Fundraiser of the Week: Emma Johnson of Auditory Verbal UK

The head of fundraising at the charity for deaf pre-school children speaks to Third Sector about mentors and fundraising for niche causes

Emma Johnson
Emma Johnson

How did you get into fundraising?

A friend had started working for a charity and thought I’d be interested in that type of work. I was in a more corporate role and, although I liked the job, I felt something was missing. My first fundraising role gave me a very general grounding in different types of fundraising, so I was very lucky.

What is the best thing about your role?

The best thing is that there is something different every day. I like variety and also having the overview that being a head of department gives you. We are also very close to our beneficiaries because they are in the office every fortnight for their therapy appointments. We get to see them grow and get more confident with spoken language. It can be a lot of fun to be part of and heart-warming to see the children develop.

What particular fundraising challenges do small charities face?

We are a niche ask, so our supporter numbers reflect that, and some people presume that because we charge for some of our services we don’t need to fundraise. Changing people’s perceptions is a big part of what we do and should help with longer-term funding by increasing our supporter numbers.

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

I was so lucky when I started fundraising: lots of people gave their time to have coffee with me and talk about what they did. Their advice and support made me realise what an amazing profession it was and how much fundraisers were prepared to share their experiences and knowledge. I have benefited from that knowledge, so I would say to anyone starting out that they should not be afraid to ask for help and advice from someone who is doing the job you’d like to be doing. They’d probably be delighted to help. And get yourself a mentor. It doesn’t have to be someone in your direct line of work, but someone who has knowledge and experience, especially of line management or leadership if you’re interested in that, can be invaluable.

Which fundraiser do you most admire and why?

A former line manager who was inspirational and friendly, looked after her team and cared a lot about her staff.

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