I'm Jenni, and I'm a fundraising officer
Describe your job
I work for a national charity helping to raise funds for hospice care in the UK. Within fundraising there are many specialisms - mine is ‘individual giving’.
My team’s job is to inspire people to donate to the charity. A lot of this is through creative direct marketing appeals. As well as this, I’m in the team which manages the communications to our regular givers (people who have a direct debit set up to donate automatically each month), making sure they have the best experience of the charity possible.
Working for a charity, I often have to use creative thinking to come up with innovative ways to make the most impact without a high cost.
The role is hugely varied and because my team is small I get to experience projects from start to finish - project managing, writing content, working alongside colleagues and suppliers.
Knowing that my work is having a positive social impact is also really important to me. I recently read a book called ‘Am I There Yet?’ by illustrator Mari Andrew and one of her illustrations said ‘make a decision to impress only two people - your 5 year old self and your 85 year old self’. I think it’s a pretty good way to live your life and keep your passion and ambition in focus.
What are the most important skills you need to do your job?
You need to be a flexible person who is happy to turn their hand to whatever is required by the organisation.
Creative thinking is important so that you are able to problem solve and inspire people to achieve the best results.
Being aware of what’s going on around you. Knowing what other charities are doing and what is happening in the world and how this affects the way you communicate with people.
You need to be a top communicator - both verbally and written. It doesn’t hurt to have an eye for design and visuals too.
Most jobs will require organisation to some level, but I think it’s a fundamental life skill to master. Being organised is helpful to get people ‘on side’ too - no one likes to work with chaotic people who are all over the place.
I left school and...
Completed an Art foundation course in Cornwall. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do next and these courses are a great way to try everything out before you commit to further study or move onto a job.
Someone once told me I went ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ when I decided to go to Leeds after that. (They were middle-aged, so in a city that is pretty much run by students, I can imagine why they didn’t think it sounded that great.) I had the best time.
Honestly, my sister was already in Leeds at university at this point and looking back I think a lot of my decision was based on wanting to move there because it looked so busy and exciting in comparison to the pace of Cornish life.
I ended up at Leeds College of Art studying creative advertising. It’s a vocational degree where you learn how to come up with ideas for adverts. There I learnt two things which put me off becoming a creative: 1) that creatives in advertising are hired in pairs and I didn’t want to be paired up and 2) that there’s never a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer when it comes to ideas. I prefer working with facts.
A point to make here - if you decide to go to uni - get as much work experience as you can in the summer breaks. I had a couple of good placements at some great agencies which put me in good stead to hit the ground running when I graduated.
I left uni and was desperate to get a job - I wanted to be a strategist - but I didn’t really mind as long as I started earning my own money.
Turns out getting into advertising was hard, but getting into strategy is H-A-R-D. I did a few placements, then got in touch with a family friend who worked in an advertising agency to see if they had any permanent entry level roles available. By chance, the new business executive was leaving, so a role had opened up and I was over the moon to fill it.
Little did I know, the new business department really is the heart of agency life. They are the department who work on pitches, marketing, PR, events, awards... I had an amazing 4 years in my first job. Professionally, I got to fast track my learning working with the most senior people in the business on the most fast-paced part of agency work - pitches.
Personally, I had a ball: I made some life-long friends, got to go to the Cannes Festival of Creativity, got to go to multiple awards shows through my work as awards manager, went on annual company-wide ski trips and submerged myself in all the social scene that advertising has to offer.
After four years, I decided it was time to move onto a new challenge and to refocus my energy in a way that worked better for me. I realised that I’m driven by helping others, and wanted a new role where I was making some tangible change in another person’s life. I wanted to meet some new people and gain some new experience - so ‘started again’ and moved into the charity sector at the end of last year.
I’m most proud of...
During my time working at an advertising agency, I discovered that I care about the wellbeing of my fellow colleagues more than the average person.
I was drawn to the cultural elements of the business as much as the commercial side of things. I got involved in as much as I could, I supported the founders of the company’s LGBT+ initiative, assisted with talent marketing for a short while, and I put myself out there to promote the culture of the agency in any way I could.
One of the initiatives the agency ran to make sure the voices of younger employees were heard, was creating a Junior Management Team. By application and interview, a group of 10 of us formed a shadow board to see what we could do to make the agency the best place to work.
As a team, we drew up a proposal to increase the company’s maternity and paternity policies to 8 months full pay and 8 weeks full pay respectively.
Before I started my career, I wish I knew…
There is a difference between being responsible and taking responsibility - don’t burden yourself with something that isn’t yours to carry.
On an individual level, I also wish I was better prepared for the day I realised how privileged I am, how wonderfully diverse the world is and how unequal it can be. Growing up in a small village in the countryside, surrounded by the same sort of people, going to an all girls school, going to university with people just like me, then joining a homogenised workforce...I’m still learning now, but I wish I had known sooner how privileged I am and how to be a better ally to people who aren’t like me in my younger years.
A mistake I made which you can avoid repeating is...
At one point in my career I was stuck in a bit of a rut, allowing my surroundings to affect me negatively. From this experience, I learnt it's best not to stay in one place for too long.
It’s so true that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.
So, it’s important to make a change if for any reason your work isn’t working for you. Changing path isn’t a failure - I promise you will have learnt something in the process that you can take forward.
Tolly T from The Receipts Podcast explains it well: "You’re not a tree...move!"
So, what’s next?
I’m in the process of applying for an apprenticeship where I hope to learn more hands-on, practical marketing skills.
I want to experience the different facets of working at a charity and absorbing as much knowledge as I can, while helping people in the process.
Whatever is next, I want to leave each place I work at better than how I found it - so far I’m doing alright.