Representing the Charity Fundraising community in America (and many other places around the world) … 

Had anyone told me at 18 that I would spend my life representing charities, their fundraising efforts and explaining their impact on communities around the world I wouldn’t have even been incredulous – I would have been blank. Four years at Winchester had instilled a sense that service to the community was a desirable thing; I had seen my parents getting involved as volunteers; and I had been stationed outside the post office on pension day with a Barnado’s collecting tin. That was as far as it went.

My daughters have been heard wishing that my job could be described in one word , “lawyer”, “banker”, or two “tech-entrepreneur” rather than “My father represents charities and fundraising to government and the public, communicates their impact and value, and supports the development of ethical and effective fundraising, globally”. It’s not exactly snappy but represents their synthesis of what they have learned about my work over their lifetimes.

And while it may not be snappy, it has been fascinating and deeply rewarding. Frustrating, too. Frustrating when a close friend of many years tells you that they don’t think people working for charities should be paid. Frustrating when a double standard is applied that believes that crucial social and cultural impact can be achieved without any investment or overhead. Deeply rewarding when you see what has been achieved through dedication and professionalism in communities around the world – and see that acknowledged by the public and those that represent them.

Working in this field in the United States (since 2006) has been eye-opening. Not because the underlying motives for community engagement are different but because the culture surrounding them is. Moving from Europe (where the spirit of those working in charities was defensive because subject to great negativity at times) to the United States where community engagement is seen as a given and as a positive expression of support for those around you was a game-changer. Being able to explore ways of expanding charitable income, working with government (through the IRS) to increase awareness of the benefits of philanthropy on employment, on the economy and GDP without the constant need to defend and explain was invigorating.

While my core focus over the years has been in North America (the US, Canada and Mexico) and Europe, work has taken me to many different environments – anywhere where charitable regulation or registration was being explored or public fundraising considered. India, China, Australia, Brazil, Eastern Europe or the Middle East. All focused on putting in place the building blocks that support effective social and charitable engagement.

The key lesson in all of this has been and continues to be that, if charities wish to be seen as serious participants and contributors to the process of social change, it’s not enough to use the “soft and fluffy” approach. Communications, whether to government, the public or the media, need to be evidenced based. As do serious policy proposals. Charity is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy. It’s one of the largest (and growing) areas of employment in the United States and the same is true in many other parts of the world. Investment through charities and social organisations (at its best) has a relevance and flexibility that statutory investment does not. It has the advantage of being close to the ground and often highly entrepreneurial. The ability to switch and change direction when something does not work is another significant advantage of working in this field. Bringing that data (and much more) to the table is key to successfully communicating the transformation that charities achieve – and the social benefits of engaging with them.

At times of crisis, that can seem self-evident. But between crises, that gets lost. So, the ongoing work of informing debate (influencing, never lobbying…), ensuring that policy -makers decisions are “educated” never ends. Now that I’m back in the UK (and on the Isle of Wight) influencing seems to be what people expect me to do here. Picking up those threads, particularly right now, has brought with it a whole new set of challenges and intellectual rewards.

And it has always seemed to me that a Wykehamical education has prepared me incredibly well for the roles I’ve been fortunate to fill. Curiosity, an ability to make lateral connections, to facilitate and convene have all been critical to any success. Div, with John Thorne or Joe Baine, was an excellent preparation for a career that I couldn’t even imagine. Today, I can’t imagine any other.

 

Andrew Watt

Written by Andrew Watt

(B, 1976-80)

BIOGRAPHY
The social sector has been Andrew's core focus all his life. He's served the fundraising community for nearly 30 years. During that time, he's represented communities in Brussels, Westminster, on the Hill in Washington and Ottawa, and around the globe. Above all else, he's been a connector and thought leader for fundraising communities worldwide.

Andrew is a collaborative driver of change; in culture, in understanding, in regulation and assessment of impact. He's worked to develop a greater understanding of what drives our sector and what it takes to achieve impact in an increasingly volatile and rapidly changing environment.

Andrew served as deputy CEO of the Institute of Fundraising until he moved to the US in 2006; as President & CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals from 2011-2016 and latterly as president & CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

He continues to consult in the US and Europe, now based on the Isle of Wight.

Andrew has served as a member of the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT); a Board member of National Philanthropic Trust - UK; and is a Board member and past Chair of the American Friends of Winchester College. He has been active in establishing the Isle of Wight Cultural Investment Company (funded by the Arts Council) and serves in a number of volunteer capacities in support of the fundraising communities of the UK.

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