Fundraiser of the Week: Kath Vale of Dementia Adventure

The fundraiser at the charity that helps people living with dementia connect with nature talks to Third Sector about how she got into fundraising and working with a mentor

Kath Vale
Kath Vale

How long have you been in your role?

I’ve been working as a fundraiser for four years and have been with Dementia Adventure since April 2016.

How did you get into fundraising?

I spent 10 years building a successful career as a marketing manager at a top global professional services firm. After a break to bring up my young children, I was looking for a new challenge. I realised that marketing skills and fundraising skills are very similar – they are all about presenting your organisation in the right way and persuading people they should support you. So I took the leap and decided to use my skills to benefit the charitable sector. I was very lucky that a local charity needed a fundraiser at the time and was willing to take a risk with me. Since then, I’ve learnt on the job.

What is the best thing about your role?

The best thing about my role is the varied work I get involved in and the huge variety of people I get to meet and speak to. One day I can be locked away in my office on my own, concentrating on a detailed project plan as part of a grant application. The next day I could be speaking to people who are taking part in a challenge event for us, attending an event where I will get to speak with representatives from other charities or meeting a local business that wants to give us a donation. It’s really challenging, but never boring.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The fact that there is only me! I am the only fundraiser at Dementia Adventure, so I get stuck into absolutely everything to do with fundraising – from dealing with a thank-you letter for a small postal cheque donation to writing a funding application for half a million pounds. I have to prioritise my time and not get dragged into doing things that will take me away from those priorities.

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 grants from charitable trusts and foundations. We have some fantastic funders as long-term supporters, but being too reliant on grants is just not sustainable – so I’m starting to try to diversify our income into legacies, regular donations and corporate giving. This is a big challenge – we are a small charity, so some of these areas require substantial up-front investment before we will see any return, while other income streams require large numbers of supporters, which we just don’t have at present.

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

Through the People’s Postcode Lottery, I have recently been matched with a mentor in another charity. Just spending time talking through my strategy with him and getting advice has been incredibly valuable. More support like this for smaller charities would be great, especially from charities that have recently grown and can share their learning with others that are starting out on that journey.

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