'I never get bored of seeing the difference that fundraising achieves'
Natalie Levin graduated with the Certificate in Fundraising back in November. She spoke to us about her work at Guide Dogs, how she balanced it with completing the qualification, and what those sought-after designatory letters mean to her.
Q: How did you get into fundraising?
I was inspired to get into fundraising when I started volunteering with a sail training charity 12 years ago. At the time, I was a project manager with a mapping company so it was quite a change but the charity sector is so welcoming and I never get bored of seeing the difference that fundraising achieves.
At Guide Dogs my main motivation is to help people achieve their potential – whether that’s enabling someone to go and buy a pint of milk by themselves or encouraging someone to want to get more out of life. I love connecting donors to our beneficiaries and helping them to see and hear about the great impact their donations have made to people’s lives.
Q: Why did you decide to undertake a fundraising qualification?
I decided to take the Certificate in Fundraising to consolidate my learning and to get a broader understanding of fundraising. My career has largely focused on legacy and in memory fundraising and I know that there are lots of great ideas in other areas of fundraising that can inform my own work.
Q: What has been the main benefit from the course? And what was the most important thing you learned?
I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my work as a result of completing the Certificate in Fundraising, and I’ve been able to apply both the knowledge gained as well as the softer skills of time management and work planning to my job so that I can be more effective in raising funds.
Q: What piece of advice would you give a fellow professional who is thinking about studying?
Don’t be daunted by the coursework and word counts – you just need to plan ahead. Each assignment is broken down into sections so if you take each part in turn and do a bit each week, you’ll be surprised at how many words you can write!
Q: If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about my job, it would be that legacy fundraising isn’t seen as all doom and gloom. It’s understandable that not everyone within charities will be comfortable talking about end of life, and it’s true amongst donors too. However, I find that most legacy supporters are thrilled by the idea that they can make a transformational difference with what will be their parting gift to the world – a gift that shows who they are and what they care about, and that’s something to celebrate.
Q: What is the most important thing to you in your career?
The most important thing for me in my career is to learn new skills or ideas and figure out how they can be used to improve myself, our team and our fundraising. Part of that is completing the Certificate in Fundraising last year; it was great to consolidate what I’ve learnt over the years and to explore and learn how different organisations approach or respond to fundraising differently.
Q: How did you balance your studies with a full-time job?
I balanced my studies with a full-time job by planning 1-2 hours of study time straight after work each day and setting weekly targets for sections to complete. I’m lucky in that I work from home so could switch straight over to my studies without having to contend with a commute. However, during the course there were months when I was out and about travelling a lot and I wasn’t always at home to be able to study – nor always having the motivation to study! I needed to be disciplined to get at least a few hours in a week, flexing my study time according to my whereabouts, and made the most of opportunities by taking books and printouts with me to read in between visits and meetings.
Q: And finally, what's the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given was to become a mentor. I was hesitant at first – asking myself what have I got to offer? – but I quickly realised that mentoring is more than just sharing practical knowledge: it’s being a sounding board and helping to explore and challenge ideas and thinking in a trusting space. It’s been a pleasure seeing less experienced fundraisers develop their skills and careers, and I’ve developed my own coaching and empathy skills to bring back to our team and donors.
Natalie Levin MinstF(Cert), Legacy Engagement Officer at Guide Dogs.