Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cara Whelan - Fundraising Manager, BioRegional

How old are you?

What’s your occupation and who do you work for?
I’m Fundraising Manager at BioRegional. We run practical sustainability projects. Our aim is One Planet Living; where we meet our needs from our fair share of the earth’s resources.

How long have been doing this?
I’ve been a BioRegionaler for 2 years but I’ve been fundraising for 6.

What’s the best bit about your job?
Loads of things! I think fundraising’s an underrated profession. In fact you get to work with people who really know their stuff and help them design world changing projects. There is plenty of opportunity to use your creativity and put your own ideas into practise. I love talking to donors and finding out what gets them going. The very best part is seeing ideas become real and seeing them make a real difference. Knowing that it was a grant you raised that got them started is really satisfying.

What’s the worst thing?
Um… tricky one. Too much time at my desk, not enough time growing vegetables and cycling.

What have the last 12 months been like for you?
Busy and exciting. It’s fantastic working with people who have so many diverse and inspirational ideas for sustainable solutions to the world’s problems. We never stop coming up with new ideas. I get a deluge of emails every day and then more projects come up in the pub. I’d love to be able to raise enough money to try out all of them.

What were you doing before?
I started fundraising for a homelessness charity and I was inspired by the people and the things I learned. I knew I wanted to work for BioRegional so when they needed a fundraiser, that was perfect.

What was your very first full-time job?
Checking container loads in a warehouse. Everyone was demotivated because it was a small family business which was bought out by a very big household name. They introduced their own managers who knew nothing about the business and told them to cut costs. I learned a lot from that experience.

Have you got any plans for the next 12 months you’d like to share with us?
I want to double our income from fundraising at BioRegional. I’m looking forward to recruiting another fundraiser to explore new areas of fundraising.

What do you do to relax?
I cycle everywhere. Apart from that, I’m very partial to organic red wine.

Who do you live with?
My two housemates and the washing up fairy.

Whereabouts do you live?
I live in East London. It’s full of rich social history and trees.

If you were Prime Minister, what’s the very first thing you do?
Scrap the Trident replacement, it’s a real weapon of mass destruction, and spend the money on renewable energy.

Have you got any guilty carbon secrets?
I probably shouldn’t eat so many avocados (too many food miles).

What have you done that you were most proud of?
I’m really bad at this question, I don’t think I’m cocky enough! Whenever we get a big funder involved in a project, I feel really proud.

What are you most concerned about in the world at large?
Climate change and its effects. The fact that after a tipping point climate change could become irreversible.

Which person in the public eye do you most admire and why?
The people I really admire are my friends, family and colleagues. I think it’s really sad that the news is full of dreadful depressing things, but there are thousands of people working for charities and social enterprise who achieve positive things which would make good news stories and those things are rarely reported.

What advice would you give to someone wishing to embark on the same sort of work as you?
Work for a cause you’re really inspired by. Don’t underestimate how satisfying fundraising can be. Give it and try and when you do, don’t hide in an office, get as involved in designing the projects and talking to the people who benefit as you can, it’s more fun and it will make you much more effective and convincing.

What’s your website address?

What are your three favourite other websites? – I highly recommend using this to work out your own ecological footprint – the definitive guide to good local food in your area – free music, perfect

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