very important that arts and culture fundraisers show that their work helps to build a more fruitful and culturally diverse society.
At Convention I learnt that fundraising involves effectively telling a story about the support your charity provides. In arts and culture fundraising this is important as many success stories are harder to evaluate numerically. For example, if a young person succeeds in learning to dance and performing in a dance show, their success story would be limited if presented numerically alone. By effectively presenting their story holistically you can do them more justice and provide a clearer understanding of what they have achieved. This is important as it allowed me to gain knowledge in how to engage with funders more successfully.
For me, the best part of Convention was meeting fellow fundraisers. As a sole fundraiser, the workplace can be lonely so meeting people who faced the same challenges as me was refreshing. I really enjoyed networking and talking to people about the charities that they worked for. The passion, enthusiasm and drive of all the people was wonderful to see and experience.
I would like to thank RAISE programme for giving me the opportunity to be a part of Fundraising Convention 2018. Without the bursary I would never have been able to afford to go to the event, gain so much knowledge and to meet so many brilliant people. I now look forward to Fundraising Convention 2019.