Kate Billingham Wilson has worked in the charity sector for 20 years at a wide variety of organisations including museums, cancer research, medical research and addiction. Her career in fundraising started at a military museum in Wales as a sole fundraiser, after which she moved to London to work for a grant making trust focused on supporting charities in Eastern Europe.
In 2014, she moved to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the British Army’s national charity, supporting soldiers, veterans and their families when in need, and is now the Head of Partnerships at the charity. As part of the #CareersInCharity series for International Day of Charity 2018, The University of Law Business School wants to celebrate the great opportunities that the charity sector offers graduates, especially those with a business qualification. We spoke to Kate to find out about her work at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, what a career in the charity sector means to her, and what it really takes to do her job.
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity ensures that every soldier and veteran of the British Army, and their immediate families, are afforded the independence and dignity they deserve. We make grants to individuals and fund a wide range of specialist organisations that sustain the British Army ‘family’, both at home and around the world. Last year, we supported 80 charities and organisations and made direct grants to around 4,200 individuals at a cost of £9.4 million. Our youngest beneficiary so far is 2 years old and the oldest was 106.
As Head of Partnerships I oversee the running of the team focused on corporate, trusts and major donor fundraising. So to break that down:
Corporate fundraising involves developing relationships with companies. They support us in a variety of ways, including gifts in kind, such as marketing or PR support, staff fundraising and donations.
Trusts fundraising is where we secure funds through written applications and face-to-face approaches from established charitable trusts and foundations with an interest in supporting a particular charitable cause.
Major donor fundraising is where we secure support from wealthy and high profile individuals who wish to invest some of their wealth in philanthropy, for a social rather than monetary return.
A typical day for me is usually full of meetings. I meet with external supporters such as companies or individuals to discuss how they might support us and in the most effective way. This includes things like monetary donations, gifts in kind, fundraising events and so on. As an example, we recently hosted an event at the Library in Lloyds of London and hosted the Lord Mayor Big Curry at the Guild Hall. Our corporate supporters range from Barclays, the National Garden Scheme to a tax consultancy based in Kent and everything in between. Internally, I meet with my team and others to plan our pitches to funders and events.
I opted for a career in the charity sector because I wanted a job where I would get a ‘social return’. As a new graduate I worked in a variety of sectors, but realised that I wanted to feel like I was doing something for humanity.
My role involves persuading people that we are a ‘worthy’ cause for them to support. The ability to talk to a huge range of people from high profile business individuals to beneficiaries and everything in-between is incredibly important. Next month we will be hosting an event on the 30th Floor of Barclays in Canary Wharf to promote our organisation at which I hope to secure meetings with companies to support us. I’ll have 30 minutes over a coffee to convince them we are the charity for them to support and why, how working with us will further our charitable objectives and increase their business. So, having a good elevator pitch is key.
My main piece of advice for someone to succeed in the charity sector would have to be passion. Make sure you have a passion for what the organisation you want to work for does, and volunteer in the charity sector before you apply for jobs.