Louise Parkes - Chief Executive, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity

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Louise Parkes

Louise Parkes the Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity shares her story of getting started in fundraising and the value of fundraisers.

From intern days

Like many fundraisers, I started out with different career ideas. My first role was as an intern in a media team albeit in a charity. But while I was there, the Director of Fundraising and Marketing convinced me that there were more exciting opportunities to be had in his department, predicting that I would become a fundraiser. And he was right! He did help that prediction by giving me my first paid role as a fundraiser, but once I started in fundraising there was no looking back. I have now been a fundraiser for 25 years, and I absolutely love it!

Seeing the best in and of people

The sector is full of brilliant individuals and organisations doing amazing things to help others.  And it is so varied. As a fundraiser, you really do see the best of people. I also love the fact that we get to see the difference that we make. In short, the charity sector is phenomenal and an integral part of our culture and society.  

Sector wide challenges

But we don’t always get things right. The most challenging time for me as a fundraiser was following Olive Cooke’s tragic death in 2016 (a 92-year-old took her own life after being inundated with charity requests). It took many years for charities to come back from that, and as a fundraiser, both Olive’s death, and what followed in terms of the damage to the sector, was difficult to see. But there were also positives that came out of it: fundraising changed for the better as we all learnt the importance of holding ourselves to account and ensuring we fundraise in ethical and respectful ways to the highest of standards.

Reminding people of the value of fundraising

During this period, it almost certainly put people off joining the sector, and made donors think twice about giving to good causes. For me, it was important to promote just what an amazing profession fundraising still was to as many people who would listen, both internally within the sector and externally. I told people how proud I was to be a fundraiser and the fantastic career opportunities available. It was also around this time that the Institute of Fundraising was applying for Chartered Status which helped to bring additional credibility to the profession.

Donors first

Despite it being a difficult time for the sector it was also a brilliant reminder for all fundraisers to put yourself in the donor’s shoes and think about how it feels to be on the receiving end of charity campaigns and appeals. Doing this across all areas of fundraising, and wanting all supporters to have a brilliant experience, can only make us better fundraisers.

Something I do to help my teams and I at Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity is to sign up and donate through different channels across different organisations. It’s a simple way of gaining a better understanding and appreciation of what is feels like from a donor perspective. This ultimately develops best practice and improves how we do things.

One last thing…

I love the quote “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. Working in fundraising is so much more than a job, you literally have the opportunity to change lives by inspiring people to give.

Louise Parkes
Louise Parkes
Chief Executive, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity
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