Do you think fundraising has changed since you have been involved with it, and how?
Yes. I’d say individual giving in particular has become more difficult. After the Olive Cooke story appeared and caused fallout across the sector, fundraisers became more cautious with donor data, and permissions particularly, in order to win back public trust. The data landscape in wider society has also changed vastly in the eight years I’ve been working in fundraising: supporters are far more discerning about the use of their personal information and are more aware of issues such as charity fundraising costs and senior staff salaries. I think all of this change will encourage more engaged and committed supporters and will be a really positive thing for the sector in the long term, despite making fundraising more challenging at the moment.
What is your charity’s main income stream? What are the positive aspects of that, and what are some of the challenges?
For now it’s still donors attracted through direct mail. On the positive side, it’s creative, personal (when done well) and a cost-effective way of fundraising. It’s also rewarding if you enjoy working with data and segmentation. However, responsive supporters of direct mail are becoming scarcer and harder to recruit. The long-term challenge is planning for the decline of direct mail and embracing new channels, including social media and frictionless giving, in a cost-effective way.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Donor recruitment, as I’m sure it is for lots of individual giving fundraisers. Emmaus is a lesser-known homelessness charity, so we have to work extra hard to tell potential supporters about our work. Once people understand what we do and the positive impact we have on the wider community (as well as how to pronounce our name - it’s Ee-MAY-us) they are usually really enthused and happy to get involved and/or donate.
What advice would you give to a new fundraiser just starting out?
Speak to, and meet, your donors as often as possible, and listen to what they think of your fundraising campaigns. In a previous role, I used to visit raffle winners’ homes with a big novelty cheque, and that was a great way of getting to know supporters (it was fun too). In direct marketing, it’s easy to see donors as numbers on a spreadsheet, or as an average gift band in a segment, but it’s always really interesting to hear why people feel so passionately about your work, as well as what they dislike.
What qualities do you believe are important in a good fundraiser?
I think it’s important to be confident and bold as well as having some emotional intelligence – so you can ask the right questions and make effective propositions.
What do you do to switch off from work?
I have a 13-month old daughter who keeps me busy and means I don’t have much trouble switching off from work. I also paint and recently exhibited my work at a local gallery in Birmingham.
What’s your favourite book and why?
Currently it’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, see answer above.