Vault Q&A: Direct Marketing Executive, British Red Cross
Title: Direct Marketing Executive. My team's role is to recruit new regular givers to the British Red Cross. We do this in a variety of ways and I help manage these fundraising campaigns. Our methods include street fundraising, doorstep fundraising, telemarketing and TV advertising. As part of my job I liaise with agencies and I'm involved in the planning and budgeting of these campaigns. I make sure that we hit targets and deal with any problems that might come up in the day to day running of campaigns. I help develop the marketing techniques we have and analyse campaign results. I am also involved in the training of Red Cross fundraisers.
Department/Division: Fundraising. I am in the Individual Giving sector of this department.
Number of years at firm: 10 months
Number of years in current role: 10 months
Degree (s): Economics and Politics (2.1) at Sheffield University
How did you first decide to enter your industry? What first attracted you?
When I left university, I decided that I wasn't keen on working in the private sector. I wanted to work for an organisation that I felt had a positive influence on the world. So I started looking at the public sector and the possibility of working for charities. I wanted a role within an organisation that required a broad range of skills, which I thought reflected my abilities. I read about the Red Cross in the Guardian Society section. I chose them because they are a high-profile charity that does a massive range of work all over the world.
What are the typical education requirements? What skills and/or experience are important for success?
It is necessary to have a good degree. However, it is also necessary to have experience in fundraising and direct marketing. To do well in this type of work, you need a broad range of capabilities. These include a high level of literacy and numeracy and the ability to communicate well with others. Attention to detail and time-management are very important as well.
In this area of work you deal with a lot of agencies so you need to establish good relationships and work hard to maintain them. It's also important to have a passion for the work that the charity does. There is a lot of creative input in my job, and I think this part of the job is really helped by feeling strongly about the message you are trying to get across.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
From my position as a direct marketing executive, you can go on to the position of senior executive. This position involves managing campaigns and their budgets from a strategic level. The next step up the ladder is being a campaign manager. This job means coordinating several campaigns and making sure that they all run smoothly and in line with budgets. The biggest position in my division is the head of individual giving. From there, you could go on to become director of fundraising. Within fundraising there are several different areas -- major donor fundraising, trust fundraising, corporate fundraising, event organisation. Perhaps one of the benefits of working in direct marketing is that it gives you transferable skills that would be useful if you wanted to explore these other areas of fundraising.
What is the best part of your job?
I would probably say the training I do with fundraisers. I teach them about the Red Cross and try to make them engage with what we do as an organisation. We also take along expert speakers to talk to the fundraisers about projects they have worked on. It provides me with an opportunity to meet people from different areas of the Red Cross which provides focus on why I am doing this kind of work.
What is your least favourite part of your job?
Although it is a very necessary part of the job, the numerical campaign analysis can be fairly dull at times. We have to be very careful with how we spend our fundraising budgets and are always keen to maximise the learning we can take from results. This means we spend a lot of time working with spreadsheets.
How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
Not immediately relevant. I suppose doing economics provides the analytical skills necessary to do the numerical campaign analysis. Having done politics helps as it gives you an idea of how the world works and the international context that that Red Cross works in. I suppose the language and essay writing skills also help me to communicate but generally I don't use my degree that much on a day-to-day basis.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in your industry?
I think it is essential that someone can show an employer that they have the broad range of skills needed to work well as a direct marketer. For this, experience is key, though this doesn't necessarily have to be charity experience -- experience within marketing or fundraising will be a great help. Taking voluntary roles within charities shows that you are passionate about the work they do and have initiative, although I think you will need to demonstrate more than this when applying for jobs.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
In my experience, people assume that there is a more relaxed atmosphere in charity work compared to the private sector. However, probably the opposite is true. With charitable organisations, we have limited budgets for support functions like fundraising, because as much money as possible is spent on providing services. Less money means having to be more efficient with the money that we do spend. We have to monitor the money we spend stringently and thoroughly plan the campaigns that we put together.
What is your best perk?
The biggest perk for me is working for a charity like the Red Cross, a massive organisation that does a lot of important work in the world.