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Fundraising Adventures – Arts to Education

Caroline Notman St. Aloysius

Guest blog: Caroline Notman, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, St. Aloysius’ College

The National Arts Fundraising School will be in it’s 30th year come 2018, having trained over 1,300 fundraisers helping them to raise £300M+ for their organisations. One of the most rewarding parts of running the School is hearing from past Alumni, how they’ve progressed and where the learning has taken them. This month, we asked Caroline to share her story ten years on from attending. Read on, and be inspired…

A friend of mine claims that nobody ever says “When I grow up I want to be a fundraiser”. That’s because both she and I ‘fell in’ to fundraising.

Drama and story-telling were my first loves and I was attracted to a career in television and the arts, and through a circuitous route landed up as a Production Accountant in Scottish Television, followed by a spell at Scottish Ballet, then through a former boss, was encouraged to apply for my first development post at The King’s Theatre in Glasgow, then part of Ambassador Theatre Group.

The Kings Theatre, Glasgow

It was while I was at The King’s that I persuaded my line manager that I should attend the National Arts Fundraising School, by saying that I would be able to cover the costs with the increase in business I could generate.  That was in the spring of 2007 at Seamill in Ayrshire, and sure enough, I did land a new banking client on my return which more than covered the course costs.

However, the National Arts Fundraising School was a turning point for me. It was more than just the training, the analysis of materials, the team assignment and development of presentation skills which we learned that week; it made me realise that my opportunities in working for a commercial organisation would be limited in terms of genuine fundraising. I was inspired by the people I met there and their great causes, so I began to look around for other opportunities and one presented itself to me three months later, which I had never considered before: working for a university.

After leaving school I’d gone to College and worked since I was 19. I had always been put off by job descriptions requiring a degree, so had probably undersold myself over the years. In the end all my experience, training and ambitions, eventually led me to raising money for Undergraduate Scholarships at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I became passionate about it because I realised what I had missed out on and how I should have gone to university, but due to our family situation, we just could not see a way to me studying for 4 years and not earning. This turned out to be the very argument I would use when making a case for support for Scholarships to potential donors.

University of Strathclyde

When compared to the arts, I worried that it might be boring working in the education sector. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Working in development in the education sector is one of the most stimulating and fulfilling experiences as you draw on many talents and strengths, and there is a generous sharing of knowledge and experience amongst peers across the education sector.

I spent six years at Strathclyde and was exposed to just about every element of fundraising, from writing direct mail appeals, running bi-annual telethons, writing proposals to trusts and foundations, event fundraising and face-to-face fundraising. It was a steep learning curve at the start but I worked with a great team of people and our fundraising increased year on year to provide more scholarships to bright students than ever before.

Three and a half years ago I moved to become Director of Development at an independent school, and a Catholic and Jesuit one at that! The challenge for me was to set up a development office from scratch. On day one I was presented with an ancient wooden filing cabinet which was filled with admission cards going back to the 1880’s. This was the start of my alumni database! Going from a large alumni office to just me, and now a bijoux team of 2.4 is quite a change. You have to do everything from setting up the database, to organising events and reunions to writing the magazine, and then there’s the fundraising . . .

On reflection, the National Arts Fundraising School was more than just a training course. It was a catalyst for me.

I had to justify the investment to get on the course, but if I hadn’t attended, I don’t know where I’d be now. Probably settling for less and feeling unfulfilled, but certainly not raising money for the education of talented students and pupils – and who knows what they’ll go on to achieve?

Caroline Notman, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, St. Aloysius’ College

Visit the National Arts Fundraising School website for further info, more Alumni blogs and details on how to book.

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