Fundraising is a truly global profession. Working as a fundraising professional in various countries can be an exciting and eye-opening experience. Deputy Fundraising Director at Greenpeace East Asia Rebecca Scelly, CFRE, shares her experiences of working across borders as well as what motivated her to pursue the CFRE, the only globally-recognised credential for fundraising professionals, in 2012.
1. You’ve been a fundraising professional since 2004. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be in the profession?
By accident, really. I took a job managing a country museum in New Zealand and part of the role was fundraising for some of the annual operating expenditure. It was a relatively small amount to raise each year, but it gave me an opportunity to learn about applying for grants and fundraising events.
2. Fundraising roles can have a high turnover and we know that it is not uncommon for individuals to leave the profession after only a few years. What do you think has led to the longevity in your fundraising career?
On an emotional level, I really love the feeling of making a difference.
Without the work of all of us in the fundraising profession, charities would not be able to achieve what they are able to around the world. On an operational level, I love the variety of being a fundraising leader.
Each day I do an incredible array of different things, from line managing and inspiring staff, to project managing pieces of work, to strategising with multiple departments and writing to donors.
It is impossible to get bored and I get to work with some of the smartest and most positive people in the world.
3. You earned your CFRE in 2012. How did you first hear about the CFRE and why did you want to pursue it?
After working at the museum, I moved to another fundraising role at Presbyterian Support Central. I was lucky enough to have a passionate fundraiser as my fundraising manager and she was one of the first in New Zealand to go for and receive her CFRE.
She talked about the requirements and encouraged me to do training sessions so that I could start building up credits to be able to apply to do the CFRE exam in the future. After a number of years, I finally built up the courage to go for it!
4. What advice would you have for other fundraising professionals who are interested in earning their CFRE but might be intimidated about sitting for the exam?
There are heaps of resources and support for those taking the exam. If you are an experienced fundraiser, you are in a good position to take the exam because you know what you are doing. Have confidence and keep in mind one of the key fundraising principles of being donor-centric.
5. You’ve had the unique experience of working in fundraising in three different regions: New Zealand, Australia and now East Asia. Would you say that fundraising is approached similarly across all or are there distinct differences you’ve noticed?
I think that in Western cultures, fundraising is practiced fairly similarly.
It has been a big learning curve to understand how fundraising is different through East Asia. With Greenpeace I have been lucky enough to support the teams working in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea.
Basic fundraising principles hold strong in every region I have worked in, but many operational methods have to be adapted for local culture and legal and banking restrictions. For example, Taiwan has very strict estate laws, making it difficult for individuals to have their wills adhered to.
As a result, very few people have wills—making bequest fundraising redundant. Another example is how advanced digital fundraising is in Korea and we can learn a lot from the testing and successes they are having.
6. What’s the best fundraising advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t assume a ‘no.’”
This was at a major donor fundraising training session, but I think it applies to many different fundraising channels. If someone hasn’t given you an answer, it is easy to back-off, thinking you are pressuring them too much.
There is a way to be gently persistent without being annoying and without assuming a “no.”
7. What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I set up some major donor events when working for Forest & Bird [in New Zealand], each one of which went for 48 hours.
It was an opportunity to have a captive audience on a field trip that they thoroughly enjoyed and gave them the opportunity to understand our projects and why we needed funding.
It was such a wonderful chance to get to know some amazing philanthropists and understand that they are just as human as the rest of us.