‘Winning the National Fundraising Award made me realise that I had achieved a massive success’

‘Winning the National Fundraising Award made me realise that I had achieved a massive success’

Guest Bloggers | 12 February 2020

Helen Maguire won the Rising Star award at last year’s National Fundraising Awards. She explains what winning the award meant to her, and how winning has impacted her career.

I had been working really hard for a little known small charity in my village that manages the local recreation ground - Claygate Recreation Ground Trust. Despite our marketing efforts, some people still thought that the ground was managed by the local council. Our capital fundraising appeal raised awareness of the charity but many local people still did not understand the gigantic fundraising effort that was required to raise the additional £190,000 required in six months in order to proceed with the rebuild of the Community Clubhouse that had burnt down.

After having felt so isolated from other fundraisers just getting on with the work in this small charity, to be recognised in the shortlist of the National Fundraising Awards Rising Star category was astounding. I attended the ceremony on my own but was soon welcomed by many other fundraisers and was delighted to get the opportunity to network with so many other incredible people. I was new to the industry and had no idea how big this event was. To then find out that I had won this category working for such a small, little known charity against such major national competitors was totally overwhelming.

I really wasn’t prepared for the fact that this award was announced before dinner and that there was a massive screen that went through the story of each participant shortlisted. It felt like I had barely sat down and my name had been announced. Although, thinking back I’m glad it was the first award as it meant that I could relax and enjoy the meal! Immediately after receiving the award, it felt like something out of the Oscars as I was chaperoned to one side, photos were taken and I was asked to say a few words about receiving the award which felt quite difficult initially, as I was speechless!

‘I was on cloud nine’

The day after the award and for the next few weeks, I was still on cloud nine – sharing my success with the charity, fellow fundraisers, friends and family. It was such an amazing feeling to know that after you had worked so hard for so long and achieved success that this had been recognised, even though it was for such a small charity.

Over the next month, there were various LinkedIn requests from recruiters and fellow fundraisers. My fundraising network has grown and I’ve gained confidence in reaching out to other fundraisers. Further to this, as I only received my Diploma in Fundraising qualification in 2017, it has given me the confidence and credibility to talk to other charities and gain independent work with them. Working in a small charity it can feel quite isolated, so it was difficult to measure my success against the fundraising average. Winning the award made me realise that I had achieved a massive success which I can now confidently talk about with prospective charity clients.

‘I raised more money for the charity in six months, than it had done in the previous 10 years’

Reflecting on my success, I was handed an unbelievable opportunity to run a capital appeal and prove my worth at the beginning of my career. During the capital appeal, there was never a question of failure as to do so would fail the local community. It was all about the journey – bringing the community together and reaching the target so we could move forwards from the fire. I raised more money for the charity in six months than the charity had done in the previous 10 years. I achieved a 100% trust and foundation success rate and reached our target a month in advance through detailed strategic planning, good prospect research and sheer tenacity and determination. Subsequently I went on to double this target in the following year and all of that was done without a donor database. I guess I felt I won as this was a massive achievement and compared highly against the other award nomination.

If you are reading this and are thinking of submitting a nomination for the National Fundraising Awards this year, don’t hesitate. Please just do it. It doesn’t matter how small or large your charity is – my success is a clear demonstration of this. It’s so important that we celebrate our successes with fellow fundraisers.

Helen Maguire won the Rising Star award at the National Fundraising Awards 2019.

Now in their 30th year, covering 15 categories, the National Fundraising Awards are the only awards that recognise and reward fundraising excellence and best practice in the voluntary sector. They are free to enter. Find out more and enter here.