Personal account: Mide Akerewusi

Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, says Scope's head of high-value appeals.

The best advice I've had
Raise more, spend less. My first fundraising manager told me that. He was very ambitious, took a lot of risks and had an unbelievable success rate. Working with him felt like being on the floor of the London Stock Exchange.

The biggest challenge I've faced
My greatest challenge is maintaining a healthy balance between my professional responsibilities at Scope, my voluntary work as chair of the Black Fundraisers Network and my responsibilities to my family at home. When I became a fundraiser 11 years ago, I felt like the odd one out.

After some time, I got to work with Glen Fendley, a major-donor consultant and the only other black fundraiser I knew. It was eight years before I discovered there were more than a handful of us in the sector. In 2003, myself, Paul Amadi and four other black fundraisers formed the Black Fundraisers Network. Since then, the network's membership has grown to 500 people.

My greatest hit
The largest single gift I've raised is £2.5m. I did it when I was first at Scope in 1998. The grant was awarded by the Millennium Commission to enable disabled people to achieve their dreams in the run-up to the new millennium. On a personal level, I was also very proud to raise a £180,000 lottery grant for the Children's Society in 2001. The grant was used to research the experiences of young black people in prison custody. There are far too many black teenagers in detention who have been forgotten by society.

My worst moment
It happened on the ninth floor of a deserted office block in the west end of London. I suddenly realised that my meeting with one of the largest trusts in the UK should actually be taking place in its new location three miles away. I felt like a complete fool as I took my chief executive and director down the lift and into the first available taxi. It was the longest cab ride of my life. No matter how good you are at your job, life has a way of letting you know that you don't know it all.

My top tip
If you don't ask, you don't get. All too often, I think major-donor fundraisers hide behind research, events organising and producing development plans, instead of asking directly for money. I don't have any scientific evidence to back this up, but I've always believed it is human nature to ask, to give and to receive.

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