Fundraiser of the Week: Helen Sanderson of Penny Brohn UK

The trusts fundraiser at the cancer support charity talks to Third Sector about being involved with projects, keeping a supply of tea handy and playing the waiting game

Helen Sanderson
Helen Sanderson

How long have you been in your role at Penny Brohn UK?

This is my first fundraising role and I’ve been in it for just over a year – it’s flown by. I had done a little volunteering, but was really new to fundraising. It has been a steep learning curve, but I’ve learnt a lot and am lucky to be part of such a dedicated and fun team.

What is the best thing about your role?

It’s undoubtedly being able to see projects through from conception to implementation. I work closely with colleagues from across the charity, talk to volunteers and to the people who use our cancer support services. It’s fantastic to see ideas translate into reality. Funders are key to making this happen, and I think trusts fundraising can be most effective when you find a partner that shares your vision and commitment to a project. We are currently working with the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation on a nutritional programme to help people affected by cancer. Although we are just getting started, I have such high hopes for the coming year because we share the same goals, and the foundation is really engaged. Next month, I’ll be talking to our lead nutritional therapist about her plans for 2019 – what more can we do to help? How can we reach more people? It’s really exciting to be involved in those discussions and to help make it happen.

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

Talk to everyone. There’s so much to be learnt from colleagues, volunteers, supporters and other organisations. I’ve found people are really happy to help, to share ideas and expertise. I’ve come across a few good leads too. It stands you in good stead just knowing who might be best to talk to when you need help, and creates opportunities you wouldn’t know were there without that quick chat. It doesn’t hurt to stay stocked up on tea, too.

How did you get into fundraising?

Fundraising was quite a big career change for me. I had been a cancer research scientist for many years, and volunteering was key to gaining work experience and making the move into fundraising. I was so pleased to get a corporate volunteering role at Penny Brohn, because it’s a cause close to my heart. After a year of volunteering, I was encouraged to go for a trusts fundraising role by our partnerships manager, who has been amazingly supportive. I’m looking forward to year two.

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

Patience – for a trusts fundraiser, at least. Some bids might have a quick turnaround, but many take months, and it’s a waiting game. I think it’s good to be proactive as well, seeking out opportunities and making the most of them. Then you can relax at the end of the day and be happy you’ve done your best.

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