Fundraiser of the Week: Kat Dixon of Catch22

The head of partnership development at the social welfare charity talks to Third Sector about interpersonal skills and recruiting people from outside the sector

Kat Dixon
Kat Dixon

What is the best thing about your role?

I get to work with some amazing partners. Working with organisations such as Google.org, Barclays and Microsoft expands my thinking. We are creating this big-picture vision for improving people’s lives. I love developing and testing new services at scale: some of our projects are pilots that run for two-plus years; some reach thousands of people. And we are tackling everything from youth violence through to unemployment. It is fascinating stuff.

How did you get into fundraising?

Catch22 took a punt on me. I worked in healthcare, on private-NHS partnerships, and I had a load of skills in relationship-building, project management and service design. I am a big advocate of recruiting people from outside the sector. Fundraising needs fresh talent and requires a lot of transferable skills. I had never worked in fundraising before but was drawn to our motto: "Heart of a charity, mindset of a business." I think they liked my attitude.

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

You have got to be good with people, but interpersonal skills can be learned. That was certainly true for me. Understanding the nuts and bolts of what you are selling is also important. I have worked in operations and sometimes this gives me an edge. I know how to ask the right questions and get the most out of operational staff. Being a good facilitator is important: you need to listen to your funder and reflect back what they want. You have got to be really, really organised, or you will miss something.

What particular fundraising challenges do large charities face?

When you are a big charity, it can be hard to get unrestricted income. Our turnover is about £50m a year and there is an assumption that we have loads of cash. We are on the lookout for investment to enhance our central services. While it is boring to fund the back office, with support our front-line workers would have more quality time with the people we serve.

What makes a good corporate partnership?

I think the best corporate partnerships fulfil philanthropic aims while solving a business problem. If you can address an organisation’s business needs while doing something great in the world, it is win-win. Working at Catch22 is great because we are bold. We want to influence the system so that government will adopt what we do.

My favourite example of this is employment: if we get it right, employers will hire a diverse workforce and support people who have faced barriers into work. Our vision is that this will become normal, not something a charity does. I love this vision of creating something sustainable, without endless grant-making. Philanthropy works best when it works alongside business, not as an alternative.

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