Interview: Nadine Adamski

The Sabre Trust fundraiser says winning an IoF award last year made her feel she was right to give up architecture to raise cash for schools in Ghana

Nadine Adamski of the Sabre Trust

Not many people spend seven years training as an architect and then choose to be a fundraising manager. But Nadine Adamski, winner of the Best Up-and-coming Fundraiser award at last year's Institute of Fundraising Awards, did exactly that.

The story started in 2009 when she was a volunteer in a design team working on a prototype kindergarten complex for the Ghanaian government. Arup, the firm of architects leading the project, was working to a brief from the Sabre Trust, an educational charity based in Ghana and Cornwall.

"I got the Sabre bug," says Adamski, who went to Ghana as part of the project with others in the design team. "It really is quite special. It has between 15 and 25 people working in Ghana, and it blew me away to see the impact such a small charity was making. I was struck by how professional and innovative it was - not just building schools, but trying to create something with long-term impact that was sustainable environmentally and financially for the community."

The charity uses local materials, such as coir from coconut husks, to insulate the roofs, and trains local tradespeople to build the schools.

When she was ready to return to work after the birth of her first child in 2011, Adamski approached Sabre to see if it needed an in-house architect. It did not, but it did need a fundraiser. "They took a bit of a punt on me," she says. "I think they decided that someone with my passion and drive for the cause would be more effective than someone hired just because they were a fundraiser."

Adamski says winning the IoF award made her feel confident that she was moving in the right direction.

Her biggest success so far, she says, was raising £45,000 in a week through the Big Give's Christmas appeal, an online match-funding platform. She says the campaign used email, imagery and social media to connect with donors, and the results surpassed expectations.

But it has not been an easy year. Adamski admits that the charity's first campaign to increase the number of regular donors, First Day at School, did not go as well as she hoped and failed to hit its targets. But she is confident that the idea has potential and is planning to relaunch it with a more targeted audience in mind.

She says that sitting on the IoF's judging panel for this year's awards has given her the chance to learn from the experience of other charities and their approach to campaigns. "It showed me that I've still got a lot to learn," she says. "Some charities have wonderful media teams behind them."

Adamski is due to return to work soon after maternity leave for her second child, and she has some big plans. A trip to Ghana is planned for later this year so that she can see, for the first time, the schools she helped to design. She will be meeting potential Ghanaian corporate partners as part of plans to expand fundraising in the country itself.

Asked if she sees herself moving to a bigger charity in the future, she says: "I went into the charity sector because of Sabre, and I feel hugely passionate about what I'm raising money for. I haven't considered wanting to raise money for another charity.

"I get to work in different areas and try out lots of different things. Dominic Bond, the charity's director, is fantastic at supporting me and helping me to sift through my ideas, sorting out what might work and what's worth taking a punt on. He allows me to take risks so that we can develop and expand.

"I feel as if I've only just scratched the surface in terms of what I can achieve here."


2011: Fundraising manager, Sabre Trust
2005: Project architect, Forge Architects
2004: Project architect, Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects
2002: Diploma in Architecture, Bartlett School of Architecture
1998: BArch, University of Nottingham

- Read more on this year's IoF National Convention

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