Next up in the Meet Team IFC series is Sarah Gray, Director of IFC UK…
Tell us about your career in a snapshot
I graduated from Leeds University with a BA Honours in French and Management Studies and took part in the milk round which is a UK graduate recruitment programme. I was recruited as a Graduate Trainee for one of the banks and so my working life began! I then spent nearly a decade working in the corporate world with a three-year period in marketing and business development for Deloitte. I place tremendous value on the impact that my daily work has on society and like to think that my time is spent trying to help make the world a better place. It was this sentiment that led me to leave the City of London and move into the not-for-profit sector.
My first job in the not-for-profit sector was Head of Marketing at the wonderful V&A Museum in London where I worked with a fabulous team to both build the V&A’s brand internationally and to also drive short-term footfall to the Museum’s exhibitions and events. An opportunity presented itself and I then moved to Sydney, Australia for a couple of years where I became General Manager of Marketing and Fundraising for the New South Wales Division of the Australian Red Cross. I loved the fundraising element of my work and have not looked back since. When I returned to England I set up my own fundraising consultancy and worked on a range of UK capital appeals before meeting John Baguley of IFC.
I remember so clearly the first email I received from John which was along the lines of … “I am with a client at the moment in the Côte d’Ivoire and so have sporadic internet connection, but I am always delighted to hear from potential consultants”… the rest is history and I have now worked with IFC for nearly 10 years.
John Baguley’s commitment to social good and his can-do attitude is totally infectious, which makes IFC a good place to work. There is also enormous diversity in the clients that IFC works with. They work with clients ranging from UN agencies to smaller national and local causes.
I myself have just finished a contract with the WHO Foundation. I was seconded to the newly created WHO Foundation (the World Health Organisation’s new foundation) in 2021 and 2022 where I helped establish the fundraising strategy and was involved in the early fundraising successes. The photo (taken with my daughter) is outside the Palais des Nations, the United Nations Office in Geneva.
I have also worked on a number of capital appeals in other sectors and was Acting Appeal Director for the National Army Museum in London during the final year of their £23.75 million appeal as well as carrying out a feasibility study and developing the case for support for a £34 million capital appeal for the University of Cambridge’s Autism Centre of Excellence. There is never a dull day working with IFC. We like to think that we are warm and generous in our approach to our clients and work hard and with energy to help them make the world a better place.
What led you down this path?
An interest in marketing and business development combined with a desire to help make life better for other people was a good start to a fundraising career. Life as a fundraiser is always varied. We are creative in the tools and techniques that we use to draw attention to our cause and work with a wide variety of people on each project. Seeing a new campaign, project or building come to fruition is incredibly motivating and inspiring.
What are the fundraising challenges in your region?
The UK fundraising sector is facing a number of destabilising factors after a buoyant few years. Whilst 2021 saw a 36% rise in gifts from UK philanthropists, a significant proportion of this increase was due to Covid-19 pandemic support which has skewed giving data and trends. Interest rates are now rising in the UK and worldwide to combat rapidly rising inflation, which affects global asset prices which are beginning to deflate with implications for the availability of philanthropic funds. The potential effect on both gift size and frequency of gifts of this wealth shrinkage has yet to be seen and fundraisers, I am sure will have to work even harder to maintain existing partnerships and to secure significant new gifts.
It is exciting to see the rise in environmental donations. Whilst philanthropic spending to help halt climate change stands at less that 1 or 2% of total giving, this trend is changing rapidly and green giving is rising fast. Many of the new generation of younger philanthropists are using their platforms and influence to respond to climate change and to drive new grant commitments and new philanthropists to the green sector. Fundraisers in this sector can be bold and creative as they bring new donors to this space.
Sarah Gray is voted in as a world leader…what’s the first thing you do?
I would reverse the UK’s current trend for slashing its international aid budget. Expansion of programmes delivering lifesaving healthcare, clean water, sanitation and shelter to those in desperate need around the world would be the cornerstone of my plans!
Tell us a fun-fact about yourself
I love travelling, reading and baking! Favourite place: Shelly Beach in Manly, Australia; favourite book: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; best bake: a bouquet of flowers!
Contact Sarah to find out more about how she could support your organisation.