Fundraiser of the Week: Lina Santeusanio of I CAN

Lina Santeusanio, head of trusts and statutory fundraising at the speech, language and communication skills charity I CAN, talks about short-termism, charity size and her favourite books

Lina Santeusanio
Lina Santeusanio

How long have you been in your role?

I joined I CAN this summer, but have been a proud fundraiser for 14 years.

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

Well done you for choosing this path. Explore: make an effort to truly understand why the organisations you work with do what they do and what really moves people to give. Don’t sit on the fence: get involved. It will get messy at times, but it’s also utterly brilliant.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the sector in the year ahead?

For me, the biggest challenge the sector refuses to acknowledge and tackle is short-termism. We seem to veer between fire-fighting one crisis or another and navel-gazing. It really does nothing to make our sector better understood, respected and truly valued.

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

Forget about the bottom line – engage in the process.

What are the fundraising challenges faced by charities of different sizes?

I have had the pleasure of working for both large and small organisations, and although on some fronts they face very different difficulties, many challenges are common to both: distinguishing themselves in a very crowded sector, making a convincing case for core funding as an essential precursor to being an effective charity and striking partnerships with fellow charities that are truly based upon shared goals and values, as opposed to funding and similarly calculated reasons.

Small charities do not have the PR advantage and clout of the big brands and are not as well resourced. But they can be incredibly nimble and build a loyal following among donors who purposefully support only smaller organisations.

Large charities, meanwhile, struggle to come across as having real need, given that they are so well resourced. They can feel rather corporate and, for those delivering government contracts, there is the friction between high dependency on this funding while other donors choose not to contribute to what they see as statutory responsibility. I have seen both large and small organisations, regardless of how long they have been around for, struggle with internal systems and processes that truly support or are simply fit for the purpose of fundraising.

What’s your favourite book and why?

Books are way too important to narrow down to just one. I would heartily recommend having a personal selection of books to "hack life". Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive, Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey and Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers would be in mine. They are all deeply personal, yet universal at the same time. Professionally, everything that Ken Burnett writes is worth reading.

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