Scotland’s newly crowned Fundraiser of the Year for 2023, Stephanie Shanks from Sight Scotland, says collaboration and building a positive fundraising culture is the key to unlocking success.

Stephanie, from Whitburn, who joined Sight Scotland as Fundraising Manager just over 15 months ago, has made a huge impact with the charity in just over a year. In this time Sight Scotland has recorded its highest fundraising income in 5 years (excluding legacies) and has seen a 36.7 per cent increase in trust income. The charity’s Corporate Income has almost doubled as well.

Stephanie says that developing relationships, improving communications, and creating a team spirit throughout the organisation are the key reasons for her success.

Stephanie Shanks, Scottish Fundraiser of the Year 2023

A positive fundraising culture

Stephanie says you cannot pretend to have a positive fundraising culture; it needs to be worked on, developed, and be constantly evolving.

“I was obviously delighted to be named Scotland’s Fundraiser of the Year, this is fantastic recognition for myself, the whole fundraising team, plus all the people I work with daily across the services at Sight Scotland," Stephanie says.

"I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but we genuinely care about what we are doing and can see first-hand the huge difference our fundraising efforts are making. You need to be invested and enjoy what you are doing.” 

Working closely with her colleagues across the organisation, and particularly within the services in which she is fundraising for, one of Stephanie’s first tasks was to create a priorities list of everything that the charity required. Remarkably, everything it was seeking funding for on that list was secured, including an Innowalk, a machine which helps people with limited or no ability to move independently, which cost £40,000.

Stephanie emphasised: “Collaboration is crucial, I could see from a very early stage that the only way I could be a success in this position was to work hand in hand with services that I was trying to fundraise for. I had to try and encourage all stakeholders to engage and speak to the fundraising team, so they could share ideas and ultimately tell us what they need. I kept saying if you don’t ask you don’t get. I wanted everyone, whether that was head office, services, volunteers, or families, working together so we could develop our fundraising strategy and maximise impact."

Forward Vision BBQ 2023

Effective communication plays a pivotal role

Stephanie says: “Yes, fundraising is about raising money, but it is also about building relationships, inspiring trust, and creating impact. I tried to get to know everyone and build relationships, I wanted people to know they could call me up or drop me an email anytime to discuss ideas, or funding problems or gaps in provision. It was vital I got to know the day-to-day activities that take place across the organisation so I could form an overall picture of what was needed.

"So I regularly visited the Royal Blind School and saw first hand what they were doing, I went into Forward Vision and experienced what it was like helping our residents, and I formed a group with our community services team so they could tell me what they needed.

"Effective communication plays a pivotal role in fundraising; it should not feel forced but rather a collaborative effort. Engaging in regular conversations helps to normalise fundraising and makes everyone feel part of it. When fundraising becomes embedded in everyday work it should naturally become easier.”

Andrew and his family

Stephanie has worked as the Fundraising Manager at Sight Scotland for just over 15 months. She was previously with RNID as Fundraising Manager, and was a Senior Fundraising Executive prior to that.

Stephanie was named 2023 Fundraiser of the Year in Scotland, with the award recognising a fundraiser who has shown excellence and best practice, through their efforts, vision, and strategy. As the winning fundraiser, Stephanie was selected due to her skills working across the organisation and with all kinds of stakeholders, and engaging everyone in a fundraising culture. Stephanie's work is beneficiary-led and sustainable.

You can learn more about Sight Scotland's fundraising work below.

Samantha Shanks at work in the Sight Scotland office