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Moving from fundraising practitioner to consultant

Moving from fundraising practitioner to consultant

The journey taken by those fundraising practitioners who have gone on to become fundraising consultants varies greatly. Rarely, however, have those journeys involved a competitive recruitment process.

After reviewing its needs, a competitive process is exactly what THINK Consulting Solutions decided to do.

Four months ago, Loretta Bresciani Murray, Gary Kernahan and Sarah Wilson left roles leading fundraising teams at Cancer Research UK, Muscular Dystrophy UK and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, respectively, to enter the world of fundraising consultancy.

The difference

The type of work undertaken by consultants varies from supporting strategic planning, to reviewing specific parts of a fundraising portfolio to providing interim support to name just a few.

Loretta, Gary and Sarah have all experienced this variety of projects within a short period.

On her third day in the new role Loretta was introduced to a charity in need of some interim support. Looking back on that experience she said: “I’ve spent 20 years working for charities, starting as a community fundraiser, ending by leading national teams across a complex, matrix-based organisation to deliver income, learning and development and large-scale change programmes. One of the pleasures of working with a charity on an interim basis is using all that I have learned to support a range of different fundraising teams to be their best. It’s about understanding the organisation, getting to know the team and their stakeholders and creating relationships really quickly. Be curious, ask questions and share your knowledge and skills.”

Having completed his first few consultancy projects Gary said: “When I decided it was time to move on and take up a new challenge, I didn’t think moving into the consultancy role I now hold would have been an option. THINK’s approach to expanding its consultant team gave me the chance to move in this new direction.

“Having spent 13 years working at two different charities the opportunity to work with a range of different organisations and causes was incredibly attractive. Within the first few weeks with THINK, I was lucky enough to work with some great charities and could quickly see the difference between coming in to help with a specific task for a short period and standing back to provide an objective view on an organisational challenge, compared to coming in as a permanent Director or Head.

“The approach is entirely different. The need to agree a clear brief, to get up to speed quickly, to keep focused and to resist the temptations to get involved with other non-essential issues is key.”

Upon commencing her new role Sarah Wilson was asked to be involved with work to assess the need for a new forum on fundraising compliance.

Reflecting on her experience so far Sarah said: “Having the opportunity to work with different organisations, for different causes across different markets and really get under the skin of the challenges they face and understand the opportunities open to them was what attracted me to apply to join the consulting team at THINK.”

“An area posing a challenge to many charities at the moment is fundraising regulation and compliance and the changing landscape we’re working in. THINK run a number of Forums aimed at providing a peer support network for specific areas of expertise and with the current regulatory environment it seemed that a Forum centred on this might be something that charities would find helpful.

“When you’re an in-house fundraiser you’re always keeping your eye on what is happening externally but your main focus is on how things might present opportunities or challenges to your organisation specifically. There is a shift in moving to consultancy to looking sector wide and addressing shared needs.”

The future

Leading a fundraising function is an all-consuming task. Working with a range of different charities, whilst attractive, also requires a different way of working. Successful consultants need to be able to immerse themselves quicky in the charity they are working with but equally they need to be able to step away from it to focus on different work for a different charity. The constant movement from one project to another, sometimes within a few hours, is part of the unique experience of being a consultant.

Michelle Chambers, Managing Director, is delighted with the new additions to the THINK team. She said, “Loretta, Gary and Sarah bring a new set of experience and perspectives to THINK’s work and I am pleased that with Loretta and Gary based in Scotland, THINK again has a strong presence in an important part of the UK fundraising landscape. I look forward to them sharing their expertise with a range of our clients over the coming months.”


Gary Kernahan is a Consultant at THINK Consulting Solutions.



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