Recently promoted to Divisional Fundraising Manager, Harrie Edwards joined HOME in 2012, working her way up to manage the Nottingham region. She talks about her experience as a Fundraising Regional Manager and how much she enjoys helping fundraisers learn and develop, and what it means to work with such inspirational charities.
What did you most enjoy about the Fundraising Manager role?
A huge part of the job is helping people to develop and achieve their potential. A lot of our fundraisers are under the age of 25, so they are still trying to figure out who they are as a person. It wasn’t that long ago that I was in the same boat and finding my feet as a fundraiser. Helping them in this journey and seeing them grow has got to be my favourite part.
What do you remember about your first few days working as a fundraiser?
I started as a door-to-door fundraiser in Sheffield. The training was inspiring and exciting, and on my first day I worked together with my team leader. He was so enthusiastic about the charity’s work and really engaging with the first gentleman we met.
Then it was my turn and, at the first door I knocked on alone, I stumbled over my words and really didn’t do a great job of it. I’d wanted so much to do a good job for the charity so I was really upset about it! My team leader was hugely supportive and went through my training once more until I was ready to start again. That gave me the confidence I needed and I quickly got the hang of things and began to love fundraising, sharing my passion for the campaigns I was working on with the people I was meeting on the doors.
What do you enjoy most about fundraising?
What I really love is seeing what a difference a conversation can make, not just for the charities we represent, but for members of the public too. I remember knocking on a lady’s door when I was working on behalf of Cancer Research UK.
Our campaign at the time was focusing on the charity’s research into bowel cancer. As soon as I mentioned this, the lady told me her daughter had passed away from the same disease. I told her how sorry I was and asked her whether she wanted me to leave and end the conversation, but she really wanted to talk. I offered her a number for the charity’ support line - we were given the number during our campaign training and I wanted to ensure that she was supported through such a difficult time. But she was adamant that she wanted to use this opportunity to get involved with the charity; she wanted to hear more about its work and she hoped that this might help prevent other families from losing loved ones.
Raising awareness and signposting the charity’ services is a big part of the job; it’s all about making a difference.
How involved do you feel with the charities you work with?
We have a close relationship with all the charities we work with. They visit our regional office on a regular basis, starting with an initial training session ahead of the campaign launch. They are often accompanied by our training manager Robin, who is incredibly inspirational and supportive. Our fundraisers will also have more opportunities to speak with the charity representatives directly when they attend refresher training sessions a few weeks. We have always encouraged charities to visit our teams in the field and it’s great to see even more charities taking up the opportunity to come and see our fundraisers in the field, interacting with member of the public.
From time to time, we get to meet charities’ beneficiaries and that really brings it all to life. We’ve had bone marrow donors in the office as well as guide dogs. It’s so important for all our fundraisers to see the difference they’re making when representing such great causes.
Did you ever imagine that one day you’d be in charge of the region and ultimately responsible for everyone working here?
Not really, no! I just knew I wanted to be able to progress and to support charities but within four months of joining, I was already Deputy Fundraising Manager. It’s a hugely supportive culture here at HOME and the opportunities for development are incredible – there is so much training and support here to help you get to where you want to be. And now that my role is less about fundraising and more about managing our teams in the region, it’s fantastic to be able to help others progress.
What do you look for when you are bringing in new people to the team?
Everyone is different; there is no one personality type or skill set that makes the perfect fundraiser. You don’t need to be an extrovert or necessarily to have studied a particular discipline. It’s the values of a person that I look for rather than personality types; honesty and integrity is what really matters. Passion is also vital but pretty much everything else can be learnt..
Managers sometimes talk about seeing the potential in people before they see it themselves, is that something you can relate to?
Definitely. I think people often don’t recognise how brilliant they can be. I’ve worked with so many fundraisers who have developed into the most amazing people, like one of my Deputy Fundraising Managers who started two years ago as an excitable bundle of energy without any real direction. I could tell he’d be brilliant because of the effect he had on people and how people listened to him, but it took a lot of work for him to see this. My role was to mentor him and provide the framework so that he began to recognise his positive influence on others. He has become such a great asset to the team.
What campaigns have most inspired you since working with HOME?
I don’t think it matters what campaign you work on – every charity is out there to make a difference. Saying that, I fell in love with fundraising in my third week, working on behalf of Marie Curie, when I met a woman who said she’d been waiting over 17 years for me to knock on her door.
She’d had cancer and been very poorly. Six months into remission, she finally felt well enough to go for a walk. It was April and the moment she stopped to rest, she saw a field of daffodils with a plaque saying they were for Marie Curie. The sight had given her hope.
Since then she’d been waiting for an opportunity to get involved and give something back, and my visit gave her that opportunity. It felt that it was really important for her to tell me her story and that, whilst she could have donated in other ways, this was the moment she had been looking for.