Fundraiser of the Week: Jenner Fabian of the School for Social Entrepreneurs

The development manager at the education and social enterprise charity talks flexible working and purposeful corporate relationships

Jenner Fabian
Jenner Fabian

How long have you been in your role?

Two years. I’ve been a fundraising manager at various charities for 11 years. 

How did you get into fundraising?

By chance rather than by design. I was working for a great charity as a project manager and the chief executive thought I would be good at corporate fundraising. So I moved teams and have been focused on that area of fundraising ever since.

Having the experience of the programme side of things has really helped with fundraising because I have an understanding of the pressures and needs of delivery teams and can translate what they are doing to the funder audiences.

Would you like to see more done to support fundraisers if so, what?

Recently, the issue of flexible working has been important to me as a part-time working parent (I have two young children). Fundraising can be pressured and deadlines are a common feature – I know some parents who have not been able to continue in fundraising roles because of that. The sector is either missing out on a talented group of people that way, or there’s a risk of talent being underutilised.

I think both the sector and charity leadership should do more to look at how the knowledge and insight of experienced fundraisers can be better utilised within part-time, flexible roles. For example, thinking creatively about structuring teams that are full-time and part-time, role divisions and creating opportunities for their experience to be valued and shared with colleagues.

What reaction do you get from people when you tell them you’re a fundraiser?

"Is that a paid job? Really? How interesting…"

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

As a corporate fundraiser, it was that being open is usually the best approach. Pretending a corporate is being altruistic doesn’t help anyone. Find out what they need – employee volunteering, marketing, PR, customers – and create opportunities that tick their boxes… but also the charity’s. Use their agenda to deliver your aims. Don’t let it cause mission drift.

How important are corporate partnerships and what can they offer a charity?

Corporate partnerships are incredibly useful for a lot of charities, and for society as a whole. Charities, though fundamental to social progress, can’t transform society alone – everyone has a responsibility to create a fairer world. Corporates have the scale to create widespread change and the talent to help our sector develop.

Charities can bring about change by using corporate spending power for good and applying to the third sector innovations, approaches and technologies that are creating growth in the private sector. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement – businesses, in particular big businesses, will survive in the long term only if they benefit the communities they operate in. They can deepen their understanding of social issues by partnering with charities.

But it’s not enough for corporates to just make donations, as useful as that is. The relationship needs to be deeper and more purposeful. At the School for Social Entrepreneurs, we’re exploring "social intrapreneurship". We’re looking at how bringing corporate employees together with non-profit leaders creates opportunities for corporate staff to tackle major social or environmental problems from their desks. These corporate intrapreneurs benefit from the passion and experience of charity professionals, while widening the networks, reach and resources of non-profits.

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