Personal account: Ruby Fernandes, head of fundraising, Nightingale

The head of fundraising at Nightingale, a Jewish care home, remembers the ducks.

The best advice I've had

This was given to me by a Nightingale trustee for whom I have great respect. He taught me to remember that every penny you raise is for the direct benefit of the older people we care for. Our residents should always be at the centre of our thoughts - it is because of them we are here. He also advised me on the importance of nurturing and maintaining good relationships with our various fundraising committees. I have learnt that the more I support them, the more they will support me.

The biggest challenge I've faced

Last year we decided to replace our software program with a sophisticated new package. I was given a budget and a time to install the new software, and I had to juggle my time between this project and the complicated data conversion it entailed, while at the same time maintaining a full programme of events and appeals. It was exhausting, but now we have an extremely high-tech programme that I hope will ensure many happy fundraising years to come.

My greatest hit

Probably co-ordinating our major fundraising dinner at London's Guildhall, a huge deal for the charity. It was attended by more than 500 guests. I had to make sure nobody was on a 'bad' table.

My worst moment

In July 2006 we staged an event known as the Great London Duck Race on the River Thames at Battersea Park. This concept is highly successful in the US and Singapore, but it had never been staged in London. We set up a website to sell 30,000 rubber ducks at £10 each and ran a national campaign advertising the event, including posters on eight billboards in London. It attracted a huge crowd in Battersea Park, but a combination of poor logistics and a fierce tide let us down badly. When the ducks eventually took to the water it was less like a great race and more like the great escape, with ducks surging off in every direction. We got a lot of publicity but not exactly the kind we wanted.

My top tip

Carry out thorough research when organising events and see what formula works for your organisation and the committees who help you raise funds. Remember to pay attention to detail. Be innovative and don't be afraid to try new events or challenges.

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