At Work: Fundraising - Personal account - Andrew de Mille

Annie Kelly

The fundraising consultant on royal indifference and executive incompetence.

The best advice I had

My 35-year fundraising career has been underpinned by many pieces of advice from Maurice Hawker, my original consultancy boss, mentor and guru.

For example, I'd been fundraising for a couple of years when inflation reached 25 per cent. Imagine what that does to targets. I complained that however successful we were the targets were always moving away from us.

I always remember his advice: "When the going gets tough, go upmarket, not down - seek fewer gifts at much higher levels of giving."

The biggest challenge I've faced

I think the greatest challenge has been in sustaining a consistently successful fundraising consultancy, getting in the business and servicing it so as to gain the next generation of work. It comes down to following the basic rules and not allowing fashion or fear to deflect strategy from tried and tested techniques.

My greatest hit

I never try to take credit for what my clients achieve: consultants are there to advise, support and assist the client in being successful. However, my most satisfying project was planning and co-ordinating the fundraising for the completion of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, which is likely to be the last English Gothic cathedral. At the other end of the scale was probably meeting the Queen: "And this is Andrew de Mille, ma'am ... Fundraising." "Oh, fundraising. How ... er ... interesting." She then quickly withdrew her hand and turned to meet the next in line.

My worst moment

Probably the time one of my clients asked for my progress report when the chairman had undertaken to deliver the fundraising follow-ups and actions of the previous month and had done none of them. Again. I was completely lost for words for 10 seconds before covering for the chairman as best I could. I spent the night spitting nails and composing my letter of immediate resignation, which I delivered to the chairman's office at 9am the following day.

My top tip

I advise my clients to talk less and listen more. For desk-bound fundraisers, you cannot listen from a computer. You have to get out and engage with potential donors if you are going to listen to their responses. Listening is one of the most difficult skills, but it always pays dividends.

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