Exploring the World of Interim Fundraising
21st August 2019 By Matt Cull
Matt Cull is a ‘fundraising fixer, strategist and consultant’ in his own words, currently working in an Interim position at the Royal Association for Deaf people with AAW. Here he outlines the benefits of working as an interim.
A year ago, I decided it was time to go solo, to leave permanent, fixed employment and have a go at consultancy and freelance work. Even though it was something I had always wanted to do at some point, it was still a daunting prospect. It’s fine saying you will do this one day but when you take that leap it is slightly terrifying to be honest.
The best thing I did was speak to my old boss, Mark Astarita. I had the pleasure of working with Mark and some of the most talented fundraisers around at the British Red Cross between 2003 and 2008. As a long time referee, and more importantly friend, I have always asked Mark for advice and support.
Nobody knows the fundraising sector better than Mark. In addition to this I knew Mark had started working with Imogen Ward and Tobin Aldrich, both of whom have extensive experience and knowledge. If there was any team that was going to make a success of both consultancy and recruitment, it was this team.
Thanks to Mark I have been working with the Royal Association for Deaf people for 12 months. The role has changed since I first went there and that is part of the joy of consultancy and interim work. I had a specific task when I went there - Tell us why fundraising hasn’t taken off yet? What’s going wrong? As someone who sees themselves as a fundraising fixer, it was exactly the challenge I was looking for. Having answered these questions, the role has progressed into steering the changes I made.
Interim work allows you to concentrate on the actual fundraising; for many senior fundraisers this is refreshing because you are continually pulled away from your key work in permanent roles. Being a senior manager or director is rewarding in many ways especially seeing the bigger picture and influencing organisation wide priorities. But sometimes you get caught up in the politics of your organisation, you are in endless meetings and the fundraising work seems to drift further away. I had nine meetings in a day once and it wasn’t a great use of my time.
In interim work you can get things done. You can guide the team, develop talented people, and concentrate on positivity and progress. You will still have to make important decisions, so the level of responsibility is still there on a daily basis.
You need a different mindset as an interim. Despite AAW working with more and more charities, you will not get every position they put you forward for. There is an increasing number of people working in the freelance and interim area so there is competition out there. You will have disappointments for roles you would really like but the flipside is equally important. I feel greater freedom in my working life now but just as much pride in the work I do. You can plan your time off and prioritise other aspects of your life, which is important. I feel a lot less stress than I used to; I could never really switch off before.
It takes a while to get used to the enforced down times, but you can ease this by taking the opportunities that come and prepare financially for the breaks to come. And rest assured that AAW will find you something before long too. Won’t you, Mark?