Rising stars - Fundraisers: The New Generation 2019

After much deliberation, the judges for this year's Fundraisers: The New Generation have chosen 10 worthy winners from the wealth of emerging fundraising talent. Rebecca Cooney reports

The winners
The winners

"Creative", "hardworking", "tenacious" and "capable of creating magic" – just some of the comments made by managers about members of this year’s Fundraisers: The New Generation list.

This year’s winners share a passion and determination to do what they can to make the world a better place.

But it’s not just the world this group of dedicated fundraisers want to improve; it’s also the charities they work for, the fundraising profession and the charity sector itself.

Several of the testimonials nominating this year’s winners mentioned their courage, initiative, ability to see the bigger picture and willingness to challenge the status quo. From Donna Forster, who is revolutionising digital fundraising at Cats Protection, to Navjeet Sira, who has created an innovation fund, allowing her colleagues at the Change Foundation to apply for funding to try out new ideas. This year’s winners are rising stars who are focused not just on how to be the best fundraisers they can be, but also on how fundraising itself can change to make that possible.

In order to win over our expert panel of judges, the fundraisers each answered five questions about what motivates them in their work, their biggest successes to date and their hopes for the fundraising sector in the future.

In these uncertain times, it’s good to know that the future of fundraising is in the hands of this inspiring group of people, who have shown they are prepared to rise to the challenge of generating new ideas and forging a new path for the sector.

The 10 winners

1 Lina Artunduaga, fundraising manager, Parents and Children Together

Two years ago, Lina Artunduaga (left) was a public interest lawyer, but her passion for grass-roots and voluntary action led her to change course and enter the charity sector.

She has worked for the adoption and family support charity Parents and Children Together for 17 months and has already managed to secure three corporate partnerships, as many as the charity had participated in during the rest of its 108-year history.

In the past year she has created a corporate fundraising strategy and helped to grow the charity’s corporate income by 634 per cent, a record amount of funding that has contributed to the sustainability of Pact’s community projects.

She joined Pact, according to her award entry, because she understands the importance of working with "hard-to-fundraise-for" causes, which she says she has realised is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"When the internal message reiterates how difficult it is to fundraise, it actually becomes true," she says.

Natausha Van Vliet, chief operating officer of Pact, says: "Fundraising is not for the faint-hearted and, although this is early in her fundraising career, Lina displays resilience, creativity and tenacity. Her natural curiosity about people and genuine interest to improve their outcomes enables her to empathise and connect well with our beneficiaries."

2 Bindy Dreyer, challenge events officer, RNIB

Bindy Dreyer (right) began on the supporter care team at the RNIB, but says in her entry submission that, having seen how amazing the charity’s work was, she wanted to take a more active role in ensuring it could continue.

As challenge events officer, she has developed stewardship strategies for the charity’s running and open challenge programmes, which increased the average gifts by 53 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

She also led the launch of the charity’s skydiving event, which grew from 12 participants raising £3,335 in its first year to 62 participants raising £43,008 the following year, a fundraising increase of 1,190 per cent.

Dreyer also led on increasing the number of participants who are blind and partially sighted taking part in skydives, challenging suppliers to improve accessibility.

Five years from now, she says, she would still like to be working in the charity sector, at the RNIB or another organisation she’s passionate about.

But she says she believes the fundraising sector must change if it wants to succeed in the long run.

"I think we need a culture shift in order to see people not only as consumers but also as change-makers," she says.

3 Donna Forster, digital marketing officer, Cats Protection

Donna Forster (left) was Cats Protection’s first-ever digital marketing officer when she was hired eight months ago and says the proudest moment of her two and a half-year fundraising career has been setting up the charity’s Facebook Charitable Giving tool. Since its implementation, the tool has quickly become a significant income stream with huge potential for growth, she says.

"I love working across my team, the wider fundraising team and the whole organisation to share how digital can affect and help their work," Forster says. This includes helping teams to test in-house Facebook advertisements, a first for the charity.

Forster has an ambitious vision for the charity’s Gaming for Good project, which she wants to develop to provide a six-figure income stream for Cats Protection within the next five years.

Emily Casson, digital marketing manager at Cats Protection, says: "Donna has scaled up successful pilots extremely quickly, creating six-figure annual income streams for the charity from scratch within an incredibly short space of time.

Her passion and enthusiasm for all things digital fundraising is infectious and she has been an amazing addition to our team."

4 Melissa Francis, trust fundraiser, Salvation Army

Melissa Francis (right) has grabbed her first opportunity as a fundraiser with both hands. She wanted to work in the charity sector after finishing her degree, and in just one year at the Salvation Army she has generated £400,000 through applications and targeted mailings to trusts with capacities of up to £30,000, despite having no prior fundraising experience.

Her proudest moment was being part of the charity’s 2018 Christmas appeal, which brought in more than £280,000 with a response rate of 16.9 per cent, 7.9 percentage points higher than in 2017.

This money helps people suffering from homelessness, abuse, addiction and other issues. "I am delighted to know that I can help these causes by fundraising," she says.

Francis is keen to keep learning and would like to be a trustee in five years, using her fundraising knowledge to help other charities grow.

Her ultimate goal is to be a consultant within grant-making and grant-giving.
Katherine Abbie, trusts fundraising manager at the Salvation Army, describes Francis as "a hardworking, conscientious individual who is passionate about driving positive societal change", with "an ability to transform the income returned from a targeted mailing through careful data analysis, as well as cultivating and stewarding successful relationships with trusts giving five-figure gifts".

5 Rachael Jonas, corporate partnerships projects officer, Alzheimer’s Research UK

When Rachael Jonas (left) joined Alzheimer’s Research UK in an administrative role in the corporate partnerships team two years ago, she was quick to spot the opportunity to work closely with the data team to develop a more strategic approach.

Her manager, Jade Rolph, says Jonas began working far beyond the scope of her job by spotting problems and collaborating across teams to generate solutions. This prompted ARUK to create a new role for her, making her the first member of the corporate partnerships team dedicated to the team’s operational functioning.

Rolph says Jonas has had a direct impact on colleagues and supporters by improving the team’s productivity and supporter experience.

"Behind-the-scenes fundraising roles are undervalued, and Rachael shouldn’t be overlooked," Rolph says. "Her drive and initiative have won her the respect of her colleagues."

Jonas says the proudest moment of her career so far was when she personally canvassed more than 700 of the charity’s corporate supporters, helping it to raise £220,000.

"I’ve cheered my supporters on through tailored stewardship journeys specific to their events, partners and targets, and supported them on the ground at events," she says.

6 Josanne Richardson, fundraising engagement manager, Clic Sargent

Volunteering as a barista in a hospice café proved to be Josanne Richardson’s (right) unlikely route into a fundraising career. She had just moved back north after a career in film production and, aged 32, was looking for a new challenge when she started volunteering.

The charity sector wasn’t something she’d considered, but the hospice chief executive suggested she join her fundraising team. "My new career found me," she says.

A year later Richardson joined Clic Sargent as its first dedicated fundraiser based in South and East Yorkshire. She has grown income by 100 per cent in nine months by building support from families, local businesses, schools and groups.

She has been involved with numerous projects and events during her short fundraising career, but one highlight was helping to stage an art show in Sheffield that featured work by young people who were being treated for cancer and generated funds from art sales.

Anna Oliver, senior fundraising engagement manager at Clic Sargent, admits it was a gamble appointing someone with little fundraising experience, but says Richardson "has stepped into her role with charm and efficiency".

7 Phoebe Ruxton, fundraising and communications manager, FareShare South West

Phoebe Ruxton (left) knew she wanted to be a fundraiser as soon as she saw the job description and describes her role at FareShare South West, which tackles food poverty, as her absolute dream job.

When she started at the charity it had no regular supporters, a limited public profile and a fundraising portfolio that relied almost entirely on trust applications.

In her first year, she headed the Big Breakfast campaign, aimed at galvanising the Bristol food community around the issue of child food poverty and raising funds for the charity’s Breakfast Club programme. She won the support of 12 top Bristol chefs, including Michelin-starred Josh Eggleton, as well as the Mayor of Bristol and local food writers. This raised the profile of the charity and unlocked opportunities including national TV appearances, corporate partnerships and long-term relationships with chefs and local ambassadors.

In her entry submission, Ruxton says fundraising can "be a tool to develop a community, especially when food is involved".

She says she would love to see fundraising viewed more positively by the public. She adds: "The next fundraising generation needs to shake up traditional stereotypes of charitable giving in line with an ever-changing giving demographic.

"We need to make giving feel tangible, important, even radical."

8 Navjeet Sira, director of design and impact, the Change Foundation

When Navjeet Sira (right) moved into fundraising almost three years ago, she lobbied the Change Foundation’s senior management group to rely less on trusts and foundations – which she felt was risky – and "embrace the pressure" to land consultancy clients.

She was rewarded by winning the charity’s first-ever consultancy contract for pure capacity-building, with the Tennis Foundation, which was subsequently awarded £1.4m by Sport England. In 2016 the Change Foundation derived 55 per cent of its income from trusts and foundations. This has dropped to 45 per cent, with the reduction replaced by consultancy and unrestricted fundraising from events and challenges.

This typifies the fresh, radical thinking of Sira, who spent 10 years in volunteer management, programme management and impact management before going into fundraising. She once helped the rugby union player Brian Habana to raise £100,000 and feels this is an area to develop. "There are hundreds of other sporting celebrities who can change the face of many third sector organisations," she says.

Andy Sellins, chief executive of the foundation, says Sira has been a "revelation" who "never fails to deliver". He adds: "One example of her constant improvement is our innovation fund, where members of staff can apply for a small pot of money to trial new programmes and ideas."

9 Charlotte Smith, community fundraiser, Ronald McDonald House Charities

Charlotte Smith’s (left) passion for fundraising began when she was 13 and seriously ill in hospital. She discovered the cost of part of her treatment and determined to pay the children’s hospital back by fundraising for it. Her fundraising exploits continued throughout school and at university, when she became a trustee for a local dog-rescue charity. Initially juggling a teaching degree with her charity work, she decided to focus on fundraising full-time and, in 2018, joined Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides free local accommodation to families while their children are in hospital.

Smith has quickly become a key member of the team and has enjoyed doing "one of the most rewarding jobs imaginable", as she says.

Anna Bullock, senior regional fundraiser manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities, says Smith goes "above and beyond" in her role. "Charlotte is currently instrumental in the process of ensuring our fundraising volunteer programme is robust," she says. "I have no doubt Charlotte has an extremely long and exciting career ahead of her."

Smith also values the help of the charity’s volunteers and wants there to be a societal shift in how volunteers are viewed. She wants those who give up their time for good causes to be regularly celebrated.

10 Robin Weaver, direct marketing executive, Amnesty International UK

Soon after Robin Weaver (right) decided to become a fundraiser, the body of the toddler Alan Kurdi was washed up on a Turkish beach. Determined to make a difference, Weaver took up a volunteer internship at the UNHCR, the refugee agency, before joining the Salvation Army in its individual giving team.

At the Salvation Army, he played a key role in helping his team raise £38m in 2017/18, about £3.5m more than its target. He then joined Amnesty, where he says his proudest moment came when he worked on a new handout consisting of a tea-light candle with a signed card from a face-to-face fundraiser. "As the organisation’s saying goes, ‘it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’," he says.

In the future, he hopes to move into line-managing other fundraisers.

Jenna Allcock, supporter acquisition manager at Amnesty, says Weaver is a "fantastic asset" to her team and has been able to juggle multiple aspects of his role with ease. "Above all, he has excellent relationship and stakeholder management skills, dealing with directors, agencies and suppliers alike both confidently and courteously, which I think will stand him in very good stead as he looks to progress his career in fundraising," she says.

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