How flapjacks got me out of the fundraising ghetto

Third Sector's new columnist Martin Edwards explains his love of fundraising and asks why more charity chief executives don't share his view

Martin Edwards
Martin Edwards

It can't be a coincidence that so many fundraisers complain of being marginalised in their charity - of being regarded as a necessary evil.

I have a confession to make at this point. I am a chief executive and I love fundraisers. Rare, isn't it? Granted, I am biased, because I used to be one. But why is my love for fundraisers - the good ones, anyway - not more widely shared?

I remember being recruited as a charity's first-ever fundraiser and being told: "You're here because of the names in your little black book - and when they're used up we may decide to replace you."

In another charity, we asked all staff to collect petrol points, prompting a programme officer to march into the office and tell us that she "did enough for this company already".

I've also worked for causes where invitations for the fundraising director to come and help shape the charity's overall strategy were rarer than an unsolicited major donor.

If you are a fundraiser and your art is unappreciated, I'm afraid you can't all come and work for me. Here's the good news: the economic climate means your evil will be seen as ever more necessary. Now here's the bad news: the only person who will change things is you.

Back when I was a rookie fundraiser at Save the Children, I used to bake flapjacks and wander down to the charity's Africa desk. I introduced myself to the people that I met and shared my culinary offerings with the gobsmacked staff.

Requests for my recipe followed. Soon they would say things like "we're having a briefing next Friday on Sudan - why don't you come along?"

I did, and was the only fundraiser there, along with the director general, who thereafter took an interest in my career. I told them how useful the briefing was for me - a better-informed fundraiser is a better fundraiser - and suggested they invite more of my tribe next time. And so the ice thawed. I then put the recipe in an accounts file, where it was discovered by a bemused auditor a year later.

Confessions of a chief executive is a new monthly column by Martin Edwards

- Martin Edwards is chief executive of the children's hospice Julia's House


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