Anna Coassin, individual giving fundraiser, Spinal Research

The individual giving fundraiser for Spinal Research sorts out a neglected database

Don't panic. It sounds simple enough, but when I first started working in fundraising I would become extremely stressed if there was any deadline delay, a typo in the newsletter or an appeal wasn't performing as well as it should. When I was working as a direct marketing officer at Action for Kids, my manager, Clare Coombs, showed me that the world doesn't collapse when something goes wrong and that a solution can always be found - usually by reflecting calmly on the situation and working out what your options are.

- The biggest challenge I've faced

Working on MySpine.org, Spinal Research's new social networking website. We are a small charity and this was a huge online project involving an area completely new to all of us, so there was, and still is, an enormous amount to learn.

- My greatest hit

When I started at Spinal Research, the database had been neglected. Donor communications were confused and we were mailing the wrong things to the wrong people. My first project was to completely reorganise the database. Two years later, our income from individual donations is up by 36 per cent.

- My worst moment

In my first fundraising role I was asked too oversee event fundraising until we had recruited a new staff member. My own workload was really demanding, so the event administration pretty much took a back seat. That was until I received an email from the Great North Run organisers reminding me we hadn't submitted the details of the people who would be running for us, and that the deadline was the end of the day. We didn't actually have any runners. The whole charity staff had to get on the phone and start calling everyone they could think of.

- My top tip

Imagine you are running your own business and customer care is the key to your success. Then apply this to your fundraising. Donors are people, not numbers. Make sure they know they are personally valuable and essential to your organisation. Personalise communications as much as you can, respond to enquiries and complaints promptly and efficiently, and be honest with donors about what they can expect from you.

Interview by Annie Kelly.

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