Road to becoming a… fundraising manager

Katriona Harding, events fundraising manager at Poppyscotland, on how she got where she is today


School:  Portlethen Academy, Aberdeenshire


1997 – 2001 University of Stirling, Bsc (Hons) Environmental Science; 2015 Institute of Fundraising Certificate in Fundraising

Work experience:

2017 – present: Events fundraising manger, Poppyscotland 2012 – 2017: Fundraising and events coordinator, the Rock Trust 2011 – 2012: Development officer, Transform Scotland 2009 – 2011: Fundraising & communications officer, Edinburgh and Lothian Greenbelt Trust 2007 – 2009: Ski resort representative, Canada & France 2006 – 2007: Communications officer, Victim Support Scotland 2005 – 2006: Sustainable resources and marketing officer, Intowork Bits and Bobs Projects 2002 – 2005: Grants assistant, BBC Children in Need Appeal

Tell us about your current job? I have been at Poppyscotland for just over a year now and I am currently responsible for leading and developing a diverse portfolio of mass participation fundraising events across Scotland. I have a very varied and exciting job, building and developing bespoke events and challenges, working with a range of partners from Scotland’s state band to Musselburgh Roads Racing Club! I am accountable for operational and project management, from planning through to post event debrief, working closely with external suppliers and internal stakeholders as well as helping to deliver effective marketing strategies to ensure excellent recruitment and retention of participants.

Do you have a degree and do you think you needed one? I do have a degree, and I did need it for my roles early on in my career, not just the transferable skills but also the knowledge I gained. I realised shortly after graduating that I really didn’t want to be a scientist, and my skills and strengths definitely suited roles which involved communication, organisation and relationships. My passion and knowledge about environmental issues led me to work and volunteer for a number of environmental NGO’s but my degree knowledge is now dated and much less relevant for working in the homelessness and now the veterans sector.

What was the worst job you’ve ever had? A temp holiday job in Aberdeen, in a freezing portacabin, processing invoices and being so bored the hours dragged horribly!

What’s the best job you’ve ever had? In 2008/09, I worked on a ski resort in France for six months as a driver, rep and tour guide. I was paid a pittance, but I was living the dream – skiing and snowboarding every day, driving from the Alpine village of Morzine,  in the Chablais mountain range between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc, to Geneva to pick up and drop off my guests and making sure they had the best holiday possible.

What’s the most important thing that got you to where you are today? Re-evaluating my roles on an annual basis – was I still learning and developing, gaining skills and experiences?

What advice would you give a young fundraiser? Get out and meet as many other fundraisers as possible – we are a friendly and approachable bunch and always happy to support each other. This is especially important for sole fundraisers!

Is fundraising all about the money? Nope, fundraising is all about relationships – and if you get that right, the money will follow.

Why are so many fundraisers women? It’s true that women are well represented in the fundraising sector (although sadly still underrepresented at senior leadership and board level). I imagine this is because women are often attracted by roles where you are supporting and motivating people, managing expectations and generally juggling many balls in the air for a good cause. But, this is a massive generalisation, I know many fantastic male fundraisers!

Why do you work in the third sector? I have always wanted my work life, my precious energy and time, to be spent on more than just earning a crust – I want it to have a bigger impact than paying my mortgage. It might be cheesy, but beneficiary outcomes are very powerful drivers for most of us in the voluntary sector, and yes, it is the main reason I do what I do.

What next for you? I plan to spend the next couple of years building the mass events port