Why I love being a fundraiser


Charlotte Bray has found it tough to be a fundraiser this summer, but then she remembers towers, lemurs, Terry Nutkins and a beautiful David Tennant painting 

Charlotte Bray's photo

28th September 2015 by Charlotte Bray 0 Comments

Its been a whirlwind few months since the Olive Cooke tragedy made headlines. The resulting Etherington review and what feels like a storm of media stories highlighting poor fundraising practice, have left fundraisers feeling raw

It’s easy to be depressed. I feel similar to how teachers must when they're told "But you finish work at 3pm and have nice long holidays". It's not pleasant when you work hard at a job you believe does good for the world, only to have it maligned.

But it’s not for me to solve the big issues that the reviews in Scotland and England have tackled. Instead, I feel that, in amongst the charity bashing, we could do with a bit of positivity!

We fundraisers light up people's lives, and they in turn light up ours

I’ve worked in the sector for a decade and volunteered for longer. In tough moments I’ve felt like I’m pushing a ball up a hill to watch it roll back down again. When those moments come, I try to remember the highlights.

I have worked in some incredible places and experiences, including the tower of a mansion house in a zoo. On hard days I could amuse myself watching the escaped warty pigs running around the bongo enclosure, or visit the penguin parade. Arriving early I would hear owls hooting and see eyes gleaming in the night. At the end of the day I would catch sight of shy animals emerging; playful lion cubs or Russian wild cats. On my last day I fed the lemurs.

My second mansion house was next to a safari park. I got so used to the sight of wild animals that when I trekked Tanzania I had to say to myself, "it’s not the zebra enclosure, it’s where the zebras live". Mid mornings at Camphill were enlivened by fresh baked bread. There were parties and celebrations throughout the year and always a friendly face or joke to help the days pass. One favourite experience was hiding in a bush with a hat on, being hunted by my fellow fundraiser with a butterfly net. It was publicity for our upcoming Mighty Deerstalker, and yes we’d had a lot of coffee.

Now I work in a crypt. I emerge from my bunker to see with surprise that the sun is shining or rain is pouring from the sky. From our terrace outside we have a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens. Below ground is a maze of corridors, some with funny names like the slype (that’s by the organ). Organ practice in the church above makes me feel like I’m in Phantom of the Opera. In festival time the place fills to the roof with volunteers and performers and echoes to singing and dancing. And as with any good fundraising job, there’s an endless supply of cake and chocolate.

The real highlights always involve people. I;ve met lots; some titled, royalty and celebrities. I’ve entertained Terry Nutkins, who regaled me with a story about losing his fingers to an angry otter. Sometimes the unlikely people have been fascinating: chatting to a man standing on his own at a Galapagos Conservation gathering, I found out he pioneered the trials of aspirin in heart attacks.

Most important, of course, are the people we raise money to help and those who care deeply enough to give to our cause.    

On my wall is a painting. When I worked at Camphill I raised money for a fully equipped craft workshop for adults with learning disabilities. Within it was a light box, and using it to project photographs onto canvas opened up a world of creative opportunities for painting. One autistic boy produced a huge painting of David Tennant, and being a big Doctor Who fan, I often admired it. He was so proud of it we worried he’d take to sleeping next to it in the workshop. Then, on my final day, he presented it to me as a gift. To have someone so attached to something present it to me willingly was incredible. "Don’t worry," he said. "I’ve got a photograph of it for myself".

These are the things to remember when times get tough. We fundraisers light up people's lives, and they in turn light up ours. Whatever happens, these moments make me a proud fundraiser.