1. What's your role at St Aloysius’ College? What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m Director of Development & Alumni Relations and I started the Development Office in August 2013. My typical day consists of a lot of juggling – between finding potential donors, arranging face-to-face meetings, stewarding existing supporters and raising the profile of our Aloysian Fund
at events and reunions. 2. What projects are you working on at the moment?
The main priority is our ‘Opportunity Fund’ to raise funds for transformational bursary places for promising young people from families of modest means. We launched our Aloysian Fund in November, which includes a ‘Take Your Seats’ appeal for our College Hall and a new ‘Hardship Fund’. 3. What are your goals for the school year? What challenges do you face?
To inspire more donors to give to ‘The Opportunity Fund’ by profiling some of the positive Bursary alumni who have gone on to do great things. My main challenge is always the same: not enough time or resource to do everything I want to achieve! 4. What's the biggest change you've seen in the Development/Fundraising sector - especially in Scotland?
Political uncertainty has dominated the fundraising sector in Scotland since 2008, when the global economic crash hit. In the lead-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, there was a reluctance from some quarters to support charitable projects in Scotland. In 2016, the Brexit Referendum led to more long-term uncertainty. Then in 2017 The Barclay Review was commissioned to reform the business rates system in Scotland, the outcome of which is set to remove charitable rates relief for independent schools in Scotland. For my school this will add a six-figure sum to the bottom line and some schools have had to close their doors. 5. What would you say are the core skills needed to start a development office within a school?
6. How has your time at St Aloysius' varied from your Arts & Higher Education experience of fundraising?
- Learn the art of juggling, because in a school you’ll do a bit of everything – from writing a strategic plan and budgeting, to purchasing and operating the database, researching, writing proposals, planning events, producing reports for Governors, asking for support at face-to-face meetings, producing videos, writing copy for appeals and editing your alumni magazine, and if you’re lucky you’ll grow a team to help.
- Be patient, because starting a Development Office from scratch will take much longer than you thought. Rome wasn’t built in a day so just remember that you are building a foundation for the future of fundraising for your school.
- Be tenacious because the nay-sayers will doubt it’s possible – or your abilities – so you need to stay focused and be resilient.
- Be nimble, but beware of those left-field projects which cause you to take your eye off the ball!
- Make friends – internally and externally – build those relationships and remember, this too will take time.
- Think creatively as you may not have the luxury of a big budget, so find other ways to do things.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from peers. Being the sole fundraiser in your organisation can be isolating so I joined the IDPE and find that colleagues in Development are more than happy to share experiences.
In a school, I feel that I’m at the coalface and our relationships are closer because we are dealing with families – sometimes generations of families – so you might be talking to someone one day and discover that you met their brother or cousin last week! You need to be careful what you say and who you say it to!
Looking back at working for a University, there are teams of colleagues who carry out all the Development functions, whereas in my team there are 3 of us, and we are across everything!
In the theatre where I worked, it was very commercially driven, so there was more focus on corporate sponsorship and individual memberships, rather than philanthropic giving. However, I did produce a Centenary Exhibition for The King’s Theatre which ran for six months in The People’s Palace museum in Glasgow, which was one of the most unusual and strangely enjoyable things I’ve ever done! 7. What are some ways you keep your Alumni engaged?
I started a Business Network in 2015 which we run twice a year now. We aim to get inspirational speakers and often our alumni will host them in their venues or offices. We also hold Class Reunions and produce a biennial College magazine. As well as the usual social media channels, once a term we send out a digital newsletter, so we’re always on the lookout for stories. Last year we introduced our ‘Old Aloysian Hall of Fame’, recognising alumni who have made special contributions in their life and work and we invite them to address the entire Senior School at an Assembly. 8. Tell us a little bit about yourself! What do you do when you're not working?
Life at home revolves around family and cooking. I’ve become hooked on tracing my family history, which is absorbing. I enjoy driving and bought my first electric car last year, so I am now an EV enthusiast. I work in the city, but my heart is in the countryside. First loves are cinema and theatre, plus catching up with friends and my guilty pleasure is watching crime drama on TV!