Fundraiser of the Week: Tracey West of The Word Forest Organisation

The chief executive and fundraiser at the reforestation and education charity that works in Kenya talks to Third Sector about small victories, funding streams and tweeting

Tracey West
Tracey West

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

Don't panic. Goodness knows, the full gamut of "stuff to do" is mind-blowing once you get going. Sink your teeth into something shiny and interesting and claim a few mini-victories. They'll lift your spirits and keep you buoyant about the things you don't manage to pull off. When I started out, I busied myself looking for organisations that were prepared to let me have a bit of free expo equipment. We needed indoor pull-up and outdoor banners and I was chuffed to bits to find a couple of printers who offered freebies for quid pro quo advertising.

What do you do to switch off from work?

Until recently, I'd have said occasional life modelling with a welcome dose of meditation thrown in, but this past year has been quite manic so the odd glass of warm red, a cracking bit of sci-fi on Netflix and smatterings of cheeky stand-up performance poetry keep me out of trouble.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

God forbid I ever grow up.

How did you get into fundraising?

I've been a proud patron of the Women's Action Network Dorset since 2011, so I know how it feels to drown in chaos and be in need of a safe refuge. I recently retired from serving 10 years as a trustee for the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. My mother lost her life to addiction on my 40th birthday. It’s tough being the child of an alcoholic. Using creativity to raise awareness and funds for Wand and NACOA drove me up and out of my own personal darkness. I even swam a mile across the Thames and Lake Windermere – and believe me, I'm a girl built for comfort, not speed. If I put my mind to it and I believe in the need for it, I can raise money for anything.

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

We celebrated our first birthday last month and I'm the only paid member of staff, or at least I will be once we've secured a few more regular streams of income. We're based out in the sticks in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and my biggest hurdle is keeping on top of the creative writing workflow. Unfortunately, we can't commit to employing an assistant yet, although I could easily fill their day if we could – a wordy volunteer would be marvellous.

Do you tweet and why?

I use Buffer across all the usual suspects for the charity, and I've recently restarted tweeting as me. I used to do it way back after I brought out a sustainable living title called The Book of Rubbish Ideas. My publisher said I should make some noise on the platforms, so I did. In fact, I regularly used to tell readers to get my book from the library, which upset the publisher greatly, though my book was the only one of their titles to sell out. As @AuthorTracey I exercise free voice and can go outside of my usual constraints, but my personal stuff is usually about ways we can lean towards the green, so it's never all that far from @WordForestOrg anyway.

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