The fundraising team at Prospectus met with Dee Hall, Head of National and Regional Fundraising at Crisis, to discuss Community and Regional fundraising. Dee has a fundraising career spanning 18 years, and her previous roles include: Deputy Director of Fundraising at Barnardo's, Head of Regional and Branch Fundraising Development at Parkinson’s UK and Head of Regional Fundraising at The Royal British Legion.
We started the discussion with what we believed was a common misconception of the role of a community fundraiser.
Community or Regional Fundraisers are sometimes referred to as ‘Bucket Shakers’ - how would you better define the role of a Community or Regional Fundraiser? Is this a fair representation of the role?
I don’t believe that ‘Bucket Shaker’ is a fair representation. I would say that Community and Regional Fundraisers have one of the most difficult roles, as they have to demonstrate expertise in all income streams. Relationship building is an essential of course, however the role also requires a number of skills in different areas, and each location requires a degree of flexibility.
It is difficult for a great Community Fundraiser to have it all, that is why I personally believe that the role is not a ‘first jobber’ type of position. I have seen the most success in those who have had previous experience in fundraising or for those from out of the sector, from a client facing or sales based role.
I would use the term ‘Jack of all trades’ rather than ‘Bucket Shaker’, as these roles can be some of the hardest to fill. You need to be adaptable and a self-starter as the role can often be isolating. It is a really hard job actually, however that is what makes the role so fulfilling.
How have you seen Community and Regional fundraising change in your career? And how do you see it developing going forward?
I want to say that it hasn’t changed. Community and Regional fundraising isn’t anything new, just a reinvention of what we have done before. I would however argue that the reputation of Community and Regional fundraising has changed, and there is much more recognition of the importance of what we do. Take, for instance, during the recession, a number of different fundraising income streams were challenged, and fundraising took a bit of a dip. In my experience, Community and Regional fundraising remained a solid income stream during this time – much more so than many other streams. Charities have started to recognise the long-term stability and resilience of Community and Regional fundraising. It is a player on an even footing with other income streams, much more than it used to be.
How do I see it developing going forward? I think it will carry on very much the same, as Community and Regional fundraising has always been about strong relationship building and great stewardship. I personally believe that digital platforms are just another great way of engaging with the community and accessing a range of supporters.
What is your experience of Community and Regional fundraising operating differently across the UK?
Community and Regional fundraising does operate differently across the UK, as fundraising has to be adaptable to what the market dictates. Each region may require a completely different approach; it is therefore important to know the area in which you are working. Local knowledge is invaluable.
The nature of the relationships that we build with the community doesn’t change, but the opportunities in each region might be different.
Regional and Community Fundraisers are often home-based. How do you communicate effectively for one message and build trust within a widely dispersed team?
I have been in a home-based role for most of the 18 years of my fundraising career and I feel the attitude towards homeworking has changed a lot. I have often had people say to me ‘How do you know that people are not at home putting their feet up?’. As a manager you are aware if someone is not putting the hours in – it is reflected in their performance.
A key element of my role is HR, pastoral and people development. My view is that people need to be clear about what it is you are expecting them to do; setting objectives and regularly reviewing these objectives is a beneficial way to build trust and to ensure that the work is being done. If people know what their objectives are, you are regularly meeting and they feel supported, you’re not simply crossing your fingers and hoping for results
It is important to bring people together. Regional, homeworking roles can be quite isolating, and building a rapport as you would in an office-based setting can be difficult. I approach this by ensuring that I schedule face-to-face meetings which can be in person or via skype, and frequent team catch-ups. I make a conscious effort to get to know people on a personal level, as well as discussing work, and with face-to-face meetings I will always try to go to them, rather than expecting them to come to me.
If you are a good performance manager, it doesn’t matter if people are working from home.
We quite often have enquiries from candidates out of the sector. What are the benefits to recruiting these candidates in your experience?
I am very open to recruiting people out of the sector. In my opinion, people with life experience are really valuable in Community fundraising roles. When interviewing I am looking for people who can demonstrate transferable skills and I am very open to how they talk about their skill set. I have personally recruited people out of the sector who have excelled in their field.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Ah, this is a hard question. I guess there are two things. The first would be seeing people that I recruited around 15 years ago, when they were entering their first Community fundraising role and now they are flourishing in senior positions in the sector. It is a great feeling to know I played an important part in their journey. The second would be that along the way I have experienced some really challenging periods of time, where I have taken change programmes through from start to finish. Whilst these times have been challenging, being resilient enough to see them through and learn from them has been something I am very proud of.