Posted Mar 29 2022
YAF Mentoring Programme: Caroline Halls, mentee

Are you interested in joining the next cohort of YAF’s flagship mentoring programme? Read our latest blog from one of our current mentees, Caroline Halls, who tells us about why she applied for the programme and how it could be beneficial to you.

1) Introduce yourself and how you got into fundraising.

Hello! I’m Caroline, a soprano and fundraiser. I moved from London to Bristol last November, and have been a professional singer for over 5 years. I love it, but I always knew I wanted to do something else, to engage a different part of my brain, ideally in the operational side of arts organisations, so I genuinely googled ‘culture courses’ and found the MA in Arts & Cultural Management at KCL. During the course, a wonderful fundraising consultant called Dana Segal came into guest lecture, and I was immediately hooked. Funding is often the one thing stopping creative ideas becoming a reality, and the combination of analytical skills, enthusiasm for the projects and real, tangible outcomes, made fundraising an appealing career prospect.

2) Why did you want to take part in the YAF mentoring programme, and what were your goals for the programme?

After an initial unsuccessful application to be part of the scheme, a year later I tried again and was delighted to be accepted. Certain things drew me to it both times: in particular I knew that the dedicated and official support from a senior industry professional who I could learn from, ask questions of and discuss both job-specific and sector-wide issues with. What really drew me to the scheme the second time round was that I was at a very different stage in my career and thought I could really benefit from some guidance. The previous year I had been made redundant due to Covid-19 and had applied for endless new jobs with little success. A year later I was in the position of having three fundraising jobs (!) and wanting to talk to someone senior in the industry about the complexities of each one, and what I wanted my next step to be. I also really liked the sound of the buddy scheme, and being able to talk to a whole network of mentees who were at similar stages in their career to me.

“It has truly been the ideal time to have a mentor.”

3) What have you learnt or achieved so far and what do you hope to achieve before the programme ends? What role has your mentor played in this? 

I have learnt and achieved so much taking part in the programme! Some concrete achievements include: successfully negotiating two contracts to include more preferable terms, including a pay raise, interrogating what my next ideal job would be so I knew what to ‘measure’ job ads against, connecting with friends/colleagues of my mentor in Bristol, overcoming my fear of applying for roles with the word ‘manager’ in them, and successfully getting a new job…with manager in the title! My confidence has improved hugely, as well as my ability to recognise and celebrate the things I’ve achieved. My mentor, Harry Hickmore, has been amazing – answering my specific fundraising questions, discussing big sector issues, sharing his own experiences, refusing to let me underplay my achievements, sharing past job applications or salary raise email templates, and giving seemingly endless advice on job applications and trustee roles. It has truly been the ideal time to have a mentor, and I’m incredibly lucky to have been paired with one as caring as Harry.

“My confidence has improved hugely, as well as my ability to recognise and celebrate the things I’ve achieved…”

4) What advice would you give to prospective participants?

To those thinking of applying: absolutely do it. Even if you’re unsuccessful, the feedback you get is incredibly helpful. If you make it onto the scheme, it really does have to be driven by you, so don’t be afraid of asking your mentor for meetings and advice. They have entered into this relationship just like you have, so they want to help! If you want to know more about the scheme or people’s experiences, sign up to YAF’s mailing list, come to events, or even try getting in touch with some of us past mentees – my inbox is definitely open!

Having achieved my goal of getting a new job before the end of the programme, my goals now are to settle in to my new organisation, meet the challenge of stepping up to a more senior role, and continue making the most of YAF’s useful and friendly network of mentors and mentees.

Read more about Evolve, our annual year-long professional development programme in partnership with RAISE, here.

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