Careers: The new generation: a magnificent seven

Helen Barrett interviews some of the young players in the voluntary sector.

LAURA BAYNHAM-HUGHES, 29 - Acting head of corporate and events fundraising, Help the Aged

Laura Baynham-Hughes, the youngest fundraising group head at Help the Aged, loves the responsibility of her job. "It's a challenge, but not one I find daunting," she says.

Today she heads a team of fundraisers, all under 35, but she began her career as a volunteer with Action for Blind People, quickly securing a temporary contract and rising to become fundraising development manager before she joined Help the Aged in 2004. It's an impressive track record for someone so young, but Baynham-Hughes believes she's not alone. "Hard work attracts young people," she says. "We work long hours, and we have the stamina to do it."

MAYA LIVERSIDGE, 24 - Fundraiser, St Catherine's Hospice, Scarborough

A chance remark in the pub led to Maya Liversidge's career in fundraising. Two years ago, the graduate was working in a bar while trying to break into the world of advertising. "A friend said 'you might as well go and volunteer at the hospice'," says Liversidge. "It wasn't a bad idea."

She joined St Catherine's as a volunteer and, within two months, she had become a paid member of staff on the fundraising team.

Liversidge loves her job. "No two days are the same," she says. But she insists that fundraising is not a soft option for graduates.

TAMARA MATTHEWS, 24 - Head of trusts and foundations, Bowel Cancer UK

Tamara Matthews' first-hand experience of cancer support was the catalyst to her move towards fundraising.

"I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 17," she says. "It was hard for the people around me to understand, so I called telephone helplines. They helped me feel I wasn't alone."

Today, she cites her greatest achievement as securing a £10,000 grant from the Thompson Fund towards the cost of Bowel Cancer UK's own telephone helpline. "It's staffed by specialist nurses and costs the charity £25 for a 10-minute conversation," she says. "It's expensive but worthwhile, because the staff know what they're talking about."

Matthews became hooked on charity work while studying at the University of East Anglia, and her ambitions lie in international development. "My family live in Kenya, and I visit regularly," she says. "Eventually I want to set up my own charity there."

CONNIE POTTER, 26 - Events fundraiser, St John Ambulance

Connie Potter left college with no idea of what she wanted to do. Four years later, her ambitions are clear. "I want to be a director of fundraising," she says.

A trek to Mount Kilimanjaro on behalf of Cancer Research UK sparked her decision to carve out a career in fundraising. Potter believes young people love events fundraising because dynamic challenges abroad match their aspirations. "It's great for supporters to get advice from people who have experienced the challenges themselves," she says.

Potter says money is an incentive. "Entry-level salaries in fundraising aren't that bad for graduates," she says. "It's when people get older that they start to look for work in areas that pay better."

MATT WHITE, 29 - Direct marketing manager, Scope

Matt White is certainly dedicated to his job. The marketing graduate took part in Scope's World Cup-themed bike challenge to Berlin this month. "It took me six days and I raised £1,000," he says. "But the best bit was talking to our supporters and finding out what motivates them."

White says a career in fundraising was always at the back of his mind, although he expected to toil away in the private sector beforehand. After graduating, he worked briefly for a marketing agency before joining Scope as a fundraiser in 2001. Since then, he has risen to direct marketing manager in only five years.

"I'm really happy here," he says. "There are only positives in my job."

KATE POLLARD, 28 - Corporate team fundraising manager, Asthma UK

Kate Pollard has just landed her "dream job", which, judging by her track record, is well deserved. Pollard joined Asthma UK this month following a stint as business development manager at Breast Cancer Care, where she led the pitch to Lloyds TSB for charity of the year. It won, securing publicity and a targeted income of £1.2m - not bad for an organisation that had never been anyone's charity of the year before. "Without a doubt, that was a career highlight," she says.

Pollard believes fundraising is a popular option for graduates. "Young people don't necessarily want a job just to bring in money," she says. "They want a job with passion and pride."

LAURA MCVEIGH, 30 - Income development and PR manager, UK Youth

Laura McVeigh worked for a publishing company as head of new media before switching to the voluntary sector, working first in development funding before taking up her current post at UK Youth in 2005. She believes more young people could be persuaded to make the same switch, but that many are unaware of fundraising as a career option.

"Young people like the idea of working for a cause that they care about," she says. "People often come into fundraising from a business background and then discover that it's a great job."

McVeigh says that, for her, the transition was smooth. "Sales, marketing and development for business are certainly transferable skills," she says. "It's just that now I'm in the business of helping people."

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