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Case Study: Philippa

Personal details
Degree:English MA (Hons) Profile picture
School(s): School of English
Year of Graduation:Jun-2008
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Academy of St Martin in the Fields (UK's leading Chamber Orchestra)
Job title: Sponsorship and Development Manager
Occupational Sector: Fundraising
What has been your route to getting your current position?
After graduating, I worked for one year as a Sabbatical at the Students’ Association as Director of Student Development and Activities, and my main project that year was setting up and managing the On The Rocks Arts Festival. This gave me valuable experience in press, media, marketing and fundraising activity, and led directly to being offered a fixed term contract at the University Press Office. I worked as a Press Officer for 9 months and was subsequently offered a permanent contract, but declined as I wanted to focus on my passion for the arts, and make a professional (and personal!) move to London. I began a Development Internship at Polka Children’s Theatre in Wimbledon, a role in which I gained my first formal Development experience. That almost immediately led to a Development job at a charity called the House of Illustration where I worked for 19 months before beginning my current role at the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in September 2011.
What does your job involve ?
My job focuses on fundraising and relationship management for the orchestra. Alongside the Director of Development and Marketing I’m responsible for raising money from a number of sources including individual donors, charitable trusts and foundations and corporate sponsorship. I manage our ‘Friends’ and ‘Patrons’ schemes, identifying prospective donors, securing annual donations and managing events to engage people with the work of the orchestra. I research and write applications to trusts and foundations to raise money for out education work and artistic programme, and manage the orchestra's corporate partnerships, including servicing a major partnership with our principal sponsor. I also work very closely with the Press and Marketing team and together we form the ‘External Relations’ or ‘Communications’ department of the organisation. Communication is at the heart of my job, as it is all about building relationships with people - whether that be a prospective donor, the trustee of a charitable foundation or a corporate organisation – and then asking them to support an exceptional orchestra.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I really love what I do, and as a result there lots of ‘best bits’ … Obvious ‘best bits’ are the moments when you receive a donation, particularly if it is the result of a relationship you have been working on for a long time. Fundraising is strategic – it’s often a long game, not a quick win, and sometimes it can take years to secure a large gift or donation.\n\nI have also had opportunities to experience some of the county’s best theatre, music and art as well as meet some incredible people in the industry; I’ve had the chance to organise some amazing events (and, of course, attend these events too!). I really enjoy working in an atmosphere in which everyone has a common goal –delivering wonderful music, fantastic theatre, great exhibitions, or whatever else it might be – rather than making huge profits. I think ultimately the best bit of my job is getting up in the morning to go to do a job I love doing. We will spend the vast majority of our adult lives working, so it might as well be doing something we love.
Why were you successful?
My experiences at St Andrews, in particular the myriad of extra-curricular activities I took part in, were invaluable in getting my early placements and jobs. I’m not sure I noticed it at the time, but looking back, I can see much of the skills and experience I needed to begin my career emerging throughout my four years at St Andrews: I was responsible for raising money for STAR Radio through local and corporate sponsorship, I ran a theatre company under Mermaids and had to make funding applications to finance my productions, I had to draw up yearly society budgets and figure out where that money was going to come from, and I gained a huge amount of experience in marketing, design and event management.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
My English degree firstly demonstrates a passion for literature and the arts, which has certainly been advantageous in applying for jobs in this sector. My degree also developed the verbal and written communication skills that are essential for my job, as well as my research skills.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
I have found the arts and charity sector extremely rewarding, although it can be tough sometimes. It isn\'t always paid extremely well at the beginning (but enough to manage just fine!) and it can be very competitive - internships and work experience are always a good idea. There are some excellent internships available - both full time and part time, as well as paid ones in some of the larger organisations. Guardian Jobs have a great arts and heritage section, and is excellent, particularly for finding internships. Many arts charities are fairly small, and are always grateful for an extra pair of hands. If there is an organisation you are particularly interested in, but they don’t seem to offer any work experience or internship placements, then it’s often worth writing to them to ask if you might be able to volunteer in the department you are interested in for a week or a month. Much of the time they will jump at the chance to have you. I think the best career advice I was ever given was from my dad when I was 14 and choosing my GCSE options – ‘keep doing what you love and it will take you somewhere you love being, even if that isn’t quite where you thought you’d end up’. He was right, and this is still the careers advice I am giving myself over 10 years later. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your time at St Andrews – there's nowhere quite like it!