At Work: Fundraising - Personal account - James Kliffen

Annie Kelly

Awareness is key, says the head of fundraising at Medecins Sans Frontieres.


The best advice I ever had was from a fundraising consultant, George Smith, who talked to us in 1997 just as we were setting up fundraising for MSF in the UK.

He told us that, in order to succeed in fundraising, we needed to invest our efforts in raising awareness of our work among people in the UK. Nine years later, the growth of online giving makes it obvious how interdependent fundraising and communications are.


Moving from the British Red Cross - a charity with a fundraising team of more than 30 people and a 125-year history of raising funds - to MSF UK, a charity with little experience of fundraising and just one fundraiser - me. Although this was incredibly daunting, I did find it really inspirational to be part of a small office of five people. Everything, including getting our fundraising up and running, was a real team effort.


At MSF UK, it was getting our peer-to-peer fundraising web pages up and running. We've done this through, and now have an ever-increasing number of people using their own MSF web pages to raise money by running marathons, celebrating birthdays, asking for donations as wedding presents and so on. It's proving to be a phenomenal shift - the people who support our work are becoming an increasingly important part of our efforts to recruit new donors. I also met my wife, Sally (see picture), through MSF, in between her first mission as a volunteer (in Afghanistan) and her second (in Ethiopia).


Walking into a remote camp of tents in a damp windswept valley that was a fragile home for people fearing terrible violence across the border.

MSF was providing a full range of medical services, along with tents, blankets, cooking pots and stoves.

Seeing people in such a desperate situation was distressing. The only way to describe the emotion I felt is outrage, but it was balanced in part by being able to tell them that people in my country cared about their situation and that they weren't forgotten.


Experience first-hand the work and the people you're raising money for.

Having contact with the people you're trying to help, and the projects meeting those needs, will improve your success.

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