Most fundraisers I speak to have become fundraisers by accident. Sound familiar? If you planned your career in fundraising you are a rarity.
I was a handbag designer before I was a fundraiser. It sounds outlandish now but some of my work involved travelling the world shopping for handbags.
When my role was made redundant I struggled to get another design job so I ended up temping for small charity called Blind in Business who help people who are blind or partially sighted into work. I progressed from admin to writing Trust applications and when the money started to come in I thought that perhaps I’d found ‘my thing’. No world travel but I got to work with some inspirational people – and dogs too.
It was only several fundraising jobs later as innovation fundraising manager at the NSPCC that I really started to think about where I was going and what I wanted to do. Up until then I was like Alice in Wonderland.
“Alice asked the Cheshire cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Where do you want to go?
The Cheshire cat has a point, if you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter what you do. And that’s fine. But knowing where you want to go and what you want to achieve can help you make better decisions.
As fundraisers we have targets. We know how much we need to raise from different audiences by a deadline. And most of the time we know how we are going to do it.
So it strikes me as curious that I meet so many fundraisers who don’t apply the same principles to their fundraising careers as their fundraising practice and haven’t thought through what they want to achieve and therefore how they might get there.
Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of fundraisers and I’ve noticed that the most successful ones know where they want to go. They also have three things in common.
1. The first thing is time – they don’t have more than the rest of us but they schedule time to think about what they want to achieve and how they are going to get there. It’s not accidental time snatched between meetings it’s deliberate chunks of time. They block out time in their diary, switch off all their devices and spend uninterrupted time really thinking.
2. Resilience – they have grit. They take the knockbacks and brush themselves off and keep going. They ask for feedback from supporters and colleagues and take it on board. They see what others would call ‘failure’ as a genuine way to learn and improve. The community and events fundraising team at Mind are a great example of this. They challenge each other to step out of
their comfort zones and approach all their fundraising from a test and learn perspective. You can read about their approach to developing their community fundraising product Crafternoon here.
3. Support – they surround themselves with a tribe of people who they ask for help. These people cheer them on when it’s good and pick them up when the going gets tough. They also deliberately seek out coaches and mentors to help them with specific challenges because they know that they don’t have all the answers on their own. Check out the Institute of Fundraising and
CharityComms who both have mentoring schemes.
Whatever your fundraising discipline; whether you are still working out where you are going, or you’ve decided you want to climb the ladder in your current organisation or are looking for a different role, start by dedicating regular time to think about what you want, reframe knockbacks (and there will be many) as learning and surround yourself with a tribe that will support you when you
If you are serious about working out where you are going and getting the results you want, you might like to be one of the early backers of The Lucidity Network crowdfund – a fun online and offline learning support network to help you get to where you want to go. Back the Lucidity Network today.
PS And we’d love to know your story of how you accidentally arrived in fundraising – please share below.
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