Fundraiser of the Week: Katie Stokes of mothers2mothers

The fundraiser for the charity that employs and trains HIV-positive women to deliver health services in sub-Saharan Africa talks about the benefits of starting your career in a small charity

Katie Stokes
Katie Stokes

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

Start your fundraising career in a smaller organisation. When I joined mothers2mothers there were only eight of us in the UK office. This meant that everyone got involved in all aspects of the fundraising office, which gave me experience in everything from events planning,to meeting major donors and writing newsletters. We also have a great group of global supporters, social media friends and community fundraisers, so it taught me a lot about how to think creatively about fundraising and the links between all these areas. This really was invaluable in helping me to work out exactly what I wanted to do.

What do you do to switch off from work?

I’m fortunate (if you can call it that!) to have a gym next door to my house. I go to different classes four or five times a week and it’s great because I’m forced to switch off from the outside world for an hour, something I’m not usually very good at. My favourite class is "body combat" – I find it incredibly cathartic and a great way to work through whatever I have going on at the time.

What’s your favourite book and why?

I can’t definitively say that it’s my favourite book, but I’ve recently read The 10 Types of Human by Dexter Dias, and it’s definitely up there. It explores what human beings are capable of given different sets of circumstances. One of the reasons I rate it is that it talks about the evolution of the brain while intertwining the neuroscience with real-life stories. Although understandably distressing at times, it ultimately left me with a greater understanding of why humans act as they do. As a major donor fundraiser, I’ve found this hugely helpful when thinking about donors’ motivations for giving. 

How did you get into fundraising?

Music and acting have always been in my blood and I was lucky enough to pursue both of these passions when I was accepted into drama school. After working as an actor/musician for a number of years, I started temping at a private equity company. By this point, my priorities had changed and, although I still loved the acting world, stability and the ability to raise a family were becoming increasingly important. I looked at the other things in my life that made me happy and one of them was helping people. I contacted a fundraising recruiter, who put me in touch with mothers2mothers. When I heard about the incredible work it was doing, I fell in love. The people skills I’d learnt from working as an actor, and the experience gained temping, really lent themselves towards major-donor fundraising – I have met and worked with so many people that I feel confident talking to pretty much anyone, and my organisational skills really help me with all of the behind the scenes work that goes on to make sure I’m managing all of my donors and prospects as effectively as possible.

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

Although I wish it wasn’t the case, I think there are still negative connotations associated with being a fundraiser. Someone I met at an event recently said to me: "Fundraiser? Don’t you mean guilt-raiser?" When I meet someone like this, I talk about the incredible impact that mothers2mothers is having for thousands of the most marginalised women and children in the world. After all, it’s the reason I go to work every day.

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