My career: Alison Sopp, Action for Blind People

The charity's head of statutory funding on a nasty encounter with pigeons

The best advice I've had

When she was director of development at Action for Blind People, Gill Astarita said getting pots of money from trusts can take time. Even if you're not aware of it, trusts keep tabs on organisations from afar; keeping in touch can pay off.

The biggest challenge I've faced

I'm facing it now: I'm trying to find a balance between delivering contracts and ensuring that the needs of visually impaired people get to the top of the agenda for statutory agencies.

My greatest hit

I was working for a Hungarian NGO in the late 1990s and was asked to find funding for its awards scheme.

I had never done any corporate fundraising, but I spotted the shiny new offices of a multinational bank from a tram window and thought I'd give it a go. After one meeting they offered to meet the costs of the whole programme.

The hardest thing was not showing my boss my amazement that I had actually pulled it off.

My worst moment

When I worked for an organisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I persuaded an important contact from a US foundation to visit. He wanted to see the views from the top of a local landmark.

After a long climb in complete darkness up a rickety staircase, we eventually reached the top to find that the view was the local dye factory's boiler-room, rather than the hoped-for glimpse of the mountains.

On the descent, some of the steps collapsed and we were attacked by a flock of startled birds. Our potential donor emerged covered in pigeon droppings. I thought we'd never hear from him again, but he did end up supporting us.

My top tip

Although statutory funding is largely a contractual arrangement between a charity and a statutory agency, it's as important to nurture the relationships you have with such funders as it is with other forms of fundraising.

Interview by Annie Kelly

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