At Work: Fundraising - Personal account - Kathryn Walls

A smile can work magic, says Children on the Edge's fundraising manager.

The best advice I've had

My first fundraising boss told me always to smile when I answered the phone because "you never know when that millionaire will ring". Remembering this advice had become second nature when, on an incredibly stressful day preparing for a major event, I smiled as I took a seemingly innocuous call from someone purporting to be from a charitable trust. I took an address, sent the requested information with a nice letter and thought no more about it. Months later we received a donation of £750,000 from the trust.

The biggest challenge I've faced

I once worked for someone who was convinced he could do everyone's job better than them. He employed staff only because he didn't have time to do everything himself. In fundraising, he insisted on signing everything that I sent out. He claimed the credit when funds came in, but if something went wrong it was my fault for "not briefing him properly". Learning to deal with him was a challenge, but I kept smiling (with gritted teeth) and learnt as much as I could before moving on. But I learnt a lot from him - most importantly, how not to do things.

My greatest hit

It's a terrible thing to admit as a fundraiser, but I loathe 'making the ask'. So imagine my dismay when, in my first fundraising job, I was asked to go around stores in town asking them to donate a digital camera to help with our publicity. I never thought I'd be successful in a million years, but my most winning smile eventually did the trick: the two local branches of Boots decided to sponsor us out of their community budget. It turned out that my colleagues hadn't thought I'd be successful either - but when I returned with the news they begged me to visit the Aston Martin dealership.

My worst moment

Probably disassembling a large event marquee on my own. I got trapped under one of the flaps and had to fumble around for one of the door zips to get out, an anxious and sweaty few minutes later.

My top tip

Know your strengths and those of your team - my colleague is brilliant at cold calling, so she always gets that job. In return, I edit all her copy, and those two jobs get done to the best of our team's ability. And finally - never give away your top tip to your competitors.

- Interview by Annie Kelly.

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