Winning a National Fundraising Award has given me renewed focus, confidence and drive to achieve even more

Winning a National Fundraising Award has given me renewed focus, confidence and drive to achieve even more

Guest Bloggers | 4 March 2020

Suzie Rees won the Fundraiser of the Year award at last year’s National Fundraising Awards. She explains how winning the award felt like external validation for both herself and East African Playgrounds, the charity she works for.

When I found out I had won the Fundraising of the Year award at the National Fundraising Awards, I absolutely couldn’t believe it. I had just had a baby and life was filled with sleepless nights and nappy changes. I could barely remember how it felt to be a fundraising professional, let alone an award-winning one! 

Once the news had sunk in and I had checked multiple times no one was playing an elaborate joke on me, I was over the moon! Since starting at East African Playgrounds in 2016 I had been working really hard to build trust & foundations and individual giving fundraising streams from the ground up, which wasn’t an easy task – especially when combined with all the other varied challenges roles at small charities have to offer. For me this included creating office cleaning rotas, implementing new data protection legislation and being the only UK-based staff member for 5 months a year!. Coming from a medium-sized charity background, this was quite a change for me!

In the twelve months before I left for maternity leave, it felt like all our hard work was finally coming to fruition. Our regular giving programme was steaming ahead, and after slow but steady growth grants were finally being secured from larger funders. These included six-figure sums from major institutional funders such as DFID (the UK Government’s Department for International Development) – the elusive goal for many international development charities, meaning we could increase our impact for children in Uganda many times over through our core activities of playgrounds and play-based learning. 

I was also putting this learning into place outside of work, assisting in the creation of and joining the board of a community interest company, The Friendly Bench, who I’ve since helped secure major funds to expand their locally-based project combatting loneliness and social isolation to new locations across England. 

‘Winning felt like external validation’

Winning the award felt like external validation for both myself and for East African Playgrounds – recognition for all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that both myself and others had put into realising our ambitious growth strategy over the last few years. When you are in the thick of it, it’s so easy to remember the things that didn’t work, beat yourself up for them, and almost take your successes for granted. The award has helped me to look proudly at what EAP has achieved through my hard work, as well as appreciating how lucky I am to have a great leadership team pushing me and putting their faith in my ability to achieve goals, even if I didn’t always believe it myself! 

Last month, I returned to work after a nine-month break, which can be a challenging time for any new parent. Winning the award has given me renewed focus, energy, confidence and drive to achieve even more and I am loving being back! East African Playgrounds has undergone some big changes while I’ve been away – we have a new CEO, have exciting plans for the next five years as well as our biggest ever fundraising appeal fast approaching, so here’s to the future! 

Massive thanks to the Institute of Fundraising for choosing me as their Fundraiser of the Year 2019 – it’s given me, and East African Playgrounds huge motivation to continue to achieve more to help children in Uganda develop and learn through play.

Carla Powell, Co-Founder and Managing Director of East African Playgrounds, said of Suzie’s win:

“Suzie came on board in 2016 with the goal to diversify our funding base. Since inception EAP developed a hugely successful student fundraising income stream, but it was time to diversify. Right away Suzie adapted to being part of a small charity, with all the quirks that that brings. She set about developing whole new funding streams on her own with limited to no resources. Within three years she had created a successful and steady income of trusts and foundation grants, been successful with not one but two highly sought-after DFID grants to fund our refugee work as well as developing our individual and regular giving income stream.

“Suzie winning the Fundraiser of the Year Award was just so significant to us all at East African Playgrounds. During a time of significant change, to have our team’s work recognised in this way gave us all a huge boost of confidence and pride. We work very closely together as a team and so one person’s success, really feels like a whole team achievement. We are beyond proud of Suzie and so grateful for her hard work and dedication to the cause.”

Get your entries in for the National Fundraising Awards before Friday 13 March. Enter here!



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