Preston Keeling, FInstF, chair of the Proteus Partnership and chief executive of the Respite Association

Bring more generalists into fundraising sector for better co-operation.

When I first became a paid professional fundraiser (back in the days of gas lighting), my route into the profession was via having served on a number of local charity committees. The voluntary work I had been involved in had given me a fairly good level of experience in regard to event organisation and what we would now refer to as 'community fundraising'.

The early years of my employment saw me receiving experience of a range of other techniques, such as appeal mailings, collections, catalogue trading, lotteries and trusts. Although I still had my own specialist areas, all this experience allowed me to feel that I could justifiably now call myself a 'generalist'.

In more recent years, I have become increasingly concerned about the degree to which so many people who have come into our profession have a much narrower field of experience. Obviously, we need to have people who are true experts in particular fields but it seems to me that employers should give greater consideration to ensuring that their staff - especially those newly embarking on a fundraising career - should be given the opportunity to gain a wider range of knowledge than can be got from working in just one specialist department.

Obviously, having staff that do not understand or fully appreciate the work of other fundraising departments within the same organisation can lead to many missed opportunities for co-operation and increased income.

Of course, there is not just the issue of missed opportunities now, but also in the future. After all, a director of fundraising with a very narrow personal experience of fundraising techniques may find themselves vulnerable to being overly reliant upon their departmental heads.

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