Since moving to London, I have had the pleasure of meeting some fabulous people. On person in particularly is the lovely Caroline Gellatly, she has been a game changer in me settling into London Life. She is a wonderful woman, who brings magic and charisma wherever she goes. She also has given me the chance to take a sneak peak into her world of Philanthropy and what an inspiring place to be! So I decided the best way to share her with you all, is to interview her of course!
Could you please tell everyone a little about yourself, what do you do and what sector you work in?
Hi, Wayward Professional readers! I’m Caroline, and I work in the charitable sector as a major gifts manager for a national cancer charity, fundraising large donations from individuals towards our research. Outside of work, I enjoy exploring London with my friends (I’m on a particular mission to discover the best bottomless boozy brunch in the city – recommendations always welcome!), but my heart belongs to Rome (and Gregory Peck).
Why did you decide to go into this sector?
I fell into philanthropy by accident: I was applying for any reasonably bearable job that would take me post-degree, and landed a role as ‘Alumni Assistant’ at one of my university’s colleges. The job description included fundraising, which I quickly realised I loved: chatting to people for a good cause? Brilliant! My boss was an incredible mentor – her career path and success really inspired me – and I was lucky to join the office at a time when staff a little above me were leaving, so I put myself forward and was promoted quickly to take on more of the aspects of the work I really enjoyed.
Scoring £20,000 gifts towards scholarships for hard-up but seriously bright students, and running a telephone campaign managing eighteen students for an intensive fortnight of fundraising, made me realise just how much this sector suited me. I absolutely love chatting to new people and building good relationships, and I also enjoy the sense of achievement and satisfaction from hitting ambitious targets, so high-level fundraising was a good fit.
How did you come about getting your current position and did you face any obstacles along the way?
I can’t stress the importance of a great recruiter enough. With 100% certainty, I wouldn’t be in my current position without an experienced and enthusiastic recruiter, who knew the industry and the standard of candidate out there extremely well, fighting my corner.
My recruiter helped me to narrow my focus to major gifts fundraising as my dream role, and advised me on how to best present the experience on my CV to fit those job descriptions. There were definitely obstacles – I was applying for roles which were asking for many more years of experience in fundraising than I had at the time – but my recruiter’s belief in and backing of me, as well as their practical instruction, gave me the confidence to shoot for that dream role, which I’m still loving now!
What advice would you give to potential candidate wanting to get into the industry?
Fundraising is, in many ways, like selling – except you’re peddling a lovely warm fuzzy feeling of altruism instead of an actual object or service! – so any experience in pitching, proposal writing, or presentation giving can be spun towards this. And it goes without saying that immersing yourself in how charities function is a big plus: volunteer, or even better, become a trustee (check out Young Charity Trustees).
When you’re ready to make the move, speak to a bunch of recruiters (I approached seven or eight) – you’ll likely chat to a few before finding the one who’s really going to gun for you. Look for someone who takes the time to speak to you at length on the phone, teases out experience or aspects of your previous roles which you haven’t given enough limelight, and maintains really frequent contact about multiple positions they’ve put you forward for. An independent recruiter with some prior experience of fundraising themselves – rather than a big, generalised corporate agency – will tend to be much more engaged, too.
Now to the fun stuff, what is your favourite thing to do to unwind?
I drink too much cheap cava, constantly plot my next holiday (usually to Rome!), watch Old Hollywood musicals, and corral my Galentines into frequent Nando’s trips and Mindy Project catch-up sessions.
How do you allocate your time to make sure you have a good work life balance?
I love my job but generally manage my time and productivity quite well, and can switch off from any work-related stresses when I’m out of the office; if anything, it’s my work-life-rest balance that’s a bit off! I love to make the most of the city and to spend plenty of time with my wonderful friends – but that often means my diary’s absolutely packed, and I don’t get alone time, head space or an early night for weeks on end! So I’m trying to get better at scheduling quiet evenings in every few weeks to stay sane.
Lastly what is your favourite comfort meal?
An entire baking tray of my mum’s roast potatoes. Also, the smashed avocado-feta-chilli-and-poached-eggs on toast at the London Bridge Grind.
To London Friendships!