Kirsty studied Politics at The University of Edinburgh and started her professional career in project and events management with the Edinburgh Science Festival before moving into fundraising roles for charities. She gained experience in community fundraising, working for the Red Cross for just under three years, and then began working in trust and grant fundraising with St Andrew’s First Aid. She joined Sight Scotland in 2017 as Senior Fundraiser.
What first appealed to you about the role and working for Sight Scotland?
“Sight Scotland has so many different services and that variety really appealed to me. Everyone has a different story and the charity supports people of various ages – from children to older people.
“The senior fundraiser role was a really good opportunity for me personally. It was more responsibility and allowed me to use the skills I already had but also build on new skills. It was a chance to do some things I hadn’t done before, which was great. For example, at Sight Scotland I’m working in a team that unites both marketing and fundraising and I get to write articles about fundraising for our stakeholder magazine, iSight. There was also the opportunity to have more involvement with the development of fundraising campaigns."
What are your main responsibilities as Senior Fundraiser?
“The main type of income generation for the charity that I focus on in my role is trust and grant fundraising. I write funding applications to trusts and build up relationships with funders that could support us longer term. I also do some corporate fundraising, so that’s all about applying to corporates for funding and working with those who might be able to support us.
“The funding applications I work on are a bit of a mixture. For some of the bigger funders, there will be detailed online forms that I will complete. Some smaller funders don’t always have a set way that they’d like you to apply, so for those I might be putting together a project proposal or sometimes a quite a detailed letter is needed to introduce ourselves and ask if they’d be able to provide some funding for us.
“Sometimes potential grant or corporate funders might want to come and interview us or visit the services while considering our applications and deciding whether they want to support us. I will be involved with these meetings alongside service managers.
“I’Il work with staff across the whole organisation, really. I build up relationships with people across all Sight Scotland’s services and within our head office in order to get all the information and stories I need for our applications.
“I also provide input into our wider fundraising strategy, so that’s things like working on campaigns and coming up with ideas for how we can generate more money for the charity in the coming years.”
What’s an average working week like in your role?
“I’m usually based in our head office for most of my week. It’s nice to be around the whole team.There’s quite a lot of writing involved in my role – either writing applications or writing articles to be included in our iSight magazine or to go in our fundraising materials. I might have meetings about current or future projects with other members of staff or external stakeholders and I’ll report back to funders on how we’ve spent the money they’ve given us and how many people have been helped.
“If we’ve got one of our fundraising events on, such as our annual celebrity golf day, then I’ll be out and about more. Our Community Fundraiser leads on these events and we get involved as a team to help run things on the day.
“As a charity, we do a lot of donor care, so I’ll also spend time handwriting thank you cards to those who donate to us. We want everyone who supports us, whether it’s someone who donates or a volunteer, to feel valued and we want to show them how much we appreciate them. We like to thank people in lots of different ways, from printed letters and hand-written cards to Christmas cards. It’s so important to make this effort as their support is so important to us.”
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
“It’s great to see the benefit of the money I’ve helped to bring in through my fundraising work for the people we support. It might be for a specific piece of equipment, for example, and you get to see that piece of equipment in use which is quite exciting. For example, the digital touch tables we have in our Braeside House and Jenny’s Well care homes are both funded by grant funders. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, these have been hugely important pieces of equipment that helped residents to stay in touch with their families when visits were not possible. You see the great impact these things have on the lives of people we support. It’s such an amazing thing to see and it keeps you motivated.”
Have you had skills and development opportunities since starting with Sight Scotland?
“I’ve had the opportunity to complete a fundraising diploma since starting at Sight Scotland, which has been really great. Through that I’ve learned about lots of income streams I hadn’t worked in before and met people through the course who I’m still in touch with. At Sight Scotland I’ve been involved with some bigger campaign work which is an area I hadn’t really worked in before, so it’s been great to get that experience and be part of that.
“As a team we also attend a fundraising conference every year. We can attend different sessions and get the latest industry updates, keeping things fresh and interesting for our donors. Fundraising is always changing and developing so we need to keep on top of everything that’s going on.
“I think fundraising has the same challenges no matter where you are. There are so many good causes competing for the same funds. It does take quite a lot of resilience because there are times when you will be rejected, but you just need to keep going and keep talking to people.”
What’s life like within the fundraising team?
“The fundraising team gets on really well. We’re quite a small team and always very willing to help each other out. When one of us has an idea, it’s very easy for us to share and discuss as a team and with our manager – everyone can get excited about it. Our team is part of the wider marketing and fundraising team, it’s great to be part of that team as a whole, too. Being able to work closely with marketing colleagues is really good for helping to get fundraising messages out really quickly and in different ways.”