My first job fresh out of university was selling classified advertising space for the Observer newspaper, which at the time was based on Battersea Bridge Road, around the corner from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. There were around 30 of us in the classified team and we had to make 100 cold calls a day, resulting in at least four bookings. We had a one hour lunch break and two 15 minute ‘team teas’ a day. It was the closest an office could get to being a factory, but with the satisfaction of making a sale.
It was therefore with some irony that I found myself in the shadow of that very same building several years later. As I sat there revisiting my old sales skills and sending out cold requests for income, it struck me that in fundraising, possibly more than any other discipline, maintaining high levels of energy and self-confidence is absolutely crucial. Fundraising takes time to deliver results – so how do we maintain a positive outlook and the energy to keep trying?
It isn’t always easy but I am motivated. I treat myself as a donor; I individualise my efforts to beneficiaries and think about what that donation means, or will mean, to them. There are experiences that I hold in my head and my heart and I think of them when it’s hard. One was watching a long-stay dog, Hayden, find a loving family home after 15 months in kennels. Another was seeing a woman turning to Battersea for help when she had lost her family and her home and could no longer look after her dogs. I remember these moments and the joy and the pain, and I find the energy and the tenacity I need.
But there are two sides to this passion. Because we care so much, we don’t want to let our dogs and cats down and fail our cause. Cold calling can be a relentless and solitary task. Emails and phone calls that go unanswered take a toll and personal resilience is vital. To combat this, I have to see my efforts in a wider context. Each time I try, I am increasing Battersea’s profile and edging closer to success.
I think it is important to remember that fundraising, while scientific, is also about moments of serendipity, creative thinking, making friends and a fair bit of magic. I am privileged to truly see the best of people – the generosity and passion of volunteers and the people who encourage their businesses to engage with the Home, the wonderful feeling when a donation comes in and personal pride I get from knowing that I do make a difference.
Fundraising is not for the faint hearted. It is sales without the direct benefits. But when it gets tough we can be proud of what we do and, eventually, the results will come in.
Jane Bardsley is Corporate Partnerships Manager at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home