When looking at their careers, most people tend to prioritise permanent
opportunities – for a range of reasons, it just seems the natural choice. Yet I’m a
big believer in the judicious use of short term contracts to boost your fundraising
career. Here’s why.
When I accidentally fell into fundraising from a world of advertising and
investment banking, little did I know this would lead to a career spanning three
decades, several major campaigns and eventually a role advising other
organisations on their fundraising strategies and resourcing. Yet my entry level
temporary role covering the Individual Giving programme at the Courtauld
Institute of Art opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me.
I soon discovered that I loved, and was even good at, asking people for money to
secure amazing art, and that my experience as a student caller at the London
School of Economics had stood me in good stead for the challenge. I fitted into
the team really well and was able to demonstrate that my flexibility and ability to
learn were ideal skills for the situation.
My next chance for progression came when I had the opportunity to fill a
maternity cover in the Development team at English Heritage. Only a nine
month contract, yet I leapt at the chance to add new skills to my CV.
Although sad to leave the Courtauld, the opportunities to work with major HLF
applications, develop the corporate partnership scheme, and add heritage and
education as new and glittering strings to my bow were too great to pass up.
I knew that without this experience I had little hope of progressing to a more
senior role, yet as someone who knew (or believed!) they had so much more to
offer I didn’t want to get tied down to a long-term role that could ultimately be
too junior for me. They took the chance on me because, after all, it was only for
nine months, and they could see I was hungry to learn.
I loved every minute of it – my team sent me on training and made me feel a part
of the team from day one. Within a year the person I was covering for had
returned from their maternity leave, able to pick up where I was leaving off, and
I moved to a role as Senior Development Executive at the Science Museum
managing some major corporate sponsorships – a role I could not have dreamt of
securing only a year before.
The benefits of short term contracts aren’t just about promotion – a friend of
mine, who was already a very experienced fundraiser, was able to move from
health fundraising to arts fundraising via a fixed term contract at an organisation
that was willing to take a chance on her ‘different’ experience in a way they
would not have if it had been a permanent role. From her perspective, she got to
dip her toes in the water – and to confirm that she loved it as much as she’d
thought she would. She was unexpectedly invited to stay on, and she is still there today.
From an organisation’s perspective, whilst nerves will always be present about how well the new person will adapt in such a short space of time, the temporary addition to the team also brings riches in great abundance. One organisation I worked with was able to draw on the different thinking the maternity cover brought from their own background and use it as a complement to the existing post-holder’s skills, leaving them highly grateful for his input and him with a glowing reference for his next position.
Next time you are tempted by a maternity cover or a fixed term role don’t dismiss it out of hand – it could be the making of your career.
3 Key Benefits of Being a Maternity Cover
1 – Springboard to promotion – charities are more likely to ‘take a chance’
2 – Chance to gain experience of a different sector or type of fundraising
3 – You get to leave after 6-12 month, no question asked, refreshed and reskilled ready to gain your dream permanent role.