Guest blog: What does a fundraiser look like?

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Tuesday, 10 April, 2018

Blog written by Isobel Michael, trustee of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF).


I am proud to be a fundraiser and to have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and organisations over two decades and help them to raise the funds that have made an extraordinary difference to the lives of people affected by disadvantage, disability and discrimination. However, I know that many have not had the opportunities that I’ve had to build a fundraising career.

Fundraising is relatively new as a profession (the IoF was only established in 1983) although people have clearly been raising funds for causes for centuries. Dr Beth Breeze’s research for ‘The New Fundraisers - Who organises charitable giving in contemporary society?’, found that over 40% of fundraisers ‘fell into’ the role and just 5.5% “always wanted to work as a paid fundraiser”. It rings true for many of us - I fell into fundraising because of the valuable experience gained and connections made through Bath Rag whilst at university.
We know the fundraising profession has a real challenge with diversity. Research conducted by the IoF and Barrow Cadbury Trust in 2013 (Who’s doing the asking?) found that 74% of fundraisers were women, 87% identified themselves as white and only 5% as disabled. The research found that the fundraising profession is less diverse than the general workforce of the voluntary sector, and the broader community. Although there were far more women than men in fundraising, they were mostly at more junior levels.
Last year, I had the opportunity to run a workshop at both the IoF SW Spring Conference and Voscur’s Fund It! conference, both events providing inspiration, information and training in fundraising for organisations in the South West. I was shocked by the difference in diversity between the two groups of delegates, with many more people with disabilities and from BAME backgrounds at the Voscur conference. Interestingly, many of these delegates did not seem to identify themselves as fundraisers and for some, fundraising is a part of their role alongside other responsibilities. We need to change the perception of the fundraising profession within BAME and other communities in Bristol, and throughout the UK.
As a trustee of the IoF, I have the opportunity to help to tackle this challenge. Increasing diversity in the profession is a top priority for us and we have established an Expert Advisory Panel on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. We were honoured that Ruth Pitter (previously Inclusion Manager at Voscur) agreed to join the panel and share her expertise and experience on inclusion. It how now been confirmed that Voscur's Funding Lead, Jenny Wildblood, will be taking over the role, and we are pleased to wecome her.
The IoF SW Spring Conference this year is at the Watershed on Wednesday 2nd May and we hope to welcome people involved in fundraising from diverse backgrounds in Bristol. You will have the opportunity to learn from inspiring speakers (including Debra Alcock-Tyler and Voscur’s Funding Lead, Jenny Wildblood), network with fundraisers from all over the South West and learn about the bursary, training and mentoring opportunities available. Join us and help to make this year’s conference the biggest and most diverse yet:
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