From a Position of Trust
I love hearing the many different routes people have taken to arrive in the charity sector. It’s like a big maze where we’ve all started from in off corners and ended up in the same place, with several twists and turns along the way.
Some of my friends have made the jump from the corporate world, as tax specialists or publishers. Others have pursued an internship, or taken on a new career in the charity world after absence or redundancy. Some started off doing a completely different role for their charity before being asked to ‘fill in’ as fundraisers and discovering a real capacity for it.
Trust fundraising was never my planned destination. In fact I didn’t know the job existed until I did it for the first time. However, the realisation that I could use my particular set of skills and personality traits to make a difference to the world was a fantastic revelation. In recent years I’ve diversified, but Trust fundraising still feels like my comfortable home.
I left University with an English degree and an ambition to ‘save the world’ through writing somehow. I considered many forms; travel writer, journalist, Booker Prize winning novelist (setting my sights high), theatre critic etc. Whilst deciding what to do, I spent a year volunteering and in the process realised I wanted to work for charity. It took me seven years before I finally got my first job as a Trust fundraiser, but now here I am, ‘writing to save the world’ in my own little way. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Well, perhaps a Booker Prize.
Trust fundraising doesn’t suit everyone and for good reasons. Much time is spent staring at a blank computer screen in frustration, or filling in little boxes. Then there is the heart-break of having your beautifully crafted application rejected, or waiting for six months before realising they aren’t even going to write back.
But for every mournful rejection there is the exhilaration of a cheque in the post, or a telephone offer out of the blue. Only this week I had the crushing blow of a ‘dead cert’ being rejected, followed by a surprise cheque from one of my long-shots.
Success in Trust work is a very particular form of excitement. All the Trust fundraisers I know aren’t excited by the figures that go on their CV or the personal satisfaction (although these can be nice too). They are excited because they genuinely love their cause and want it to succeed. It is precisely this passion that makes their words sing from the page; that gives them the resilience and dedication to keep going, keep adapting, keep learning and keep developing relationships until they bear fruit.
Saying this isn’t, of course, to say other fundraisers aren’t as passionate. Everyone faces rejection in some form. Events, major donors and other forms of fundraising have their own frustrations and causes of fatigue, as well as their own highs. But one thing I have noticed from my years volunteering with the IoF is that the Trusts Special Interest Group is one of the most consistently well attended. The faces may change, but there are generally around forty attendees at every meeting.
So why is that? Maybe the many hours slaving over a hot computer make Trust work more isolating than other forms of fundraising? In contrast, perhaps this makes grant fundraisers more keen to seek out friendship, fellowship, networking and learning opportunities - and perhaps just daylight - where they can.
I love the friendliness of it. We are all, strictly speaking, in competition. Yet I often get recommendations and support from fellow Trust workers. Have I seen this Trust? Have I used this resource? Would this website be helpful to me? We seem, as a body of people, to be especially keen to be friendly, to share advice and ideas and to mentor those who are starting on this very particular form of fundraising, with its particular skills and challenges.
So in conclusion, the loneliness of sitting in front of a computer all day being rejected for a living is more than countered by the friendliness of my fellow Trust-ers, both fundraisers and funders. We just need to make sure we get out for a dose of Vitamin D every now and then!