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Do what makes you happy

written by Hayley Powell

Arriving at work it was just like any other day, checking my emails, setting up my team for the day and looking at my day ahead but that was all about to change.

background balance business commerce

I had worked at the bank for all my adult life. I was in my thirteenth year of service. I had developed and grown so much during my time there working my way up to management level.

Little did I know that day this was all about to change. This was the day I was told that my role was no longer required; I was going to be made redundant.

After the initial shock and upset my thoughts quickly raced to what was I going to do. The easy option would have been to apply for another role within the bank but during my time there I had found a real passion for fundraising. I felt it was time for a brave change; a chance to do something I really enjoyed.

donateI had always loved getting involved in the charity events. During the last five years, alongside my manager role, I was the “charity champion” – making all thing’s charity happen across my department and the building. I loved building relationships with local charities and delivering a calendar of events based on what colleagues wanted to do. I took great satisfaction in seeing the event come to life. I loved even more seeing what we had raised for that charity and how much it would help them be there for more people.

So, I didn’t take the easy option, instead I followed my heart and my dreams. Don’t they say fortune favours the brave? Well it certainly did for me. I secured a role as a Community Fundraiser for The Haven Wolverhampton and nothing has ever felt so right.

Now my days are never like any other day; they are quite the opposite but for all the right reasons. When I arrive home from work and my partner asks me how my day has been, he gets a very different reply. A conversation that sticks in my mind is this one…

“It was good” I replied “I have committed to eating some insects to raise money, created a certificate and letter to say thank you to some lovely donors, painted some props for an event, helped promote a few events we have coming up and then helped a lady who came to refuge yesterday with just the clothes she was standing in, I helped her find some clothes and toiletries from the donations we have received, how was yours?”

This is usually the reaction I get followed by a lot of questions.

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No two days are ever the same. It is a fast paced ever changing environment, with so much to learn and so much to do. Yet it is so much fun along the way and, most importantly, so rewarding to know that the work I do is helping women and children who at their most vulnerable from the abuse they have suffered.

white and yellow roller coaster

When I started my journey as a Community Fundraiser last year nothing could have prepared me for the roller-coaster ride I was about to embark on. I can honestly say I have loved every moment and I don’t want the ride to end!

So, I guess what I am trying to say is don’t just do what feel’s comfortable and familiar do what excites you, what you are passionate about and take every opportunity that you can.

“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.”

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Hayley Powell is a Community Fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton

The Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.

Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year!

christmas tree with baubles

Trees are twinkling under lights and tinsel. Turkey dinners are being planned and prepped. Family and friends are gathering for the holiday festivities.

Unfortunately, Christmas may not be as wonderful if you are one of the estimated 1.3 million women affected by domestic abuse in the last twelve months. Domestic abuse doesn’t stop just because it is Christmas. For those recovering from the trauma of abuse, it can be a dark and difficult time.

Women staying at The Haven often worry about how they will buy gifts for their child, having fled their own homes with nothing, and children can often feel sad that their Christmas looks very different to that of their classmates at school. For many of the families at The Haven, it is the first Christmas they have spent away from their home and family; making it even more difficult.

pexels-photo-257910.jpegAt The Haven we try to provide an authentic Christmas experience for the women and children we support.  At each of our refuges we create a magical grotto, where Mum’s and children can come to choose gifts to take away and wrap for one another. We encourage lots of festive activities too; from Santa visits, to cookie making.

We also like to provide Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The most important part is that Mum’s and children have the opportunity to spend quality time together, making happy memories over the festive period as they move forward into a life free from abuse.

On most women’s Christmas list are the common things like perfume or pyjamas but for the women we support their list is often very different; they hope for safety and a new start. It’s something that many are looking for as we start a new decade, but it is particularly important for women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse. The Haven every year tries to make Christmas feel special and magical to every woman and child that asks us for help.

glass of milk near christmas present

This Christmas is even more poignant; as we move into a new decade, we start to think about what we want from the future. Women and children in The Haven want a future free from domestic abuse and the trauma they have experienced. So, this Christmas as you tuck into your dinner and pull crackers laughing at the terrible jokes with your family and friends – please take a moment to think about the women and children settling in for a Christmas in refuge.

The Haven takes over 1000 helpline calls every month. Just £2 cover the cost of each call from a woman and her children in dire need. This Christmas, can you spare £2 to help ensure support is available for those who’s festive period may not look as bright?

Donate here www.havenrefuge.org.uk/donate-to-the-haven

 

Take a stand against violence against women and girls

TRIGGER WARNING: this blog post contains statistics relating to domestic violence and abuse.

For a different type of blog on GreatCharitySpeakers.com, we wanted to raise awareness of a world-wide epidemic; violence against women and girls.

The Haven supports women and their children affected by domestic abuse and homelessness. Every month we take an average of 1,000 calls to our helpline from women at risk of violence, threats, and intimidation.

The 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence runs between 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day); it hopes to draw the world’s attention to the epidemic of violence against women and girls.

And it really is an epidemic. 

1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced either physical or sexual violence - mainly by an intimate partner

Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

On average in the UK, every year 104 women are killed by a current or former partner. Since New Year’s Day this year, 90 women have been killed by men according to Counting Dead Women. That doesn’t take into account the 3 women per week who take their own life to escape domestic abuse.

These were women were daughters, sisters, mothers. They had dreams and hopes. These were taken away by (generally) the man who professed to love them.

Any girl born today can expect to be a victim of violence at some point in her life. Across the world these girls will be affected by domestic abuse, rape, forced marriage, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, harassment… so many injustices happening in private as well as the public sphere. All of this, a new-born baby girl can expect… just because she was born female.

Woman looking out of the window

In Wolverhampton alone, (where The Haven has operated since 1973), 19.7% of the population will directly be affected by domestic abuse. In July this year, West Midlands Police received their highest rate of calls asking for help from an abuser.

Violence against women and girls is happening here in Wolverhampton and across the world in epidemic proportions. It’s opportunities, in blogs like this, that mean we can raise awareness and encourage others to take a stand.

Showing your support to women at risk of violence and abuse is so important. This can be through listening when a woman feels empowered to ask for help; letting people know that certain behaviours are unacceptable; or by starting discussions about issues like domestic abuse.

The Haven this year is encouraging people to spot the signs of domestic abuse and how to support friends and family at a networking event we are hosting as part of this campaign.

You can help raise awareness

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We are also encouraging people to rock a nail transfer on 1 of their 4 fingers to raise awareness of the fact that 1 in 4 women in the UK who will be directly affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime. By wearing the transfer, we are hoping to empower people to feel comfortable to talk about domestic abuse and the services like The Haven that can save lives.

Charities like The Haven are so important to ensure that we can make sure every woman is safe away from their abuser. By providing a free helpline, safe and specialist accommodation, as well as legal support; we are able to ensure that women and their children can feel empowered after the impact of gender-based violence and abuse.

Help us stop this epidemic

Domestic abuse and gender-based violence is something that affects people across society and in every community. Abuse doesn’t just harm the victim but the community that they live in. Over the next 16 days, take a stand with the women and girls against gender-based violence and help us stop this epidemic.

If you would like to find out more about how The Haven supports women and children from domestic abuse and homelessness, then please check out our website on www.havenrefuge.org.uk. You can also order a nail transfer to raise awareness of domestic abuse by emailing give@havenrefuge.org.uk.

 

Social Media: A responsible art form

written by Lucy Owen

Social media is a great tool for a charity. It keeps donors in the loop while they sneak a quick Twitter break (generally around 11am – for a little light relief from the office). It offers a charity the chance to interact with their donors building a real connection. Internet usage is on the rise with 90% of people in the UK having used the internet in at least the previous 3 months and social media is the 4th most common activity offering a ready audience.[1] Social media is therefore an amazing resource for building donor support – especially as it is largely free.

FAST, FREE, AND POPULAR – WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

free.pngNothing of course but social media is a very different skill to previous charity resources. Unlike direct mailing or phone advertising; social media is immediate. As soon as you press enter it is on your follower’s phone, laptop, or iPad. Every sentence, every space, every GIF transmitted to thousands of people in the time it takes to take a breath.

BUT THAT’S WHERE PROBLEMS CAN START

A post quickly typed can be misinterpreted. Anyone can make an accidental typo or spoonerism. The problem that charities and organisations can have is a complete failure to ensure that their posts are compatible with their aims.

genieThese posts can imply a complete lack of awareness and a lack of understanding of an important issue, which can undermine an organisation’s claim to authority. Supporters can find them awkward, funny or, even worse; tone-deaf. These posts can happen accidentally at any time but once it goes online there is no return. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Certainly not when the genie has been screen-shotted and posted on all platforms invented.

LEARNING FROM THE POLICE

policeLast month a police service decided to ask for help finding a suspect, taking advantage of a wide and engaged community audience – an excellent example of modern policing. The crime in question was a sexual assault. An appalling crime and a truly traumatic event for the victim. Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by the person who posted the tweet using the phrase that the victim was ‘unhurt’.

The insensitive tweet (now deleted) left many shocked at the lack of awareness for the aftermath that such an attack would leave a victim feeling. That a police force could tweet this, just as it has been revealed only 1.7% of rape or sexual assault cases are prosecuted, implied to many who saw the original post that the Police Service had little understanding of the seriousness of the crime.[2] This is a worrying implication to any victim who may have been considering reporting a crime and may put them off, frightened of not being believed.

NSPCC’S TALK PANTS CAMPAIGN

pantsIt’s not just the police who can post a poorly considered social media campaign, NSPCC has recently been criticised by leading professionals in the field, survivors, and by donors for their ‘TalkPANTS’ campaign. What was intended was a fun awareness raiser for children to discuss consent.

Unfortunately, it came across as blaming victims for being unable to prevent their abuse especially with an inappropriate tagline of all ‘abuse is preventable, not inevitable’.[3] It implied that children should ‘prevent’ abuse from their grown adult abusers which horrified followers.

tweet.pngLeading professionals like Jessica Eaton responded to the tweet in disgust pointing out that “abuse is prevented by adults” not children. It is not just professionals in shock. One of the tweets was from a long-term supporter who had run sponsored races for the NSPCC – clearly a committed donor. He is also horrified and wanted a public response to the criticism of the tweet. An ill-thought through marketing campaign has potentially lost a loyal donor forever.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A DIFFICULT ART TO MASTER

authentic.jpgThe ability to interact with events as they happen helps show a charity’s commitment to a cause and to its mission. It offers a charity to show its ‘natural voice’; granting an authenticity that donors appreciate. It is however essential that speed does not become more important than engagement, wider cultural awareness, and common sense. ”

tea.jpgIt’s important to think not only what you want to say and how it is being said but also how a reader will interpret what you are saying before posting. Asking a colleague or even taking the time to get up and make a cuppa will save all sorts of distress and embarrassment. It may even save a donor relationship.

With social media just remember as my nan always says, “less haste and more speed”. Oh, and always add an emoji. 😊

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Lucy Owen is a Community Fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton. She can be found on Twitter using the handle @lucyowen95 and on LinkedIn here. 

The Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.

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[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/internetusers/2018 and https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/householdcharacteristics/homeinternetandsocialmediausage/articles/exploringtheuksdigitaldivide/2019-03-04

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/rape-prosecution-england-wales-victims-court-cps-police-a8885961.html

[3] https://twitter.com/NSPCC/status/1158840171313475584

How charities can gather images ethically?

by Rachel Erskine

Amref Health Africa might be the biggest NGO you’ve never heard of. Headquartered in Nairobi, we’ve been around since 1957 and work in 35 African countries. When I joined the organisation’s UK arm in September 2017, I was struck by the breadth and variety of that work.

elephant.jpgIt’s like that school assembly staple, the parable of the blind-folded men and the elephant: if you asked my counterparts in Ethiopia or South Sudan what Amref does, their answers would bear little resemblance to each other’s, or my own. None of us would be wrong – but you’d need them all to see the truth.

The elephant in the Zoom

I soon came across another elephant; the one everyone avoided in in our bi-monthly video calls. While we had access to thousands of striking photos illustrating the impact of our work, we didn’t always have proof of informed consent from the people who featured. By missing out that stage of the image-making process, we had strayed from the principles that underpin our work. We had made ourselves vulnerable – and rendered much of our beautiful photography unusable.

Recognising the need for change, colleagues from across the organisation undertook a far-reaching review of consent-gathering. Eighteen months later, we’re at the stage of rolling out a new policy and toolkit. This is how we did it…

Assigning responsibility

globalWe started by creating a taskforce from across Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, Tanzania, and the UK – all with the shared goal of establishing a global policy on image consent and a set of practical tools for implementation. At each stage we took our drafts back to a bigger working group representing every Amref office. Once we had achieved broad agreement as a group, we took it to senior management at global level.

It wasn’t easy – taskforce members were doing full-time jobs in parallel and many are one-person teams. Had we taken a more centralised approach, the work would have been finished much sooner but, as my Canadian colleague pointed out, it wouldn’t have made for such a rich and comprehensive policy.

Involving everyone

Informed consent protects the rights and dignity of those whose stories we have the privilege of sharing.  Although the ethical argument is by far the strongest one, it was crucial that everyone understood the potential repercussions (legal, financial, and reputational) when we don’t respect the process. Framed like this, it’s everyone’s business.team.jpg

We consulted the communities we work with to determine what they thought was reasonable and practical and sought advice from our Legal, HR, and Programmes colleagues, who often find themselves tasked with taking photos.

 It wasn’t always easy

This process forced us to have important, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations. It has revealed other areas that require further attention and work. For example, the new policy needs to be backed up by, and reflected in, our safeguarding and child protection policies; our staff handbook and code of conduct; the contracts we ask freelance photographers to sign; our project feedback mechanisms; the way we’ve configured our online photo library. (All of this work is now underway, with clear deadlines for completion.)

Embracing complexity

Amref has offices in a dozen African countries, and another dozen in Europe and North America. Attitudes and expectations around the act of taking a photo vary from one context to another. Trying to reconcile these was complicated. There were times when conversations threw up more questions than they answered.

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The charity sector is still smarting from recent, very public examples of what not to do. Our use of imagery ties into broader conversations about race, representation, and power dynamics; it was important not to shy away from this in our calls with colleagues from all over the world.

In the UK, the public demands increasingly better from NGOs and they’re willing to hold us to account when we fall short.

Letting it take up time and space

This work is important. Developing and implementing a thoughtful, rigorous consent process says a lot about who we want to be as an organisation.

midwifery-students-gambela-crop_999x784-743330914-1568711270433.jpgLike many things, it all comes back to relationships: between NGO and community members, between photographer and subject. At Amref, we’re lucky to have strong relationships with the communities we work with; many of them built and maintained over several decades. Whilst these relationships don’t allow us to ever assume consent, they do enable us to have frank and open conversations.

Thinking ahead

Our next step is to develop guidance on the ethical use of imagery. In reality, much of the groundwork for this has already been done. If you’ve already had those conversations by the time the picture is taken and the person is clear on what their image might be used for, where it might appear, how it might be framed and who might see it – you can be reasonably confident that your use of it will align with their wishes. This being so, we do try to ask people for feedback once they’re ready for publication. They can revoke consent at any time.

Zooming out

When it comes to representation – stories, films, photography – it’s not about us. It’s about the people who allow us to share their stories; the people our organisations exist for. Their needs should always come before our own. It’s part of a broader commitment to putting respect for the rights, dignity and preferences of the people we work with above everything else: a principle that guides our project work and should underpin our communications, too.

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Resources we’ve found useful

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Rachel Erskine is Communications Manager at Amref Health Africa UK. The views expressed here are her own and not those of her employer.

www.amrefuk.org / @amref_uk / @erskinerachel

 

Is it okay to have fun at work…or is “fun” a dirty word?

by Katie Duckworth

So, politics has gone mad. Injustices are multiplying. Poverty is on the rise and the funds to fight it are tighter than ever. And to cap it all, the reputation of the charity sector has taken some big knocks recently with a string of scandals. All this, and Boris too…

So, how should the serious, responsible charity respond to the challenge?

How about having a bit more fun? Yes, fun. And no, I’m not being flippant.

There’s a growing body of evidence that fun not only makes for happier, healthier such funemployees (obvs!) – and more productive ones too, less likely to get stressed into sickness or look for another job (slightly less obvious) – but, and this is crucial, fun helps charities fulfil their mission even more effectively.

Within reason, the more fun you’re having, the more you’re able to help those causes and people you exist for.

That’s why some of the most effective charities in their field have embraced fun as a core organisational value – alongside more familiar ones such as respect, equality and accountability.

Sean McCallion, head of fundraising at The Back Up Trust, shared with me that he remembers arguing passionately for fun as a value in a heated staff debate some years ago. He won; it’s still there, and, says Sean, has become core to everything Back Up does to support those with life-altering spinal cord injury.

Sustainability NGO, Forum for the Future, was an early pioneer in adopting fun; it’s since changed it to ‘Playful’, but the message is the same – “Fun is good”  as Dr Seuss famously said.

SO WHY DOES FUN WORK?

Fun at work has a whole host of benefits which come together in a beautiful virtuous circle. Here are some:

  • Top of the list is that fun allows staff to have a laugh and let off steam. This is steamimportant for everyone, but even more so when the issues they may be working with are deeply upsetting or difficult. This doesn’t mean taking those issues lightly. Quite the opposite; by lifting staff spirits, it acts as a refresher, helping them tackle those challenges with renewed vigour and optimism. Staff with a smile are a lot more pleasant for clients and colleagues alike than ones with a frown.
  • When people are having fun, they experience less stress and tend to be happier with a greater sense of well being. Better for them, better for the outfit as a whole.
  • There’s strong evidence that happier people are more productive people, more engaged with work, more capable of simply getting stuff done. It’s obvious really. If work drains the life out of you, you’re not going to be doing a great job, are you?
  • Fun builds trust and encourages positive relationships between colleagues, vital for the successful collaboration and problem solving the sector needs.
  • Creativity and innovative thinking, so important for tackling the tough challenges we face right now, thrive in an atmosphere of play and fun, where people are allowed to experiment rather than be constrained by the idea that there are institutional right and wrong answers.
  • Having fun helps people to learn more effectively (just think about young children learning through play – it’s true for grown-ups too!)

What’s not to like?

FUN FOR ALL?

‘Fun’ as a core value isn’t right for all charities, I know. It can be seen as frivolous and trite. And most charity workers don’t exactly have fun in their job title. But bringing fun into work doesn’t have to be a big cringe. As a coach and trainer, I support leaders experimenting with new approaches to bring out the best in their staff, and I’ve found that bringing an element of fun into work can often be a surprisingly effective means of doing so.

Here’s how some are going about it:silly

First up, creating a culture where fun is acceptable, has got to come from the top. Leaders need to be on board. Staff will find their own fun (which is actually the best way to let it develop) but only if there is trust that they won’t be judged or made to feel silly or bad. And a leader who can relax and enjoy some fun – when appropriate – from time to time can do wonders in putting staff at ease.

  • That said, lowering the barriers to fun, such as tackling poor working conditions and staff conflict, is also key. As Louise Wright, CEO of Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis told me,

“Fun comes out when people are able to get on, when they’re not grappling with silly issues such as office politics, and there is a fair and equitable workplace which allows them to be empowered and facilitated. It’s my job to make sure that happens.”

  • Planned fun (sports day, bake-offs, ‘bring your dog to work day’) is good. Organic fun that bubbles up from happy, supported staff is even better. Warm chats with colleagues, spontaneous lunches out and birthday celebrations all add up to a ‘fun-positive’ culture.
  • Fun doesn’t want to feel overly scheduled or formal. You can’t force feed fun! And, please, don’t make anything obligatory. That really gives fun at work a bad name. I still remember Christmas lunches in my early working days at a big non-profit which were hosted by a team leader I couldn’t bear. I can tell you, that was extremely unfun. (Needless to say, I didn’t last long there!)
  • Make sure fun is inclusive. Gender, cultural and age-related differences mean that what constitutes fun can vary hugely. Lena Staafgard, Chief Operating Officer at Better Cotton Initiative, told me she’d love to start a spoof newsletter, which worked so successfully in her previous workplace, but fears it will fall flat at the more international organisation where the jokes won’t necessarily translate.3-ways-to-improve-your-powerpoints
  • Make sure you bring fun into your learning. No boring blah, blah-ing in front of a PowerPoint. When I was invited to run management training at Aspire Charity recently, the brief was very much about making the learning fun so it would stick, but also to encourage participants to see that management itself could be fun. I didn’t go in there banging a drum shouting ‘let’s have fun!” (that would have put some people right off) but through the use of games, funny graphics, and a squeaky green frog, plus warm, honest conversation, we all had a very fun time.
  • Having said all that, fun really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Fun at work isn’t necessarily complicated or expensive. Look for the tiny things – taking it in turns to join in with #FridayFunDay on Twitter. Breaking for communal tea-time. Small informal celebrations for everyone’s birthday. You name it – small can be very beautiful when it comes to fun.

So, despite the doom and gloom. Despite, or maybe, because of Boris, I shall carry on encouraging fun in the sector and celebrating all that’s playful and light-hearted. I may get some flak for it, but I truly believe that however tough our tasks, however difficult the issues we face, there is always time, and very good reason, to have fun.

Want to play?

At The Royal Star and Garter Homes, fun is highly valued inside its three Homes for veterans and their partners. Caley Eldred, Director of Supporter Engagement, loves that when she goes into one of the Homes she gets to express her fun side.

Fun makes us who we are. If you aren’t prepared to go into one of our Homes and jump about in a tropical shirt or do the conga then working here is probably not for you. It’s not just in the Homes, where fun is part of the service, that staff have fun.” – Caley Eldred

Encouraged by leadership with a strong understanding of how to nurture a happy, engaged team, there’s lots going on at head office too, both organised and spontaneous, from cake sales to sports days.

“We try to make a positive, fun environment. We do a job that’s centred on difficult things and challenging issues, but we do what we can to always make that pleasant.” – Caley Eldred

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Alfie and Barnie help out the Fundraising team at The Royal Star & Garter Homes

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Katie-01-1-1038274325-1568063986447.jpegKatie Duckworth is a coach, trainer, speaker and writer helping leaders with purpose and their teams to change the world and have fun at the same time. She is the founder of informal networking and support group #LeadersWhoBrunch.

 You can connect with her on Twitter, by emailor visit her website.

Has fundraising become too “professional”?

by Kimberley Mackenzie

Almost 20 years ago I was a passionate volunteer for a charity that had made a huge difference in my life. My voluntary work turned into revenue for this organization, so they offered to start paying me on a part-time basis to do more. As an at-home mother of two, a little bit of extra money was very welcome. That was my first fundraising job.

My work began reaping some serious returns. The charity shifted from operating at a deficit to a surplus. So I just kept doing my thing.

WHAT WAS I DOING EXACTLY?

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Sitting in my first home office, with my baby at my breast, I was forging connections between people who shared my passion for the cause and wanted to have an impact in their communities. Those connections advanced the mission AND as a side bonus… raised money. That was it!

Later, we decided to send out a letter asking for donations. So how did I do that? Honestly, I had no idea. Back in 1999 Google was only one year old and Yahoo left a lot to be desired. I popped my baby in a sling and went to my local library. The librarian helped me order a book by a man named Mal Warwick called: “How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters.” Three weeks later that book arrived, and I learned that this “thing” that I was doing…was actually a THING! I was a “professional” fundraiser.

AN ACCIDENTAL CAREER

Many people my age are “Accidental Fundraisers”. We fell into this work through our passion and learnt from each other as we went along. I describe my education like twisting a rope as I climb the mountain. Fast forward twenty years, my children are starting their own lives and I am an international speaker, certified fundraising executive and a trusted consultant. For better or worse, I am very much a “professional”.

SUITED UP ROBOTS?

Do we have to behave like suited up robots?

Unlike other professions, fundraising is constantly under scrutiny; we always have to prove ourselves. What it really takes to raise money is grossly misunderstood. We have to combat this perception every day and honestly, we can’t afford to mess it up. But, does that mean that we need to behave like suited up robots? I think not.

Recently, I was in a meeting with an influencer, who I hope will help my client with a very ambitious capital campaign. He is a prominent leader in his community, on the boards of several large organizations and knows literally everyone. His response to our request was:

“For goodness sake, whatever you do don’t stick me in a room and make me look at spreadsheets! I can’t stand that!”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that was exactly what I was hoping we would do together. What the heck? How did I get from making authentic connections between people who are passionate about a cause to sitting down with spreadsheets boring people to death? I must have been taught that’s what it meant to be “professional”.

 ARE WE BECOMING LESS HUMAN?

I am worried that in our sprint to “professionalize” ourselves we may alienate our communities. I’m worried that we have lost authenticity at the core of what we do and who we are. We must then ask the question:

“In our quest to become more professional we are becoming less human?”robot

Fundraising isn’t a transactional business – like banking or insurance – it is a passion-driven sector. We open our hearts to donors, share our experiences, connect people with shared passions. The best way to make this connection is to be authentic, candid and human.

 TOO PROFESSIONAL?

Posing this question about being “too professional” in no way suggests that we need to become less legitimate. I am deeply grateful to all of the educators I have had the privilege of learning from during my career. Organizations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), The Resource Alliance, and Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) work to try and ensure that we all operate with a high degree of accountability.

Those of us who are members of these organizations have made a commitment to conduct business within an ethical framework. Associations whose mandate it is to advance our sector by advocating for good government policies and greater awareness do us all a great service.

CONVERSATIONS NOT SPREADSHEETS

talkWe need to remember how our sector started. All around the world, groups of passionate people came together to ask how they could address a need in their community. At its very core, that is still what our donors, volunteers and our organizations want. Sometimes that may mean leaving the spreadsheets at home and simply having a meaningful conversation.

Fundraisers are connectors; we are the folks that build bridges and create alliances. This can happen on a nature walk, cooking food, building a playground, or handing out sandwiches. So be sure to engage in the work of your organization beyond spreadsheets and keep connecting your donors, volunteers and board members to your mission. Make their work meaningful.

Continuing to do our work authentically with an open, loving and joyful heart is what I think it means to be a “professional” fundraiser. I’d love to know what it means to you.


 

K_Mackenzie1.jpgKimberley Mackenzie is an award winning fundraiser, Certified Fundraising Executive and AFP International Master Trainer. She works as a consultant with a variety of organizations to advance a culture of philanthropy and create transformative results that raise more money for their missions. A sought after thought leader, facilitator, speaker and trainer Kimberley has been in the fundraising trenches since 2001 and was a driving force in the early days of SOFII.org. Kimberley has also served as Editor for Hilborn Canada’s eNEWS – a weekly publication send to over 14,000 fundraising professionals every week – was a member of the Advisory Panel for the Rogare Think Tank at Plymouth University and an executive member of the Planned Giving Council of Simcoe County.

You can find her on Twitter, email her at k@kimberleymackenzie.ca, or visit her website.