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Stacey's volunteering

Stacey graduated from the BA (Hons) Charity Development in 2017, a member of the first ever cohort of fundraisers with an undergraduate degree in fundraising, anywhere in the world. Wasting no time, she and her fellow students are already busy at work raising money to make the world a better, kinder place. Stacey is helping to ensure Mencap has the funding needed to deliver support to people with special learning needs.

What’s it like at Mencap?

I started in July 2017, just a month after I left the course. I took a couple of weeks off from job hunting and went back to South Africa to see friends I’d met when I was volunteering overseas. It really didn’t take long to find work; I only had three interviews before I found the right job for me.

My official job title is ‘Philanthropy Officer’, I look after donors who give between £1,000 and £10,000 a year, our mid-value donors. Day to day that means that I spend some of my time researching for new donors, writing proposals and working with the creative team. The creative team help us make the proposals look fantastic, so I write the text and then they do the graphic design side.

I also get to learn about Mencap’s work and I’ve been to visit a number of our projects, to see the work we do in action, so I get out of the office regularly to chat with the programmes team. I’m on the ‘social committee’ and we’re good at having fun as well as working hard. It’s a genuinely nice atmosphere in the office.

What have you enjoyed most?

I get to know our mid-value donors on a personal level. We invite them to events and so part of my job is chatting with them about their interests and how they’ve helped the people Mencap supports, which is really rewarding.

The other day I went to an event at Buckingham Palace and met two of my regular donors. One of them had been the teacher to the other’s sister, although they’d know each other for 20 years it was the first time they had seen each other in years, it was a lovely reunion in an amazing setting.

What has surprised you about your job?

Life in the office is lively because we’re committed to supporting everyone in achieving their potential, and that means I get to work alongside the people we are there for. One of my colleagues is so passionate about Mencap, he’s the most amazing advocate for what people with a learning disability can achieve. He comes and talks to donors and he represents us in Parliament. He’s really inspired me to want to be a great fundraiser; he’s made me passionate about the cause too.

Thinking about what you learnt on the degree programme, has any of it been useful?

Yes, it’s been extremely useful. During induction week, I was able to ‘yes’ to all those “do you know about” questions. It means I can work with colleagues across all the fundraising teams and I think that’s a real advantage. I use lots of the tools that I was shown at Uni to plan my work, and be more efficient; it feels great to be so on-top of everything.

Was the degree programme what you expected?

It was definitely harder, I had underestimated how complex the charity sector is. It was more work than I expected, the first year was no joke, but it really laid great foundations for the second and third years. It was really beneficial that the people who taught us were practitioners, and that we met guest lecturers and attended events.

What was the best bit of the degree?

It was really good that you could tailor the degree, and select modules to shape it to your interests. The teaching staff were brilliant and had so much knowledge, I am still in contact with them now. The smaller classes meant that they knew you as a person so it felt that the teaching was aimed at my needs.

If you could change a bit of it, what would that be?

Make it not go by so quickly, particularly in the last year. I wouldn’t change anything otherwise.

You volunteered overseas before the degree programme, what did you do?

I went to South Africa for three weeks. I worked with children and adults in rural locations teaching English and HIV awareness. It was quite eye opening, with young children involved in domestic chores above and beyond what you see in the UK. At the end of my three weeks in South Africa I saw an advert for an internship and applied. I then went on to intern in Zanzibar for four months and then another three months in Cape Town.

In the end a three-week trip lasted a year and it was extremely hard to leave. Doing the overseas trip was a game changer for me. Understanding the people, enjoying the culture, I loved my time out there. It helped me learn more about myself, being with different people and out of my bubble.

What was your journey from volunteering to the degree?

I was out in Zanzibar when I read about the Charity Development degree online and decided to apply. I interviewed for the degree on Skype sitting on a bunkbed in the accommodation block in Cape Town.

I had to ask all the volunteers to switch off their WIFI so that there was enough bandwidth to talk to the Charity Development Programme Leader, Donna, back in the UK. I promised them I’d take them out for a drink after if I kept a connection all the way through the conversation!

I left South Africa a week before the start of Uni, going almost direct from Cape Town to Bognor Regis - it’s a good job that Bognor is the sunniest bit of Britain.

Explore the BA (Hons) Charity Development page.