Year one of starting my own business is done and dusted! What did I get myself into? I have never read so many books, blogs, articles and research papers, nor drunk so much coffee and wine in any other year in my career.
I have also never spent so much time listening to alumni, donors and volunteers share their thoughts on what they enjoy about giving and what needs to change. There is plenty to celebrate in our industry, but also lots to be done if we want more of our audiences to become proud advocates. The good news is they are more than willing to help us.
Speaking with alumni in particular has given me a great deal of inspiration and energy. It is a privilege to hear their stories and be trusted with their concerns. Some of these stories have stuck with me and made me appreciate the meaning of education (and the importance of what we do in education development) so much more.
I have also been lucky enough to discuss the ‘state of the industry’ with some of the best thinkers and practitioners in UK fundraising and share my own views at conferences, through webinars, and blogs. The opportunity to challenge my thinking and hone my ideas has been incredibly valuable, and I’d like to thank those who have shared their time with me and given me a platform.
Probably the most important contributors to what has been an incredible first year have been my friends and family. Many are also fundraisers, teachers and academics and they have gamely joined in on dinner debates and Skype discussions about some pretty meaty stuff. I am grateful to have had such a thoughtful and motivating support crew who, indecently, have been the inspiration for a new phase in the business (more on that soon).
Lastly, and certainly not least, I have been encouraged by the interest in what I have chosen to specialise in, alumni and supporter insight. I know that the future of fundraising is in getting to know our constituents and providing them with relevant and meaningful experiences; connecting with them as individuals and deepening their bonds with the causes they give to. It seems that many others believe this too, including my wonderful clients and partner agencies.
I am also delighted that information volunteered by our audiences is gradually being seen as more valuable than information purchased or inferred – not to mention more ethical and regulation-friendly. Prospect researchers, fundraisers, database officers, alumni managers and donor relations professionals are all discovering that listening to their alumni and supporters not only improves results, it makes their jobs more rewarding. Like me, they are connecting back to why they got into this business – and it wasn’t for the spreadsheets and Google alerts.
It is quite a strange concept for me to now be doing what I love as my full-time job. There was a time when I thought I’d be an artist (and then a banker) – but I’m grateful to the University of Auckland for opening up the world of donor relations to me and to the University of Nottingham for later helping me find my supporter insight calling.
The year ahead will no-doubt involve another steep learning curve, more late nights and even more coffee/wine (depending on the time of day) as we expand what we do – but I couldn’t be in a better frame of mind to make it happen. Thanks again to everyone who was a part of year one – cheers to you all!