I’m often asked how I got into professional fundraising, and if I’m completely honest, it was by accident.
As a profession, it’s fraught with tensions and is a fiercely competitive marketplace to work in, and so the feeling of failure can easily override our successes. Many people don’t actually realise that many fundraisers (particularly those from small charities) are skill-laden, having to do whatever needs doing, and do it well.
But if I’m honest I wouldn’t have it any other way, as the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Personally, I manage it all by wearing what I like to call ‘hidden medals’. Those little accolades that help us to compose ourselves through difficult conversations, or stand up to a bully in the workplace. They remind me of my worth.
Like the time a volunteer thanked me for my help and guidance. Or the first time I successfully chaired a meeting, or had an article published in the local press.
I don’t just mean in the workplace either. I recently played a game with my 3 year old niece, which involved hiding chocolate coins around our sitting room for her to find. She was so delighted, that she insisted that I hid them again – 5 times over. My sense of accomplishment of finally having found something that interested her was immense, after years of trying to engage her in various ways.
As a woman trying to find her way in a busy world, I’m constantly trying to keep on top of work, maintain a social life (which is now increasingly involving 3 year olds) and grow in any way I can, so it’s easy to feel like I’m treading water.
But occasionally I look back to where I’ve come from and remember that I’m so busy trying to be a success, that I easily forget what I’ve achieved!
I often question what ‘success’ means to different people. If success means that you earn a certain amount, have healthy happy kids, or have 1000 friends on Facebook, that’s great.
But I’d ask you to think about those less celebrated successes. Like standing up to someone you fear. Like saying ‘no’ for once. Like forgiving someone. To me, success is about survival – it’s about ending each day having learned a new lesson, often from people who don’t even know they’ve made an impact at all. It’s about valuing those hidden medals and wearing them with pride wherever you go, whatever you do.
I challenge you to ‘dig out’ your hidden medals, and remember how successful you really are.
Having graduated in 2008, ‘the year of few opportunities’ as she likes to call it, Kirstie started out by working 4 part time jobs at once just to get by. With an upbringing across Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Leicester, and a belly full of ambition, getting to where she is now has been tougher than expected, but she’s proud of having taken every opportunity presented to her, and made it a success. With her fair share of family tragedies, she has grown to appreciate the important things in life. She’s currently building a fundraising department at local coventry-based charity Grapevine, and as her 30’s approach, she’s looking forward to building a long and successful career in fundraising and marketing.