This year Samuel Fraine completed the Diploma in Fundraising. In this Q&A he explains why he chose to undertake the qualification and what he got out of it.
Having studied modern languages at university, I spent the first few years of my career working abroad in Germany and France for a range of organisations in the public and private sector. At the time, my priority was language learning and immersing myself in those cultures, but when I decided to move back to the UK in 2019, it was with the intention of moving into the third sector.
At the time, I hadn’t decided on a career in fundraising, so I applied for a variety of roles. During this process, I came to realise that my experiences made me well-suited to a role in fundraising, which requires the ability to build strong relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, strong organisational skills, a dogged enthusiasm and a passion for social impact. That’s how I began working for Serious, an arts non-profit, as Development Coordinator in 2019.
Once I began working at Serious, I realised very quickly that my suspicions about being suited to a role in fundraising were correct! I loved the work and felt stretched by the varied nature of my role.
However, when COVID-19 ground the live music sector to a halt in March 2020, I was put on furlough leave as the organisation was fighting to survive. At this point, I realised there was a risk that my role would be made redundant, and that I may be starting from scratch in the sector, at a time when charities’ income was being severely squeezed. I began researching fundraising courses and qualifications and came across the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. Despite having worked in fundraising for less than a year at that point, I decided to opt for the Diploma in Fundraising rather than the Certificate after a discovery call with a member of the Chartered Institute team.
Given that at the time we started, everything was happening online – from work to socialising with family and friends – it didn’t seem like too much of a change! During the second half of the qualification, once I had started a new role at social mobility charity upReach, the course being online made it far easier to fit in around my work commitments. The course tutors were largely very responsive to questions asked by email or over the phone, which meant that I was able to complete assignments at my own pace.
Like with many big undertakings, with the benefit of hindsight I can now say that I enjoyed much of it enormously... but also that I’m glad it’s over! As someone who was relatively new to a career in fundraising, and looking to progress quickly, the course was an ideal way for me to broaden my skills as a fundraiser and deepen my knowledge of the sector, learn more about income streams I was familiar with and even more about income streams I hadn’t yet come across (I’m talking about you, legacy fundraising!)... It was also a great chance to meet other fundraisers from across the UK and learn from one another.
I’ve actually been able to apply skills and knowledge in two separate roles during the Diploma! The first assignment involves creating a direct marketing plan for my previous employer, Serious, to help grow their digital fundraising in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The piece of work I produced has informed their fundraising strategy even after my departure.
In my new role at upReach, I’m responsible for individual giving, major donor fundraising and community fundraising, and I have been able to make informed suggestions in each of these income streams based on knowledge gained in the Diploma. In general, it has helped me feel more confident developing and implementing our fundraising strategy.
The WhatsApp group was a real life-saver at times! I think that given the circumstances, with each of us dealing with the fallout of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, we formed a strong bond as a group that was a crutch in the more challenging moments. We’re looking forward to meeting up in person to celebrate our successes when we can.
Getting the results! As someone who was relatively new to fundraising when signing up for the Diploma, I struggled with impostor syndrome towards the start of the course. Combined with this, I was living with long Covid-19 throughout the qualification, as well as a redundancy and subsequent job hunt. To say I’m chuffed with my Distinction is a bit of an understatement!
Do your research. The course handbook takes you through the course content in detail and gives a good indication of the scale of effort required to make the qualification worthwhile. If you can commit to the study time, and have a desire to learn more about your sector, this course can definitely help! Be prepared to spend a fair few weekends with your head buried in textbooks, though. In my opinion, it's worth the effort! Also, if you can get your organisation to cover the costs, good on you.
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