My first forays into fundraising was as a child. At primary school I completed a sponsored stepathon in aid of Lepra – we were incentivised that we could get a t-shirt if we completed a certain number of steps! Also, I remember when I baked biscuits at Boys’ Brigade in the shape of a landline phone, then sold them in aid of Childline.
As a teenager I completed the Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards. One of the component parts was volunteering. Despite this exposure to charity, I didn’t realise you could ‘work’ for a charity.
Fast forward several years, I studied Business Studies and Accounting at the University of Edinburgh. I wanted to use the skills and knowledge I had gained, but I didn’t want to work for a company – I wanted something with meaning.
On the University job board I spotted an advert for a Fundraising and Marketing graduate internship with local charity Bethany Christian Trust. Marketing was one of the courses in my degree. I was curious – could this be the opportunity I was looking for to use my skills in a meaningful way? At the time it was common practice for internships to be voluntary, so for 12 weeks I completed my internship Monday to Friday, then at the weekends I worked on the checkout in the Co-op to pay my bills. Looking back, I must have been knackered!
The internship was structured around me shadowing members of the charity’s Fundraising and Marketing team. My eyes were opened to a world of fundraising beyond sponsored events and baking. I learnt about a photo exhibition touring the country, a social enterprise selling Christmas trees, and plans to develop the charity’s website so it supported fundraising.
Towards the end of my internship, a job vacancy arose in the fundraising team. I don’t remember seeing the advert, probably because I was working 7 days a week at the time! A member of the charity’s fundraising team – Hannah Daly (as she was called at the time) – told me about the job advert and encouraged me to apply. I got my first fundraising job! As Case Worker, I fundraised from trusts. I helped to “make a house a home” – funding anything from new carpet to reconditioned white goods.
In my first fundraising job, I fundraised for individuals. This person-centred approach has stayed with me throughout my career. Now I might fundraise for projects, but I always remember that ‘people give to people’. Any good funding proposal must have a human interest – it demonstrates the impact on one person. I still consider how a project will help one person, remembering the adage, “The plight of millions is a statistic, the plight of one person is a tragedy”.
Talking of focusing on one person - Hannah Biddulph (she’s since married) has a lot to answer for – thanks to her I got my first fundraising job! If it wasn’t for her, I might not be fundraising today.