When I first entered the world of fundraising, I was a recent university graduate, without experience or knowledge in the field. By what seemed like pure luck, I landed a role within a development department at a private school and for three and a half years, I was mentored by the Education Trust Director.
With a firm attitude and an unshakeable belief that I could achieve anything she asked, she led me through the maze of databases, spread sheets, Gift Aid, direct debits, thank you letters, telephone campaigns, events management and all the engagement activities that go hand-in-hand with fundraising. Eventually, the time came after for us both to move on; she left the UK to move back to her home in New York and I moved onto a non-profit disability charity in the heart of London.
Since starting work in my new position, I have spent the last year constantly striving to do better and improve my work, with a number of successful results and outcomes, particularly with direct mail approaches. This success, I cannot take credit for. I cannot take credit, due to the fact that every time I write an article, work on a proposal or create a direct mail campaign, there is a voice in my head questioning what I produce and pushing me to be better than I have been before. It is the voice of my former mentor.
‘Just because it was good enough last time, doesn’t mean it is good enough now’, ‘Try writing that again’ and ‘Is this really the best you can produce?’ are but a few of the phrases that whirl through my mind in the Yankee accent I know so well. The voice always makes sure I proof read at least three times, the voice always asks the questions I want to avoid when working on something particularly complicated and the voice always gets me to work that bit harder each time.
Fundraising is a dynamic, changing world, which comes with a constant pressure to develop new ideas that will encourage support. The voice I hear helps me stay relevant in an evolving sector and makes me love what I do more and more each day. I understand that the voice may not really be my former mentor and that it is probably me, still trying to prove my worth even though I am no longer that inexperienced 21 year old. Whichever the case, there is no doubt that the voice, whoever it belongs to, was developed, like all my other skills, by a fantastic Director, who took a leap of faith on a university graduate.