The voluntary sector is by nature reliant on volunteers. Contrary to some expectations, volunteerism doesn’t have to equal amateurism, and for me, it has been important to use my skills and professional expertise in my voluntary roles. Being a fundraising specialist on a trustee board is invaluable, and contributing to the Chartered Institute, the professional body representing all fundraisers is something that we should all consider, as without volunteers we would have a much poorer experience.
My volunteering with the then Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers began around the turn of the century with London regional committee, (before it merged with the South East). I had been fundraising for about four years and completed my Certificate in Fundraising through the Open University route, for those that remember it. I was working as a donor development manager for the Epilepsy Society in Buckinghamshire. I’d also been to some Fundraising Conventions, when they were three day long immersive experiences at the Hilton at Birmingham International. London region events were good ways to keep in touch with fellow fundraisers and the profession. A colleague, Sean Bonnington, was on the London committee and roped me into joining, initially as minute secretary, and then for three years as Secretary. Those were formative and invaluable years, getting to know how the Institute worked and also building my network of fundraising colleagues.
It is therefore not overly surprising that after joining the Foyer Federation as Head of Fundraising in 2002 and realising there wasn’t an active corporate fundraising special interest group, that I was willing and able to recruit a committee and chair the new Corporate Fundraising SIG. The group became very popular and I’m pleased to see it is still very active today. By then, being an IoF committee volunteer had become a normative part of my professional life. On moving to work for an NHS charity in 2004, I joined the Hospital Fundraisers Special Interest Group as their Treasurer, a role that is seldom sought after it seems. I also became involved in Remember a Charity, and was elected as one of its Vice Chairs for four years or so. The value of these roles included having an inside track to how these groups worked on behalf of fundraisers and being able to work with great people in the profession. I was fortunate to have employers who valued me taking time out from work as a volunteer.
I moved to the ‘dark side’ of fundraising consultancy in 2011, but have continued to maintain my volunteering involvement. The Institute advertised for members to join the Learning and Development Board sub-committee, and I put myself forward as I believe in the value of education and continuing professional development. I have really valued my nine or so years on that committee, and seeing how the Institute’s qualifications have developed, how Chartership has now happened, and how plans for CPD and competency frameworks have progressed.
Part of my role on the Learning and Development Committee was to represent smaller charities and latterly to focus on cultural sector fundraising and the learning and development output from the RAISE: Arts, Culture and Heritage programme. This was due to becoming Treasurer of the recently formed Cultural Sector Network, another new Special Interest Group in 2016. Being a part of the CSN group as it has taken shape and shaped parts of the fundraising sector has been a great experience. I have been able to contribute in my role as a Director of Moore Kingston Smith Fundraising & Management, through introducing relevant corporate contacts and through providing video-conference equipped meeting rooms. We were used to hybrid-meetings several years before Covid hit. On a personal level, and definitely not an expectation of volunteering with the Chartered Institute, being on the committee also created the opportunity to meet the woman who is now my wife. During Volunteers Week, if you haven’t considered getting involved with a regional group, Special Interest Group or one of the Chartered Institute board committees, I’d recommend looking into the options. It may not be a life-changing experience for you, but it will certainly add value to your membership and you’ll also be putting something invaluable back into your profession, wherever you are in your career.