Non-Profit Fundraiser
Interview With Sarah Hewitt

Here's a superb fundraising interview with fundraising professional Sarah Hewitt.

This featured non-profit fundraiser interview with Sarah Hewitt has definitely provided some of the best information I have read so far.

Sarah has a large amount of experience in the non-profit fundraising sector and runs a fundraising consultancy in Warwickshire, United Kingdom.

She also runs an educational fundraising blog called, which is a blog that is definitely worthwhile following.

What's Her Fundraising Background?

I won't go into depth about how Sarah got into the non-profit fundraiser industry as she explains it perfectly herself in the first question.

But I would just like you to really appreciate the information that she has provided here on this interview.

Through her work in the industry she has become a sought after consultant and has a brilliant understanding of the non-profit fundraiser industry and what it takes to raise funds effectively!

We've been very fortunate to have her time! And really appreciate the time she has taken to answer these questions.

I really hope that you enjoy this non-profit fundraiser interview as much as I did... (Particularly questions 3,4 & 5)

Non-Profit Fundraiser Interview:

Q1. Hi Sarah, welcome and thank you so much for agreeing to do this non-profit fundraiser interview. Please tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, did you study and where, and how did you get involved in fundraising and charities?

A. I was born in Hollywood, but sadly not in California, this is Hollywood in South Birmingham, UK. Currently I live and work in Stratford Upon Avon, in beautiful Warwickshire, our house backs onto open fields and it is a real delight to be here.

I didn't do the formal qualification route most people these days seem to take – back in 1980 when I left school only 5% of the population went onto University and I wasn't considered clever enough. All three of my children have taken the University route and naturally I'm very proud of all of them. More about studying though in a moment.

In 1998 I sold a very successful business that I had started from scratch to a turnover of £250K in just 6 years, still small by most standards, but significant to me seeing as I'd started it on a £3K overdraft! Not to be condoned of course, but nevertheless good fun.

So there I was...

...wondering what to do next!

I noticed a job advertised for an Employment and Training Programme Manager for a Environmental Charity based in Birmingham City Centre. I applied and got it and from there on I took on 3 ESF bids for a project involving long term unemployed folk.

The most amazing 4 and a half years ensued and during this time I had to re-apply, taking on the writing of the applications myself and many others, becoming sought out within the sector from then on.

From 2001 I moved on to manage a £9M SRB budget for a local authority for 13 months, before setting up a fundraising consultancy and working with a whole range of clients from small to nationals.

The yearning to hold a professional qualification continued and throughout the last few years I have completed the Institute of Fundraising qualification and hold the Certificate in Fundraising Management.

In September I start a Masters degree in Voluntary and Community Sector Studies, all surrounding Big Society and not wanting to stop there I have just been accepted onto a PhD programme to research Microfinance as a concept – I can't wait! Yes, 5 years worth of hard work and studying and it will be extremely worthwhile, not only for me, also for the research outcomes.

Q2. You speak about social enterprises on your blog and the role they play in society. For our readers, what exactly is a social enterprise and could you give an example of one?

A. Social Enterprises are businesses that are set up to provide social outcomes.

All traditional businesses are set up to make a profit and pass that profit onto the shareholders – Social Enterprises obviously have to make a profit too, in order to stay in business, but, that profit is put back into the organisation to continue to grow and expand AND along with that provide a service to communities or the environment.

According to Social Enterprise West Midlands, Social Enterprises are businesses that:

  • Trade for social and/or environmental purposes.
  • Generate at least 50% of their income from trading activity (i.e. selling goods or services).
  • Largely reinvest their profits back into the business to achieve their social or environmental goals.
  • Have governance and legal structures that enable staff, members, representatives from the local community, or other stakeholders to own and run the business.

Well known examples include The Big Issue, Divine Chocolate and Jamie Oliver's restaurant chain Fifteen.

Social enterprises take many forms and operate in just about every industry sector.

Another great example...

...of a social enterprise, that is known personally to me would be A social enterprise that sells gardening services, has two plant nurseries which funds the work they do with young people with learning disabilities.

Of course, Social Enterprises are not a proper legal framework – this is where things get complicated. They are just 'normal' limited companies that are set up as non-profits.

There are also organisations called Community Interest Companies (CIC's) that are properly regulated by a Government appointed regulator – so a bit like a charity, but not.

In the next few months the Government are launching a new organisation type called a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) which will help charities who also want to trade. We are running a seminar in July to explain the difference between these four types of organisations as it is very complicated and depends heavily on what you want the organisation to do.

Q3. We all know how important preparation is in any type of campaign. What research would you suggest to someone writing a fundraising letter to a grant foundation to ensure they are totally and properly prepared?

A. That's a great question.

Important point number one – have a project that you want to fund and search for funding for that project, rather than search for funding and try and fit what you do the funders criteria.

It makes life really difficult and you will rarely be successful doing it that way around.

When I work with clients, the first thing I do is create a Business Development Plan, which includes a Fundraising Strategy and timetable. Within this document is a Project Plan for every project the organisation has. This plan has been researched from the Top 50 funders applications forms.

I have created the ultimate application – answer this for each project and you will be able to apply to any funder as you will have all the answers / research you will probably ever need!

Being well researched is vitally important and as the recession deepens and funding becomes even more competitive, organisations are going to need to be 'special' and stand a notch above others.

My own view on this is to look towards Social Impact Assessments, and to those ends I will be offering this training from July 2011.

Q4. I really enjoyed your "8 ways to fundraise article". Could you please give a brief breakdown of what those 8 non-profit fundraiser ideas are?


Trusts and Grants:

There are currently just short of 160,000 charities in the UK (and another 20,000 subsidiaries) and a good proportion of those GIVE money away to other charities that are doing the kind of work they want to fund.

There are many products available on the internet to search for funding… the Charity Commission website is free to use and you can search for specific types of charities to establish which ones are more likely to want to support your cause.

Rich Individuals:

Or otherwise known as High Net Worth Individuals.

Barclays Bank found that 75% of high-net-worth individuals do not plan to donate less money in the current economic environment. Although about 23% of the high-net-worth individuals surveyed reduced donations, only about 10% planned a large cutback.

(Charitable giving is actually one of the last expenses - just before education costs - that investors are willing to scrap in tough times. Luxury goods are the first to get eliminated, followed by personal staff and dining out.)

Data-Base Funding:

Do you already have a list of supporters? People who volunteer for events, helping out or donate? Then a donor base is what you have.

Donor based fundraising is a great way of raising funds for your organisation because it is usually free of restrictions, in other words, you can use the money for core funding – unless of course you have asked for the funds for a specific purpose.

Increasing the size of your database can be done in numerous ways and today the internet plays a very large part in this, as do events. Having a large database means that you have the opportunity to receive funds on a regular basis, which can only be good news.


Who will you leave your money to when you die… who will your supporters leave their money to when they die?

If you don't ask them, someone else will. Delicate subject or no, the question must be asked. Did you know that if someone dies without a will and no one to leave their money to, the government get it?


They raise money, they can raise awareness, and gather supporters details amongst other things. They can also take many hours of staff / volunteer time, months of preparation and can have a disappointing result.

Events can be a great addition to your fundraising strategy provided you are not relying too heavily on them to complete the strategy on their own.

Corporate Support:

These are large organisations that donate a regular amount of funding to your cause.

Some companies run events for their staff and they make it easy for them to donate regularly by taking it directly from their salary and with Gift Aid (which is currently 20%) this makes it a very cost effective method of fundraising.

All you need to do is find a corporate to support you – LinkedIn is especially useful for this and to those ends I've created a course – 'LinkedIn for Non-Profits' and a book of the same title will be out at the end of June 2011.


Acorns Children's Hospice and Aston Villa is a perfect example of sponsorship. How many football shirts have you seen with logos on? Lots I'm sure…

Now obviously Acorns is a large organisation and Aston Villa a large 'corporate' like business, but there are smaller companies out there who would love to be asked to sponsor your organisations activities.

Bid Writing (State Funding/Contracts):

I get people calling me and asking if I'd write a bid for their group. They've looked at the form and they've glazed over.

Forms make people not want to apply for the particular funding. Bidding into statutory funding is not easy and needs someone who knows what they are doing to do it for you; hopefully this will be someone within your organisation.

If you do not have that expertise within, look externally, there are many very good bid writers in the sector – LinkedIn can help you find them.

Q5. In your opinion if an organization or charity could only focus on one of those 8 avenues which one would you suggest they do and why?

A. This really depends on what the organisation is looking to fund and how much funding they need.

For small projects, events would be a good way of raising cash and awareness.

For large projects, I think trust/grants and statutory funding would be a good start – if you are a CIC or Social Enterprise, start selling services and products.

My biggest advice is to mix and match your funding strategy – never ever become reliant on one kind of funding ever.

With all the cuts that are around at the moment, none of us has the luxury of complaining – it's all hands to the pumps and keep looking forward and sideways, not back.

I run facilitation events for organisations who need to come up with new or restructured ways of funding themselves, starting with An Introduction to Fundraising, a two hour presentation and going up to management consultancy with a bit of everything in between.

Q6. How would you suggest an organization goes about finding new volunteers and members?

A. I have forumulated a model for just this; it attracts both sponsors and volunteers to help bring non restricted funding into the organisation.

Of course I would also say LinkedIn is an amazing tool for this too, and the internet is playing an ever increasing role in attracting new people to help the organisation through a sliding scale of input.

Traditionally event fundraising has done this, as well as, asking family and friends to help out.

Q7. What 1 piece of advice would you give to someone getting started as a non-profit fundraiser for their charity?

A. If the charity hasn't already got a clear fundraising strategy and a Business Development Plan – create one.

Gather all the documents you are going to need in one place and create a project plan for each project within the organisation. If the organisation isn't split up into projects, create some.

Be as organised and structured as you can.

Finally work closely with the Finance Manager or Treasurer to map out a Full Cost Recovery budget which includes each project.

Contacting Sarah:

If you would like to contact Sarah to gain a deeper understanding of any of the items in this non-profit fundraiser interview, please do so through her LinkedIn profile or through the contact form below...

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

You can also follow Sarah on Twitter at

Other Fundraising Interviews:

Non-Profit Fundraiser Interview With Joe Garecht

Sandy McDonald of Knit A Square

Where are you?

› Sarah Hewitt

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Like This Page?