Fundraiser of the Week: Laurence Greening of Women for Women International UK

The sponsorship and database coordinator for the development charity talks to Third Sector about teamwork, volunteering and passion for the cause

Laurence Greening
Laurence Greening

How long have you been in your role?

I’ve been with Women for Women International for more than five years. When I started we were a team of 13, which meant that when things got busy we all had to just jump in and help each other out. But I very quickly got a whole range of fundraising experience. Thankfully, I had an incredibly supportive and dedicated bunch of colleagues. Even though we’re nearly 40-strong now, we’ve managed to hold on to that sense of teamwork and passion for the cause, making it a pretty special place to work.

What is the best thing about your role?

Managing our sponsorship programme means that I regularly get to speak with those generous supporters who each sponsor a woman (their "sister") through our year-long training programme. When you’re having a tough day, hearing from a sponsor who’s excited to have received a letter from their sister telling them about what she has learned, and who desperately wants to know how they can write back to her with their love and support – well, it can’t help but turn things around. It’s easy to forget sometimes how much your supporters care too. I’m lucky to get to see that first hand.

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

First, try volunteering. An evening a week or the odd Saturday doing something worthwhile is both rewarding and looks great on your CV. Next, test what’s out there. I decided that I wanted to work in the charity sector long before I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I decided to spend about a year working short-term contracts for various charities and, honestly, it was the best thing I did. It gave me some really diverse experience and let me see how different sized and structured organisations worked. That was invaluable in helping me choose to apply for my current role.

Lastly, make sure it’s a cause you are passionate about. As a fundraiser your passion should flow out of each piece of copy you write and invigorate every supporter you speak to. If you aren’t passionate about the cause it’s going to show and you won’t enjoy yourself as much.

What do you do to switch off from work?

I have the mixed blessing of a long commute. While I have the dubious pleasure of trying to navigate constant train strikes, I do get to read a lot, which I love. I have a self-imposed fiction-only rule for this time, too, so it’s even more of a detachment from work. My brain seldom makes the leap from dragons to KPIs.

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

Ordinarily, when I tell people I work for Women for Women International there’s this awkward moment where you can see their brain whirring before the inevitable "but you’re a man". Once they’ve managed to reconcile that in their heads, most people are just really interested to hear about what we do. Sadly, there are still some people who have read the bad press and assume we’re all "chuggers". However, I find that I can normally win them over when I talk about the incredible women we work with.

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