Interview: Dylan Carroll of Barnardo's

The winner of the up and coming fundraiser award at last year's convention talks to Chloe Stothart about what he's been doing since

Dylan Carroll
Dylan Carroll

Legacy fundraiser can be a strange occupation. Dylan Carroll recounts how Barnardo’s was once left part of a donkey in a will. "We were left a half share in an estate jointly with the RSPCA, including the donkey," he says. Naturally, the animal charity got the beast in toto – "We didn’t cut it in half or send it to Damian Hirst."

Donkeys aside, Carroll’s been busy since he won the best up-and-coming fundraiser award at last year’s Institute of Fundraising Awards. Shortly after the win, he was promoted to his current role of senior regional development officer for Barnardo’s. He still manages and expands the charity’s free wills scheme, in which the national law chain Quality Solicitors waives its fee if a testator includes a bequest to Barnardo’s, and he helps to train non-fundraising staff and volunteers in the right way to broach the subject of legacies.

But now he also manages three other legacy marketers in the regions, plus a team in Manchester that promotes the charity’s work to raise money from local benefactors.

A German Studies graduate, Carroll used to work in sales and marketing in the metal industry, making regular trips to Germany. After a close relative was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, he threw himself into fundraising for the MS Society. Two years later, he decided to make fundraising his occupation and joined Barnardo’s. "It gave me the opportunity to use my marketing and communication skills for a better purpose," he says.

The charity recruited him to cover the midlands and a colleague to focus on south-east England as its first regional legacy development staff in a push to turn around a major fall in income from wills. In 2010 Barnardo’s launched an emergency appeal after an unexpected £3m shortfall in fundraising income, including a £1.2m drop in legacies.

"Our legacy income has been going down for years and years, and others are overtaking us," he says. "We want to stabilise the drop then move into the future and get people to leave money in wills now so that the future is better."

The free wills schemes that Carroll runs are helping to arrest the decline in the charity’s legacy income. The Quality Solicitors partnership, which he was instrumental in establishing in August 2010 and which won the Charity Partnership: Small Businesses award at Third Sector’s Business Charity Awards, is thought to have generated about £3m so far. Previous free wills schemes that he ran with local law firms are expected to raise about £700,000 each.

As part of its attempt to reverse the decline in its legacy income, the charity also started training non-fundraising staff and volunteers in ways to inspire people they encounter in their work to leave money to Barnardo’s.

"It has become more of an organisational responsibility," he says. "Just saying you need legacies is not inspiring; you have to open hearts and minds with the work you do and make people aware why you need legacies."

He’s sceptical about using digital media for the task of publicising legacy giving. "I think promoting legacies through digital media is not the way to go; the subject is so sensitive, and legacies are personal," he says. "The conversation should be one-to-one, not one-to-one thousand."

Carroll sees the future for Barnardo’s legacy fundraising as being about expanding the work it does – such as the free wills scheme – rather than creating masses of new initiatives that do not get fully developed.

"We keep looking for the next big thing, but I do not think we should," he says. 

CV:

2011 Senior regional development officer, Barnardo’s

2008 Regional development officer for the midlands, Barnardo’s

2005 Export sales and marketing manager, UK Dies Group, manufacturer of steel and carbide dies

2002 European sales manager, B Mason and Sons, supplier of non-ferrous sheet metal.

- See more news from this year's IoF National Convention

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