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An ode to my fundraising squad

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Ode…is that even the right word? I studied Shakespeare….I should know these things…

Group of people looking over a river with arms around each other

First and foremost, what is a squad? I came across the concept originally called "tribes" from the amazing Jillian at PeerWorks – what she doesn’t know about Peer to Peer fundraising is probably not worth knowing. I loved that she already knew about one of the biggest community fundraising squads, by asking who was in the IoF Community SIG.

Quite simply it's “people like us, who do things like this”. And this is why your fundraising squad is so important. There is no other job quite like it. You need to be able to have people around you, who understand the shorthand of "one of those days" or what it means to need to get buy in from non-fundraising colleagues, or can advise you on that big event or campaign that's hit a stalling block.

And this is why having a varied squad is so important too. I know who to call when I need someone to jump up on that high horse with me and rant with me about changing the world. (Lizzi I’m looking at you here. Lizzi Hollis is one of the smartest fundraisers I’ve ever met - that woman’s gonna’ change the world)

Equally I have the “yin to my yang” members of my tribe. The ones who look at me, raise an eyebrow and ask the questions I didn’t really want to hear, and make me to look at something from another point of view. I want to give a massive shout-out to both Tania Munro – a previous manager, and now wise friend and confidant, and Kelly Walton for this one. Kelly is one of the best vice-chairs anyone could ever ask for, and so much of the success of our SIG is because of her hard work.

And that brings me on to my SIG. The CIoF Community SIG is a phenomenal group, that has given me some of the most wonderful people I could ever ask for. They are my go-to-gang and their combined knowledge, expertise and positivity in this group fills me with so much joy. They’ve been my high during some pretty low lows and have always been there to pick me back up and remind me that we're doing something pretty awesome in our sector.

I’m very fortunate to have had some wonderful mentors throughout my career and everyone should have at least one mentor in their tribe to share their wisdom and advise. My mentor recently gave me the point blank honesty I needed by saying “we’re not giving this anymore airtime – let’s focus on this instead now”. Sometimes you need that!

And then there’s your friends who you look up to. I’ve always considered myself to be values-driven and I feel like I didn’t even know the meaning of the word until I met Mandy. She is without a doubt one of the best people I’ve ever had the joy of knowing. Always one to speak out against injustice, and work with an exceedingly high level of ethics and values. In my career and decision making, I often ask myself "What would Mandy Johnson do?”

So how do you go about finding your squad? Sometimes they form naturally, but to really find those people that “get you” as a fundraiser, and that you can text at anytime and say “hey – can I ask your advice on something?” you’ve got to put yourself out there. So here are my top three ways you can expand your tribe.

  • Twitter. Find a few fab people to follow, and ask them if they fancy a coffee. Scary? Sure. But loads of fundraisers love to expand their tribe. Let them know why you’d like to meet up (Did they tweet something awesome, write a great blog post, or held a great event or campaign), and see what they say.

  • Go to a sector event. Again, networking events can be scary, but don’t view it as 'networking'. View it as 'expanding your squad'. Again, you don’t have to arrange to meet for coffee straight away – swap social media details and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • Offer a solution to a problem. Join groups like Fundraising Chat, Public Fundraising Specialists or the CIoF Community SIG group, and if it’s something you know about, offer a solution, and the chance to chat in more detail on the phone or over a coffee. Also on the IoF Community SIG Group, we have a “find a fundraising buddy” thread, which can be a great place to meet someone new.

  • Join a committee. The IoF regional or specialist groups are a great place to start, and many of us are always looking for new committee members, so please do get in touch.

How to be an awesome squad member

  • Be a cheerleader and celebrate their successes. Share their campaigns and events they’ve been working hard on, tweet about their awesomeness, write a blog about them – tell the world how awesome your squad are.

  • Introduce them. Help them expand their squad too – introduce other amazing people who would be great for them to meet up with and share ideas or a problem.

  • Be there in the tough times. In fundraising, we often bear a lot of emotional stress. Our jobs are hard, we care passionately, and we work long hours. Be there for your squad, listen when they need to talk, check in on them when they’re not, and encourage them to take a break and sit in the park with you. My squad members have done all of these things for me when I really needed it, and I will continually try and do this and more for mine.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts too. Who are your amazing fundraising squad members? Give them a shout out and share why they’re awesome. Or Tweet me on @FundraiserSarah with how you met some of your squad and inspire others.

And I always love meeting new members of my squad, so please get in touch on if you fancy a coffee and a chat about all things fundraising.

* An important note. I originally wrote this blog about finding my "tribe" This was a term used a lot in marketing a couple of years ago. Since then I've learnt that this term is cultural appropriation and is not appropriate to use in this context. I've started using the phrase "squad" instead. I believe it's important to acknowledge this. Becoming anti-racist is about acknowledging when we got something wrong. I got it wrong.

If you ever see something in my blog or writing that is wrong, racist or in any other way offensive or incorrect to any group of people - please call me out. It's never intentional that I use the wrong words, but I always want to learn and fix mistakes when made. Thank you.

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