Fundraiser of the Week: Emma Sambrook of Hft

The director of fundraising at the learning disability support charity talks about understanding the customer, passion and resilience

Emma Sambrook
Emma Sambrook

What is the best thing about your role?

For me it’s the team. I love helping other people to succeed and I feel fortunate to work with some great people who are really enthusiastic and keen to develop fresh and exciting ideas. There is nothing more satisfying than empowering a team to trial something they have created and for them to see it working.   

What is your charity’s main income stream? What are the positive aspects of that, and what are some of the challenges?

Our main income stream is funding from local authorities that commission care packages for the people we support. That can be challenging because potential donors will often think the people we support already have funding and wonder why they need our help. But given all the cuts, the money they get from the local authority covers only the essentials, the money they need to exist. With the team I get to fundraise for all the crucial things that transform a person’s life; the things that enable the people we support to live life on their own terms and make the difference between existing and having the best life possible.

How did you get into fundraising?

I began my career selling magazines and I remember thinking that if I could sell magazines I could sell a cause – it’s just about understanding the customer. I moved into charity fundraising and haven’t looked back since. Over the years I’ve learnt that the more you can personalise the experience for the people supporting the charity, the more successful the outcome will be. 

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

Just do it! I’ve been given lots of great advice over the years, but this is the piece of advice that has really stuck with me and it’s the approach I take to life. If you have a great idea, try it out. Don’t overplan or let any reservations about things that could happen hold you back – just give it a go. If it does work, that’s great; but if it doesn’t, look at why it didn’t work and use that learning to try something else.

What qualities do you believe are important in a good fundraiser?

Passion and resilience are essential. I think it’s important not to be put off at once by the word "no". It could be that "no" means "not yet", "not that amount", "not at the moment" or "not that project". It’s putting yourself in that person’s shoes, seeing it from their perspective and understanding what that "no" could mean – recognising that it might just be the start of the conversation. From there, it’s a case of going back in a way that is more suited to that person or organisation. It’s about creating a great fundraising experience for that person.

Which fundraiser do you most admire and why?

Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, was a former fundraising officer for Women’s Aid. She is passionate about supporting women and she is now using her knowledge and expertise in completely different way to continue to make a difference. I think that’s fantastic. For me, it’s about creating a legacy. I want to make a difference. Ultimately, I would like people to say: "She knew what she was doing, she did it well and she helped many, many people."  I think Phillips has done that.

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