Interview: Judy Beard Fundraising consultant

Judy Beard knows about change. The former director of communications, fundraising and marketing at Macmillan Cancer Support led a 10-year strategy that resulted in the charity doubling its fundraising income to £107m, and oversaw its 2006 rebrand.

Beard's professional achievements mean that her conference session, called ‘Driving Change - why don't they all stand up and cheer?' (Tuesday, 1.15pm, Blenheim), might well attract senior managers with big ambitions. It will also be useful for anyone intrigued by what makes colleagues frightened of change and keen to manage the sceptics.
"You need the right conditions to make change work," says Beard. "Get into alignment a clear vision about what you are trying to achieve, the resources and the right talented people with the same values. Then it's down to implementation over a long period of time."
Beard is described as "one of our industry's greats" by her boss, Bernard Ross, who hired her as principal management consultant at consultancy The Management Centre last year when she left Macmillan.
She became a fundraiser in the mid-80s after what she describes as "a very lucky break" landing a newly created job at Save the Children, matching donors with projects and vice versa. "If the local Brownie pack came to me with £120, I would find them a cause to support for the money they had," she says. "It quickly grew into dealing with millions."
Fundraising roles at the British Red Cross and the Tate Gallery led Beard to Macmillan's senior management team in 1998. She became acting chief executive in 2006 after Peter Cardy left, but departed after Ciaran Devane, a management consultant with no voluntary sector experience, was made permanent chief executive.
Beard is pragmatic when asked about her departure, which was viewed by many as the sector's loss. "I always knew that if I didn't get the job, there was only one route - out," she says. "Leaving was absolutely the right thing to do."
She says that fundraisers are often overlooked for top jobs, but challenges the pessimistic mantra that fundraisers don't become CEOs.
"It's to do with the constant professionalisation of charities," she says. "At the moment, trustees are attracted to bringing people in from outside in the hope that someone with commercial experience will somehow sort things out, but it's often not as simple as that."
She encourages fundraisers to keep leadership ambitions: "My gut feeling is that if you fast-forward 10 years, there will be many more former fundraisers in chief executive roles."
One way for aspiring leaders to make a start is by learning and networking at conferences. Beard believes attending annual gatherings is essential, especially for those with big career ambitions who are new to the profession.
"Informal networking is one of the most invaluable and important things you can do," she says.
"It's an opportunity to take the broad view, which is somehow so much more alive than just reading theory. You get out what you put in. Make the most of the opportunity and use every minute to learn."
Beard sounds a note of caution about the fundraising profession becoming preoccupied with the application of techniques - which she believes are a modern obsession - at the expense of simply talking to donors: "Fundraising is essentially about people - and about people giving to other people. It's not about anything else."

 

CV

2007    Principal management consultant, The Management Centre
2006    Acting chief executive, Macmillan Cancer Support
1998    Director of fundraising and public affairs, Macmillan
1997    Director of development, Tate
1991    Head of fundraising, British Red Cross
1989    Director of external relations, Outset, an IT charity
1980    Various fundraising roles at Save the Children

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