Personal account

Susanne Owers, head of individual giving at female education charity Camfed International

Susanne Owers
Susanne Owers

The best advice I've had

Never be afraid to pick up the phone or arrange to meet donors so that you can ask questions and do your research properly. Donors like your organisation, and they would probably wonder what on earth was going on if you didn't make an effort to communicate with them. Of the many meetings they tend to have in their lives, spending time talking to you about something that inspires them probably features among their favourites.

The biggest challenge I've faced

I was working for a large charity, heading the supporter development team, and the communications team and various different fundraising teams were having difficulty working together. I organised an away day and got everyone thinking about how we could all communicate more effectively. As a result, we all put new briefing procedures in place to make sure things worked more fluidly and we were getting the right messages to the right people. It's amazing how much more can be achieved and how much time can be saved when people start talking to each other. Emails can be overrated.

My greatest hit

There have been a number of highlights: convincing a new board to increase the supporter development budget by 80 per cent; working with a major donor to get his network of contacts and colleagues involved; and getting an in-house emergency appeal out to 120,000 donors in 24 hours after a major earthquake.

My worst moment

Realising a large legacy we had received was restricted to a project that was no longer in operation. It was a £500,000 gift for a particular school in a particular part of Uganda. We had withdrawn from that area and the school in question had already been built, but there was no get-out clause in the way the legacy had been given. The tragic thing was that the donor in question wanted to leave something that would make a difference to lots of people long after he'd gone, but we couldn't do anything to make that happen.

My top tip

Take a few minutes, first thing each morning, to connect with the cause. Read a letter from someone who has benefited from your organisation's work; look at images of what the funds raised help to achieve; think about why you chose this role. Stay inspired so you can inspire others.

Interview by Annie Kelly

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