50 years of fundraising: My life in fundraising

The eighth in the series celebrating the 25th edition of The Directory of Grant Making Trusts.

To celebrate the 25th edition, and the 50th year in print of The Directory of Grant Making Trusts, we take a look back over the last 50 years of fundraising through the eyes of a range of fundraising experts.

Nina Botting Herbst, co-author of The Complete Fundraising Handbook, reflects on her career in fundraising:

Fundraising took me in when my chosen career in acting no longer seemed to welcome me with open arms. It was difficult to bid farewell to a profession that despite its insecurities and hard knocks was full of bright, colourful, and creative people, in addition to wonderful and fulfilling working experiences. However, and it seems strange now to realise, the profession of fundraising has provided me with very similar experiences and introduced me to people who are just as vibrant, over the more than 25 years that I have been raising funds, considerably longer than I was a performer.

When I fell into development in the 1990s many of my colleagues were also accidental fundraisers. They had left college with degrees in English, Political Science, and History, looked around for a way to make a difference or simply make a living, and found that charities were thirsty for energetic, resourceful, people to bring in the resources so they could function and achieve their mission.

We all learnt on the job and things moved fast, particularly in the UK at that time. Telephone fundraising was coming to prominence as the next big medium, and the company Pell & Bales (now no more) was at the forefront. Following that came street fundraising and ‘Chuggers’, and now digital and social media is the thing. In the middle of all this fast-paced activity I left London and moved to Chicago, experiencing a major gear change both personally and professionally. Face to face major donor fundraising became my principal activity and though different still utilized all the experience I had gained in the UK.

In addition to my day to day work over the last 18 years there has been a constant. Every five years since the late 1990s I have co-edited a new edition of The Complete Fundraising Handbook for DSC. That experience has given me a fascinating insight into just how much has changed in the industry over that time. Now I’m close to retirement but I feel confident that my younger colleagues who now enter this profession with BAs, MAs, and, even, PhDs in fundraising will have as wonderful an experience as I have.

About Nina Botting-Herbst

Nina Botting Herbst is a Senior Associate Director for Alumni Relations and Development at the University of Chicago where she has worked since 2003.

Nina is a native of London and began her fundraising career there in 1993 as an account manager at Pell and Bales, going on to work for Shelter, Amnesty International UK and Tate. Nina served on the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) Standards Committee from 1999 to 2001, was chair of the committee that drafted the first code of practice for legacy fundraising  and for personal solicitation of committed gifts. Before moving to the US in 2002 she was a frequent speaker at conferences in the UK and now fills her spare time as a volunteer docent/tour guide and fundraising consultant for three house museums in Chicago. Nina is lead author of The Complete Fundraising Handbook.

About The Directory of Grant Making Trusts 2018/19

Now celebrating its landmark 25th edition, the UK’s best-selling guide to funding from grant-making charities is back.

The Directory of Grant Making Trusts 2018/19 offers the information you need to seek your charity’s share of over £5 billion – the annual total awarded by the 2,000 funders featured in this edition. With data sourced directly from grant-making charities, each with the potential to give at least £40,000 per year, no charity – big or small – should be without it.