Fundraiser of the Week: Samantha Braithwaite of Penny Brohn UK

The head of fundraising opportunities at the cancer support charity talks to Third Sector about loss, competition in fundraising and completing fundraising events with her 16-month-old

Samantha Braithwaite
Samantha Braithwaite

How did you get into fundraising?

In 2013, while working for Accolade Wines, I was fortunate to be given a sabbatical to volunteer with the development charity Raleigh International as a project manager in Borneo. I raised more than £2,000 in sponsorship to take part – I organised fundraising events, ran marathons and obtained donations from businesses and through PR. It was an incredible experience and took me out of my comfort zone into some challenging environments and situations. 

When I returned I decided I wanted to do more with my career and give something back. At the same time my oldest friend was living with a terminal cancer diagnosis and using the services at Penny Brohn UK. I got to know the charity and how it supports people with cancer. A vacancy came up and I have never looked back.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The most challenging aspect is dealing with loss. We get to know some truly inspiring people through our work. A number of the people who we support at Penny Brohn UK in turn support us by fundraising. It is always sad to hear that one of our clients has died, especially when we have worked so closely with them.

In fundraising we also deal with the loss of potential funds. It can be disheartening to put a lot of time and energy into an application or pitch and be unsuccessful. As a fundraiser you have to be resilient and use it as an opportunity to learn.

What do you do to switch off from work?

I really enjoy running. It helps me to switch off when I finish work. I ran my first marathon for Penny Brohn UK in 2012 when I completed the London Marathon. Since then I have completed a number of races in aid of the charity and even trained for an ultramarathon. 

My little girl is 16 months old and keeps me busy when I’m not at work. We will be doing our first fundraising event together this autumn when we take part in Stomp, a six-mile sponsored walk in aid of Penny Brohn UK. She loves Peppa Pig at the moment, so she is hoping for a few muddy puddles along the way!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

It would be to read people's minds. I think this would be helpful at work and at home. At work I would be able to know what a funder really wants but perhaps is not saying before I pitch to them. This would save time for both of us. At home it would be very handy for understanding what my toddler wants.

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

Fundraising has definitely changed. It’s even more competitive, with more charities competing and less money available. After years of austerity there is very little statutory funding, putting further demands on trusts for funds. And with Brexit looming, many companies are uncertain about the future and unable to commit to charitable giving. Despite this, more people than ever are relying on charities to provide services.

Charities are working harder than ever to show their impact to donors and rebuild trust that has been lost in the sector after crises in high-profile charities. The General Data Protection Regulation has also changed fundraising in relation to how we communicate with our donors and build relationships with potential supporters.

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