Interview with – Alison Cordingley

Alison has been an associate of Money Tree Fundraising since 2011! A motivated and enthusiastic professional with eclectic experience of fundraising and management, in a wide range of causes, Alison has worked in the voluntary sector since 2000 and has extensive experience in trust and foundation fundraising.

Her experience of capital projects means she is well placed to advise and mentor charities embarking on this kind of work for the very first time.  She has also volunteered for Citizens Advice and is a trained debt advisor. Based in Manchester, she is currently a trustee of a Trafford based mental health charity; New Way Forward.

 

 

What was the first charity you worked for?

My first foray into the third sector was as a volunteer for the citizens’ advice bureau. At the time I was working part time in housing, and joined to advise on housing and tenancy related matters. Although my employers were a bit twitchy about taking on this role should any of my casework became contentious. Eventually I became a trained debt advisor using counselling concepts such as negotiation, periodic reviews, and goal setting.

When was that?

It was round about when both my kids were in school, so about the late 90s

What was your job?

Mainly debt counselling although inevitably there was much cross over into issues such as benefits, rights in respect of debt collectors, bailiffs, evictions, county court judgements and so on. Additionally debt work I think helped to develop my skills in writing budgets, monitoring expenditure and reaching goals, also important to a fundraising campaign.

How many years have you been fundraising so far?

All in all well over 15 years, although in the early years, this role was often combined other with management roles – project planning, recruiting,  and so on.

How much money have you raised for the charities you’ve worked with (roughly)?

Probably about a million in trusts, but additionally, other sources such as trading income and donations not least to show larger institutional donors a willingness to consider other income sources.

And of all that experience, what would you pick as your greatest career success to-date?

I think rescuing a charity working internationally, and which was about to fold. Getting some robust governance and management in place, was key for them in attracting trust funders, having confidence in them to deliver, and being willing to invest. They are now going from strength to strength delivering sanitation, and schools in some of the toughest conditions

When you look around our sector, who do you hold up as a Hero?

Those who take big risks working in war zones and in areas affected by for example the recent Ebola epidemic, often putting their own health and safety at risk

And of the charities you’ve worked for, do you have a favourite, or would that be like asking you to pick a favourite child?

I think it would be like picking a favourite child. My love of the sector generally lies in its diversity, flexibility, and its determination to respond to unpopular issues including those which governments do not treat as priorities.

When you look back on your career like this, does anything spring to mind that you wish you’d known when you’d started out? Something you’d tell your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to say no – if you are asked to do something you really don’t want to do, which is not part of your role for example sit in a bath of baked beans.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Mum bought me a nurses outfit one Christmas and I thought that was what I might like to do, but I guess I was channelled into university by sixth form my college, and thoughts of nursing faded

If you weren’t a fundraiser now, is that what you’d be?

No. – No regrets

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I have actually sat in a bath full of baked beans for charity