Laura Savory is Deputy Director of Community Fundraising at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity). Laura has worked for the organisation in a variety of roles in its community and events team for the last ten years. Prior to this, she worked in the fundraising team at Sue Ryder. Laura speaks with Nicholas Ogden at Pro-Marketing about her role at GOSH and sharing her advice to anyone looking to move into the Not-for-Profit sector
Tell me about yourself, how your career started and what you do at GOSH Charity
At the start of my career I’d planned to work in sustainable tourism, but the role I’d lined up sadly fell through and instead I started working as a sales executive. From this I quickly learnt I was quite good at making money, but that I’d like to do it for a cause I cared about. I applied for lots of jobs in the charity sector, but struggled to get a foot in the door, until I met the head of events at Sue Ryder, where I started volunteering. I loved it and went from volunteering to being their challenge events manager where I did everything from helping the charity embark upon its first ever London Marathon with five gold bond places, through to building the national challenge events portfolio.
An opportunity came up at GOSH Charity to manage the challenge events programme and I took it. I grew the challenge’s income from one million pounds to four million pounds, a portfolio that included our biggest mass participation event - RBC Race for the Kids. I was then promoted to manage the community events team which I found to be a baptism of fire as I quickly learnt that community events is quite a different space to challenge events! But I loved it, and I was subsequently able to move into a role managing the whole department, a post I’ve been in for around four years now.
Why community fundraising?
It was partly luck as it was the opportunity that presented itself to me, but I’m so happy it did as this feels like an area of fundraising that really suits me. I am an extrovert (ENTP if you are interested), I enjoy getting stuck in, I really like talking to people and I’m also motivated by the idea of supporting others to meet their own goals, which ultimately is what this area of fundraising is all about. It’s members of the public who are pushing themselves to do something to raise funds for the hospital, using their time and energy, and I find that very inspiring.
In a crowded market, what does GOSH Charity do to stand out, how is it different/unique/special in the market?
As fundraisers we are lucky that the areas we are raising money towards become very tangible; you can stand in the hospital buildings that transform the care children receive, you see the state of the art piece of equipment, you get the chance to talk to staff whose posts are funded by charitable giving and you see the impact of their work. You can touch it, feel it, smell it. I think at GOSH Charity, that’s something we really appreciate.
From a personal perspective what really stands out to me about Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is the breadth of the work it does. It’s caring for children with the rarest and most complex conditions, and that inherently places it in a very unique position. I grew up watching the Wishing Well Appeal, which raised funds for the hospital, and now I’ve worked for the charity that supports the hospital for a quarter of my life. It’s a very special place. I think in theory it would be easy to lose sight of how special it as after being here for so long, but you just don’t.
How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone applying to be part of the team?
In terms of our charity’s profile and how much we try and raise, we’re a relatively large organisation. But in terms of our staff, we are relatively small; before social distancing measures we all worked from one office five minutes away from the hospital itself, and it’s always been really easy to pop over and chat to a colleague to get something done.
My team is one department in a fundraising directorate that includes individual giving, philanthropy, corporate partnerships and special events, so there’s quite a breadth. We’re hardworking and professional, but also very supportive and caring, which I’m really proud of.
My advice – you need to be someone who’s prepared to talk to people, to pick up the phone or to go to the hospital to meet in person. I also need you to think more broadly than community fundraising, because the supporter you are working with is not one dimensional. We need to see every opportunity we can and think about how to build a really positive relationship with the fundraisers we’re supporting. At the end of the day, it’s all about people and the relationships we have with them. Putting the supporter at the heart of everything we do is really important.
How would your team describe you?
Determined. Informal. Driven, in that I have high expectations. I hope they would say I am accessible.
We’re all on a journey, I’m not perfect, and I’ve definitely grown – in the last few years in particular. I would hope that a colleague answering this question now might say something different that they would a few years ago, which would reflect my development as a leader and a colleague.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Pause, slow down and forgive yourself a bit more. I have a habit of rushing in! I think my biggest piece of advice is that it’s ok to be vulnerable, you don’t have to know everything, and it’s ok to ask for help.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed or adapted fundraising?
I think it depends on what type of fundraising you’re talking about. For example trust fundraisers will have a very different experience of change to those who work in public fundraising.
In community and events, we’ve had to pivot everything that we do. We were quite a digitally focused team before the pandemic, but it has sped up digitisation of our culture and fundraising. And as a sector we have to catch up quickly, because the pandemic is not only changing how we work, it’s changing how the public thinks of and engages with charities. For example, I think the pace at which we will now move towards a cashless society is speeding up, and that poses big questions for community cash based fundraising.
There has also been a big shift towards supporting hyperlocal causes, this will require larger national charities to really challenge themselves on how they demonstrate impact and engage people at such a micro level. The surge of mutual aid groups through the pandemic was not only really heartening to see from a personal point of view, but was fascinating from a professional perspective.
What advice would you give to someone looking to make a move into a not-for-profit organisation from another sector (especially during this pandemic)?
People are often pleasantly surprised by how values driven the sector is. I think we all acknowledge the impact that Covid-19 has had on fundraising, and so for many organisations it will be a tough few months ahead. With that in mind, my advice would be to choose a cause that you are really passionate about. If you’re moving into the sector it’s because you want to see change happen and at this time the change could be really meaningful. If you feel like you’re really part of something by working towards something you really care about, it’ll be much easier.
If you were not working for a charity or not-for-profit organisation, what would the dream be?
I think I’d be doing something outdoorsy, where I could be hands on and get stuck in. I did once consider training to become a landscape gardener!
Any final words of advice for people looking to progress their career in the charity sector?
Right now, be adaptable. Be willing to try new things, be willing to explore different avenues in fundraising. I think we will all be stronger for having a diverse and wide range of skills, so say yes to opportunities.
Thanks for your time, and as a little treat for all of our readers - do you have any guilty pleasures you can share with us?
I don’t think pleasures should be guilty! I’m also an oversharer, so nothing is really that secret.
At a push, perhaps I would say watching or listening to a true crime documentary whilst snaffling a bag of crisps. It turns out I am fascinated by serial killers (hopefully because they are very different to me!), and I do a love a frazzle.