We caught up with course instructor, Louise Morris, this week to find out a little bit more about her career and journey into the charity sector. Louise is a major donor specialist, expert fundraiser and owner of Summit Fundraising. With over 13 years of experience under her belt, she’s helped over 100 charities raise more large gifts. She spoke to us about her career highlights, what it was like setting up an online course over lockdown and why the charity sector is an exciting place to be right now.
What was it about the charity sector that first appealed to you?
I was in my early ‘20s, working in sales at Unilever after completing their graduate scheme when my father died within a year from cancer. It forced me to re-evaluate many things and was a harsh awakening to how fragile life really is. I loved the people I worked with at Unilever, I enjoyed amazing training (and amazing ice cream freebies!) and was constantly stretched and challenged in fascinating roles working with Tesco, Asda and on loads of different brands. But I wanted more meaning when I went to work every day, I wanted to make the world better even if just in a small way. So, I moved to the third sector. My first job was at baby charity, Tommy’s, in corporate partnerships fundraising, managing their £500k Asda partnership - I didn’t get away from supermarkets completely!
“I wanted more meaning when I went to work every day”
What has been the biggest career highlight for you so far?
Setting up Summit Fundraising. Over the past four years, I’ve got to work with so many incredible fundraisers and leaders and have felt really privileged to help them raise more large gifts and support them in their major donor fundraising. I love learning about new causes, working with such a variety of people and helping them get closer to their charity’s aims.
And your greatest learning?
To…..slow…down. I spent a lot of my ‘20s rushing – working 50-hour weeks, then to the pub, to rock climbing (my main hobby, but not after the pub I’d like to add!) Weekends were nearly always spent driving for long weekends away visiting friends and family, or sometimes travelling in Europe. I’ve forced myself to slow down. I’m happier and more fulfilled, and I have so much more headspace. I am constantly learning and applying different techniques and approaches for major donor fundraising that I never would have allowed myself the time to do when I was younger. I’m so much more present and relaxed in my free time with family, friends and enjoying hobbies.
“I’ve forced myself to slow down. I’m happier and more fulfilled, and I have so much more headspace.”
What was important to you in developing an online course and how did you find the process of its development?
Although major donor fundraising is a specialism, it was so important to me that I could teach some of the key approaches to people that have little or no experience of it. I wanted to demystify this area of fundraising and give people the confidence they need to raise large gifts.
I filmed it in lockdown, so it was quite an intense experience. I gave myself some tough deadlines and spent a lot of time locked away (excuse the pun) developing the aims, the chapters and then filming it. I absolutely hated watching myself back and editing the footage, but I’ve had some great feedback from those who’ve completed it which makes it feel worthwhile!
In your experience, how can online learning best help support individuals and organisations to accelerate and amplify positive social change?
I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for organisations to be able to access really high-quality training at an affordable price. Video learning is relatively new for fundraising, but I can only see it growing. People can learn in their own time, at their own pace, and access it anywhere they have WIFI. Someone completed my course when they were visiting family in Poland and emailed me to tell me! This flexibility is even more important in the current climate and I’d love to see more online learning in the sector.
What excites you right now in the charity sector and wider social impact world? Do you see important innovations emerging and new ways of creating impact?
I certainly see a lot of questioning and campaigning to improve the charity sector from within which is hugely positive. From #blacklivesmatter and #charitysowhite, through to campaigns like #nongraduateswelcome and #showthesalary. We can only make a real impact when we truly represent all of society, but I think we’ve still got some way to go. I’m excited though. The pace of change is here, and it feels like we’re on the cusp of a new, better, more inclusive sector.
“...it feels like we’re on the cusp of a new, better, more inclusive sector”
Whether you work for a non-profit or in a bank, we believe you can have a positive impact in your career. What does ‘purpose-driven work’ mean to you and why is it important?
Doing work that I’m proud of, for organisations that are changing the world for the better. I sometimes worry I’ll die ‘early’ - like my Dad at 54. I want to know that every day I work is, in a small way, helping humanity and our planet. I want the world to be a better place for my two boys (who are 6 and 9) and being able to play a part in that change – however small – means my work has a purpose. I think my Dad would be proud of me and what I’m doing.
Gain Confidence in Major Donor Fundraising
Louise leads a course on Utopy called Gain Confidence in Major Donor Fundraising. Enrol today to discover how to navigate major donor fundraising and develop the skills you need to secure large gifts for your organisation.