THIRD SECTOR PROMOTION

Cancer Research UK

What is it like to work in the philanthropy and campaigns team at Cancer Research UK?

From flexible working to a supportive and welcoming culture, Kelly Kent, head of philanthropy at The Francis Crick Institute, tells us about her role at Cancer Research UK and what it's like to work in her team.

Kelly Kent, head of philanthropy, The Francis Crick Institute (Photo credit: The Francis Crick Institute - Dave Guttridge)
Kelly Kent, head of philanthropy, The Francis Crick Institute (Photo credit: The Francis Crick Institute - Dave Guttridge)

Tell us about Cancer Research UK and the work you do

I recently joined Cancer Research UK to take up the post of head of philanthropy for The Francis Crick Institute, one of Europe’s largest biomedical research facilities. I liaise with generous individuals and organisations who want to support our research to understand why diseases develop. Their support helps us translate discoveries into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer.

What was your background prior to joining Cancer Research UK?

I have been in the not-for-profit sector for 14 years now, with most of my career spent working for universities with a focus on major donor fundraising in the UK and abroad. I kind of fell into fundraising at the University of California, Riverside, through a chance meeting with their associate vice chancellor.

When I moved to London I began specialising in major donors through a role with Asthma UK. I joined Cass Business School and eventually City, University of London, managing the individual giving teams there.

Most recently I was at Imperial College London working with their Provost on cross-college fundraising initiatives. Each of these organisations has helped me refine my skillset and experience; part of my motivation to join Cancer Research UK is to embark on a new challenge and expand my experience fundraising specifically for medical research.

Why did you make the leap into the charity sector?

I don’t really feel like it is a leap to move from higher education fundraising to the charity sector. Fundraising is all about relationship management, and that’s a readily transferable skillset. What I do love about working for charities is that the public clearly understands that charities rely on donations to carry out their work and really rally behind causes that they care about.

Personally, my family has been deeply impacted by cancer in a number of ways over the last five years. This is a powerful motivator for me and fuels my commitment to my role and Cancer Research UK.

For me, a good workplace offers support, flexibility and empowerment. When I work for people who respect my experience and opinion, and empower me to do my job, I really feel inspired to go the extra mile.

What do you think makes a wonderful workplace in charities today?

For me, a good workplace offers support, flexibility and empowerment. When I work for people who respect my experience and opinion, and empower me to do my job, I really feel inspired to go the extra mile.

Additionally, now that I am a working mum I appreciate a flexible working environment. I work part time, and am split between two locations. Working flexibly means that I am not tied to a desk and I’m in the location most effective for carrying out my work that day, whether that is the Crick, Cancer Research UK or at home. I find that working part time enables me to give my best to both my career and my family.

Looking for a charity role? Browse the latest vacancies at Cancer Research UK on Third Sector Jobs, the specialist charity job board

What makes a great philanthropy manager?

Often when people think of fundraisers, they assume we are all extroverts. Actually, it is a job that suits many personality types. Generally, I think effective fundraisers are naturally intuitive and can read the right cues at the right time to make connections that add value for the supporter and the organisation.

Tell us about working in the philanthropy and campaigns team at Cancer Research UK

In my first week, our team was reviewing the staff survey results. 100% of the team said they would recommend Cancer Research UK as a good place to work and over 90% of the responses showed that people felt empowered, supported and appreciated for their work. Seeing that really reassured me that I had moved into the right organisation and place for me. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere with such a glowing endorsement.

What is the team culture like?

For me the culture is just the right mix of professionalism, ambition and excellence, enhanced by collaboration, encouragement and support. Our team is really striving to create an environment that trains talented individuals to be the best fundraisers in the sector, and then retain those staff by supporting their career development and creating new development opportunities for them.

What can new starters expect when they join Cancer Research UK’s philanthropy and campaigns team?

Anyone who is joining our team can expect a warm welcome, an openness to flexible working and a tremendous amount of assistance to help you get started. Because of our size, Cancer Research UK is a sophisticated operation with highly skilled staff in both fundraising and operations who are there to support you and really help create momentum in your role.

Sum up what it's like to work at Cancer Research UK

The scale of what we do, the funding we raise and the research we support is jaw dropping. About two weeks in post I turned up to our annual fundraising away day expecting to be greeted by people doing ice-breakers in small groups. Instead, I walked into an auditorium filled with fundraisers from across the country, all there to hear about our vision and plans for the coming year!

I feel inspired being surrounded by a dynamic group of professionals who are working collaboratively to tackle a cause they are passionate about.

Despite its size, Cancer Research UK still feels really personal and there is a lovely flair and personality across the organisation, and staff that make it a really fun place to work. Beyond the fun, there is so much care and compassion for our volunteers, supporters and those affected by cancer; you can easily see that fundamental motivation to beat cancer that brings us all together. I feel inspired being surrounded by a dynamic group of professionals who are working collaboratively to tackle a cause they are passionate about.

EXPLORE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES WITH CANCER RESEARCH UK

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