Fundraiser of the Week: Liz Tait of the Teenage Cancer Trust

The director of fundraising at the charity that provides specialist nursing and emotional support to 13 to 24-year-olds with cancer talks to Third Sector

Liz Tait
Liz Tait

How long have you been in your role?

Just eleven months. I joined at the end of 2018 after eight amazing years at Battersea, where we grew from being a £10m to an almost £40m charity. I now feel very lucky to be leading fundraising at the Teenage Cancer Trust at an equally exciting time, when we are about to launch an ambitious plan for how we can do more for young people with cancer. As a fundraiser it’s not often you get to join a charity with so much potential, a distinctive brand and a desire to invest in fundraising, or to work for a dynamic chief executive with a fundraising background.

What is the best thing about your role?

Nothing beats meeting our supporters, particularly young people with first-hand experience of cancer and their loved ones, who‘ve found purpose, comfort and motivation in fundraising for us during the most difficult of times. At events that we run to thank our supporters we also get the chance to hear from some of the amazing young people who have had cancer and support from the trust. I learn something new from each of their stories.

Do you think fundraising has changed since you have been involved with it, and how?

I’ve been a professional fundraiser for 20 years and over the past five fundraising has changed immeasurably. We work in an environment of increased scrutiny, regulation and innovation. I genuinely believe we’re stronger as a sector after the crisis of 2015 and that we are all thinking differently about how we engage and build long-term relationships with supporters, how we can meet the needs of our supporters with tailored propositions and how we can make supporting our charities meaningful and fun where appropriate. We think more about the person behind the donation, and that can only be a good thing.

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

Connect with the fundraising community, draw on the collective expertise out there and seek out mentors and buddies at other charities. You can never stop learning from the many brilliant people in our sector. On the tough days, remember that anything worth achieving isn’t easy. Fundraising is challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding, so find yourself a charity where you are challenged, rewarded and cherished in equal measure.

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

As a long-standing volunteer with the Institute of Fundraising, I would love to see us achieve chartered status as an institute. I very much hope that this will lead to more investment in the personal development for fundraisers from the charities that they serve. I’d love to see easier access to mentors both from within and outside the sector. Fundraising is a joyful profession when you are well supported and challenged to make the world a better place.

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

The best fundraisers are positive, flexible, driven and tenacious, with an innate ability to see the potential all around them, spin plates, work at speed and unrivalled passion and ambition for the cause. At the trust I’m proud to lead a team of energetic and experienced fundraisers who embody these qualities every single day. My team are committed to doing all they can to ensure that we continue and grow our vital services for young people with cancer.

What do you do to switch off from work?

I spend time with my small children. Life is fantastically full both inside work and out.

What keeps you awake at night?

My small children.

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