Spotlight on….Louise Walters, Director & Consultant

Louise Walters

Tell us about your role and what you do at AskRIGHT.

Since the retirement of our amazing Founder, Daniel McDiarmid, I’m one of three senior Fundraising Directors working across the country with national and regional charities of all sizes to help support their fundraising goals. Charities reach out in the first instance as they need external support, and we act as a support against which to bounce their strategic thinking; to get an external perspective.

AskRIGHT has undergone some changes recently – can you talk us through these and what they mean for your clients?

We continue to build on decades of AskRIGHT’s experience in the sector, not only here in Aotearoa but also abroad. We often ask clients why they decide to work with us and most often it’s about value for money and being the right ‘fit’, that magic ingredient in our secret sauce!

What are you working on at the moment?

I am privileged to be working with New Zealand Riding for the Disabled to help maximise their fundraising potential.

I’m also involved in a capital campaign with a charity whose animal Centre is bursting at the seams with vulnerable animals who deserve a second chance, so funds to enable a larger more spacious home are very much needed.

Another key project is raising funds to replace a leaky Church roof, as currently when the heavens open the choir are literally singing in the rain!

In addition, I really enjoy the training and coaching aspect to my role – even a few hours a month with a coach boasts fundraiser confidence whilst developing their skills.      

What does an ideal day look like for you?

No day is the same which I like!

Taking calls from charities looking for support; whether it be writing a strategic plan, a board member discussing their vision, a deep dive into identifying new grant funders, or a coaching session with an inspiring fundraiser.

When I’m in the middle of a feasibility study as part of a capital campaign it’s on the road meeting donors from all walks of life.

I must admit it can take a certain amount of courage to turn up having never met the donor in person before, especially donors who have an extremely high profile – it’s a case of telling myself to get my ‘big girl pants on’ and get into the meeting! Once I get over the occasional stage fright, listening intently to a donor’s motivations and why they are involved with their charities is incredibly rewarding.

I am always taken aback by donors’ eagerness to help, I once planned to meet a donor couple for an hour and ended up being invited to stay for dinner! They are representative of so many donors we speak with who are connected to the cause, invested in the work, and deeply passionate.

What do you love about your job and what makes you proud?

Once all the hard fundraising work is complete, seeing charity dreams come true is incredibility heartwarming. That could mean meeting a parent at a celebration event, able to now sleep comfortably in a hospital bed beside their child, instead of on a hard concrete hospital floor; or watching a child having just had eye surgery smile at her mum and dad; or hearing a young person in the audience giggle out loud having had their seat donated at a charity theatre performance.

These humbling experiences and many more never leave me and energize me on to the next fundraising project, no matter how challenging and complex it may be.

Tell us a little bit about your specialism and how you became an expert in that area.

Since moving from the UK over a decade ago when I specialized in corporate fundraising, I’ve really enjoyed becoming more of a generalist, applying for grants, raising the awareness of gift in Wills, and all levels of individual giving.

What one change would you like to see for the not-for-profit sector?

Grow fundraising more from the inside out.

Fundraising propositions are only as good as the people who will be sharing them. If your organisation is not convinced by what you are doing in fundraising, they will not feel comfortable having fundraising conversations or sharing your message. Get people on board by evaluating your ideas and really listening to their feedback, host training to help people understand fundraising, and take the time to meet with specific teams and make your fundraising campaign work for them. Invest in making it part of your culture and get people on board from their very first day at your organisation, so everyone knows how to talk about fundraising.

If you could share one piece of professional advice for fundraisers, what would it be?

There’s always a way around a problem!  I will never forget the time when two well-meaning volunteers, dressed up as Santas, arrived at a large charity Christmas party event.  I realized quickly I had just minutes to avoid mass confusion and squashing children’s fantasies that there’s only one Santa in the world! Thankfully a bit of creative thinking solved the problem.

Outside of your work at AskRIGHT, what are your passions and hobbies?

Freshly cut flowers are my big thing, it’s something about their beauty that never seems to amaze me. I miss seeing the pop-up flower stalls around the street corners of London and taking home sunny daffodils and colourful tulips that have this quirky habit of growing outwards even after you’ve put them in a vase!

Walking on the beach helps me my mind slow down, it’s normally going at a rate of knots!

Laughing a lot, there’s nothing better after a long hard day than relaxing on the sofa watching legendary comedian, Michael McIntyre, pure gold!

If you’d like to chat about fundraising or coaching in your organisation, and how the AskRIGHT team can help, we’d love to talk – email [email protected] to set up a free 30-minute chat.