Fundraising: Pride and Prejudice

Louise Parkes, CEO of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, gave the closing speech at the Third Sector Fundraising Conference -  Fundraising: Pride and Prejudice.

In an impassioned speech to the sector, Louise spoke of her pride at being a fundraiser and urged delegates to be proud of their profession, the work that they do and the significant difference their fundraising work makes to beneficiaries. Louise suggested that perhaps this pride had become bruised in recent years as the fundraising sector, and the wider charity sector, has faced much adversity. “As a sector we have had a tendency to put our heads below the parapet. We haven’t as a sector been prepared to speak out.

“But we need to be proud of ourselves as a sector. It’s not an easy job. To be a brilliant fundraiser we have to have resilience, confidence, we have to have belief and passion. I’m incredibly proud to be part of the sector, and of the difference that we make. And it must be remembered, organisations wouldn’t be able to make the significant impact that they do without the money we raise.”

The art is in the ask

After giving a brief synopsis of her career to date and her path from volunteering at the National Deaf Children’s Society to becoming Great Ormond Street Children’s Charity CEO, Parkes recounted one moment early in her career that has remained with her across the years. At a fundraising conference, early in her career, the question was posed: Why do people give to charities? The answer is that over 70% of people give to charity because they are asked. And this is where the challenge is for fundraisers -  the art is in the ask.

Louise revealed that one of her other passions is mental health and wellbeing and she drew compelling comparisons between the ‘five-a-day’ recognised key components of good mental health and wellbeing and fundraising: Connect, Take Notice, Get Involved, Be Active and Give. All of these, Louise noted, are crucial components of fundraising and the work of charities: “Fundraising is actually good for you. It’s all about connecting. Taking notice. Getting involved. Being active and giving. Every single one of the ‘five-a-day’ relates to charity and the work that we do.”

A career in fundraising

During the speech, Louise lent her support to the Institute of Fundraising’s calls to gain chartered status for fundraising as a career and a profession. By doing this, she argued fundraising will become a bona fide profession that will:

  • Strengthen our focus on ethics and standards
  • Give the profession added credibility
  • Help increase trust in fundraising
  • Provide fundraiser with professional recognition
  • Enable fundraisers to influence key stakeholders
  • Attract a wider pool of talent to fundraising
  • Support the collective commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Diversity is key

Louise also explored the future of fundraising, stating diversity is key. Diversity of ideas, thoughts and recruitment:The success of the sector going forward lies in diversity. We need to look outside of our comfort zones, we need to attract people from a range of sectors, individuals with different skill sets who can offer so much to the profession. We need to challenge our unconscious bias.” The same principle applies to the diversity of ideas and thought: “Don’t just recruit like-minded people, you’ll become blinkered to other points of view; we need to constantly challenge ourselves as to who we are recruiting into our teams.”

Much of the day’s conference had centred upon the importance of diversifying an organisation’s audiences and targeting them appropriately. Louise stressed however that as fundraisers it is vital that we understand what it feels like to be a donor. “To do this successfully, we need to walk in our donor’s shoes. Find out how it feels to be a donor. How it makes you feel. We must adapt our approaches and journeys to what the audience want.”

Innovation, technology and data will all revolutionise fundraising moving forward. But Louise warned, at the heart of all developments must be the need to simplify all processes for donors, especially when it comes to data.

Closing the conference, Louise reiterated what a brilliant profession fundraising is. “We do brilliant work. We literally change lives. But we must challenge our thinking. Be curious. Ask lots of questions but be open to the answers. Fundraisers are amazing. Be proud of everything you do on behalf of the amazing organisations that you work for.”