Fundraiser of the Week: Sarah Whiting of Hope and Homes for Children

The director of global marketing, communications and fundraising at the charity that campaigns against orphanages talks about great fundraising, building trust and what inspired her to become a fundraiser

Sarah Whiting
Sarah Whiting

How long have you been in your role?

Four years.

What is the best thing about your role?

Waking up every day knowing I’m working with the most incredible and like-minded souls to help children grow up in loving families instead of shocking overseas orphanages.

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

Great fundraising hasn’t changed, no. Great fundraising is about inspiring people to give their time, money and expertise to create vital change. And where this happens everyone’s lives are transformed. The poor fundraising – what I’d consider transactional fundraising – has had its day. And I think that’s a positive thing.

What is your charity’s main income stream? What are the positive aspects of that, and what are some of the challenges?

We’ve been able to double our income in the past five years, mainly thanks to a small clutch of highly engaged and loyal supporters. To double our income again, we need to build our community of supporters. Last year our UKAid match-funded End the Silence Appeal kick-started this process. With the support of the government, Google, YouTube and world-renowned musicians including Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeran, our appeal raised £5.2m and vital awareness of the dangers of orphanages among a new and younger audience.

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

Find a cause you feel passionately about, one that speaks to your head as much as your heart, and then soak up as much as you can from those around you who you consider great.

How did you get into fundraising?

I was inspired by Jerry Jopson of Save the Children when he gave a talk at my school. He told me that if I raised a certain amount of money a woman would not have to walk for water and her children would go to school. I raised the money, had a great time doing it and remember feeling incredibly excited when I realised I might be able to have a career as a fundraiser.

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

Building trust with the public and closing the huge gap that exists between their perceptions of how charities are run and how they actually are.

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

You need to love people, derive energy from building partnerships, be super curious and able to spot opportunities, and be able to "fail fast" – that is, to rapidly assess a new idea and adapt or kill it if it is not working.

What do you do to switch off from work?

A hug from my two young boys always does the trick.

What’s your favourite book and why?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. There’s so many reasons why: the fight against injustice, the kindness with which this was tackled and the role of empathy. You must always walk in someone else’s shoes to understand why they do what they do.

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