Fundraiser of the Week: Alice Barley of Theodora Children's Charity

The fundraising and communications manager at the charity that provides entertainment to children in hospital talks to Third Sector about avoiding burnout, parliamentary security and flying

Alice Barley
Alice Barley

How long have you been in your role?

18 months.

What is the best thing about your role?

There is so much I love about my role, but particularly the fact that it is so varied. There is no "typical" day and I am always working on multiple projects at once. My role combines both fundraising and communications, so I could be speaking to a corporate partner or working on an application in the morning, then filming our Giggle Doctors – the performers we send to visit children – at a hospital in the afternoon.

Working with Giggle Doctors also means that I end up having quite surreal and hilarious experiences. Last year I organised an event at the House of Lords that two of our Giggle Doctors were going to attend in character. They often carry lots of props for the children in their pockets, and I remember calling to find out if they would be able to bring their fart machines through the security. Thankfully, the security team saw the funny side. With conversations like that, no two days are ever the same, which always keeps me on my toes.

What advice would you give to a new fundraiser just starting out?

You don’t need to have a big career plan. Give yourself the time and space to learn what you like and what you’re good at. Just take the opportunities that come your way and always look for new ways to keep learning. We work in a very warm and welcoming sector, so reach out to other fundraisers and build a group of people you can turn to for support. It is often reassuring to hear that other people are facing the same challenges as you.  

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To fly. As a child I would have recurring dreams about flying all the time. I think it would feel really freeing – and save me money on EasyJet flights.

How did you get into fundraising?

I sort of always knew that I wanted to work within the charity sector and was very involved in a volunteering society at my university. From that I was able to get an internship with Cancer Research UK in its fundraising team. I discovered I really enjoyed getting to build relationships with fundraisers, and everything clicked into place. Despite interning at a very large charity, I have always worked at small charities. I enjoy being part of a small team and feel it has given me many opportunities to really develop as a fundraiser.

What’s the best piece of fundraising advice you’ve ever been given?

On my first day in my in first ever role, a more senior fundraiser told me: "We’re not brain surgeons; try to keep everything in perspective." That has stuck with me ever since. As fundraisers, our work is never done and we’re naturally passionate about our causes, always wanting to do more, raise more and help as many beneficiaries as possible. It is easy to get burnt out and feel there aren’t enough hours during the day. Sometimes during stressful periods I still say to myself "it’s ok, we’re not brain surgeons". It helps to give me a bit of perspective and work out which things on my to-do list can be moved to tomorrow.

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