Fundraiser of the Week: Susan Booth, Target Ovarian Cancer

The director of development at the cancer support and research charity talks to Third Sector about persistence, Brexit and limited resources

Susan Booth
Susan Booth

What is the best thing about your role at Target Ovarian Cancer?

Undoubtedly, the people, the variety and the feeling of momentum and belonging. I am very fortunate to be working with some amazing colleagues and supporters who have helped to drive consistent growth for the five years I have been with the charity. It makes my role challenging, but ultimately incredibly rewarding and fun.

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

Hugely! I started as a volunteer driving an animal ambulance more than 20 years ago, when all we had to do was to get an article in the local paper and the donations would flood in. It’s become increasingly hard to raise money over the years, with many more charities for people to choose from and increasing pressures on people’s time and money. However, the growing professionalisation of fundraising is definitely improving standards and confidence in the work we do on a day-to-day basis. I have always believed in creating a great experience for supporters of a charity and helping them to share that feeling of momentum and connection with the cause they are so passionate about. The recent focus on the donor experience is long overdue and one that I hope will endure and develop over the coming years.

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

Be hungry and open, seek opportunities and ask for (and listen to) feedback. Be persistent, be brave: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Be social, network like mad and create a circle of peers to whom you can turn with queries. Find a mentor through schemes such as the Tony Elischer Foundation.

Be reflective: listen to your supporters and really try to understand what motivates them, then use that to delight them with the connection you create. Be resilient: you won’t be able to do everything on your to-do list every day, so learn how to prioritise and keep your home and work lives separate. Just do your very best and make sure your line manager is in the loop.

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

Can I mention the B word? Brexit will no doubt present a challenge, whichever way it turns out. The challenge for the sector and fundraising in particular revolves around confidence and the impact on people’s disposable income. From the director of development’s point of view, the challenge is being able to answer the questions from trustees about your forecasts and what impact you think Brexit will have. Now where did I put that crystal ball?

If you work for a small charity, what particular fundraising challenges do they face?

There are big opportunities as well as challenges for a small charity. Working for a smaller charity gives you the opportunity to look beyond your role and gain experience in lots of other areas and disciplines. It’s invaluable if you’re deciding whether to specialise or not. Regarding fundraising challenges, we know all our supporter names and stories, and it’s harder to maintain those personal relationships when the numbers you’re dealing with grow. It’s also hard to recruit the right people to your team when you have limited resources, though I know this is a problem for larger charities too.

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