Fundraising: the highs and lows of powering the engine of an international charity

Determined to ‘save the world’ from a young age, I had been a passionate crusader for volunteering (especially the sexy, international type) and ‘doing good’… until a couple of real-life stints abroad opened my eyes to just how complicated and difficult the whole thing actually is. My critique of ‘voluntourism’ is nothing new and our very own Varsity has tackled the issue in recent weeks. I found myself deeply frustrated and dissatisfied over my time in Nepal this past summer as I saw the still-lingering earthquake damage all around me and thought to myself: is teaching the children English through the songs of The Beatles and playing a nerdy grammar version of Splat really the best things I could do for them?

This summer I finally had that epiphany that my peers ruthlessly gunning for those lucrative City jobs had perhaps grasped long before: money matters; money is not always evil; money can and often does do good. Just as I was belatedly realising that I could be of better use utilising my networks and communication skills to raise funds, CDI came to my attention in a fortuitous Facebook post on my newsfeed advertising for a Fundraising position! Small confession though: until relatively recently I had thought fundraising rather dull and uninteresting – it certainly seemed to pale in comparison to the heroic endeavours of those on the frontline, as it were, ‘changing lives’ and ‘helping people’. But what my experiences abroad have taught me is that this role is perhaps the heart of any charity, the engine of any organisation.

I like to think of my team (along with our lovely Finance Director, Sunil) as the Treasury of CDI. We may mysteriously hover in the background and not be directly involved in actual project matters, occasionally breaking our reticence to solemnly proclaim the importance of sticking to ‘the budget’, but without us there is no money and without money there is no good to be done, plain and simple. You do feel quite important! Having said that, it has undoubtedly been a baptism of fire. With choral singing having been my most ‘teamwork’-based activity thus far, I was suddenly thrust into a terrifying world of Slack and Google Drive. I have made mistakes and missed deadline and backtracked and panicked and wanted to quit at various points; I have felt hopelessly lost and confused and incompetent. But each time the wonderful committee rallies around to support and calm you down (usually over a sneaky pint or nice brunch at Queen’s) and you are reminded of how special CDI truly is.

Currently, my team and I are drafting letters to beg colleges for some money (you have to be quite persistent to wear down their usual we’re-so-poor-and-have-absolutely-nothing talk), researching grants and corporate firms we are hoping to target for sponsorship, and getting in touch with the finest nightclubs Cambridge has to offer (Lola’s or Cindies) to see if they’ll let us host a launch party there. After all, we only have until the summer to raise £50,000+…

By Sang-Hwa Lee Fundraising Director 2019/20

Sang-Hwa is a 3rd year History student at Gonville and Caius College.

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