How Street Fundraising Helped Me Gain Confidence and Get Hired
Post university, not many people know what steps to take next. It can be really difficult to see a clear career path after you’ve graduated. Most companies want you to have practical experience, but that sort of experience isn’t always easy to come by, especially in the charity sector.
That’s exactly the situation I was in—I needed that experience and I needed it quickly. So I decided to try my hand at street fundraising, and I’m glad I did because it equipped me with the right transferable skills and inspired confidence that helped my job search down the line. When I put on a waterproof and took to the streets that first day on the job, I had no idea what to expect. But speaking to the public was a fun experience and so I ended up street fundraising for a year.
Thinking of getting into street fundraising yourself? Here are five ways it benefited me and my charity career.
1. I gained transferable presentation skills
Delivering persuasive dialogues turned out to be the most important element of the role. I was taught a lot of ‘sales’ techniques to help me make my pitches engaging: body language, tone of voice and narratives, just to name a few.
I learnt that words only account for 7% of our effective communication, tone of voice counts for 38% and body language for 55%. By delivering pitch after pitch, day after day, I gained excellent experience that I could apply to public speaking roles and presentations. It’s helped me in every job since.
2. I learned from new perspectives and gain communication skills
While it can be daunting to approach people on the street, I found that once they stopped, they were a lot friendlier and more open than I expected. I got everything from declarations of love to heartfelt personal stories.
I suppose talking about inequality or disadvantage gives people permission to speak freely about their own lives. This was so unbelievably insightful. I met an army veteran who told me about his struggles finding a job after military service. I encountered a woman who had just met her estranged son after twenty years. I spoke to a guy who told me about life in prison when he was out for the afternoon for his volunteer placement.
Street fundraising is an opportunity to learn about new perspectives and about people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. You build up excellent communication skills, essential for many careers, setting you apart from lots of other job applicants. The role is genuinely educational as you learn a lot about social, and in my case third world, issues, broadening your outlook and giving you the insight to draw on in the future.
3. I learned to hold my own and made great friends
Not everyone I met was lovely. But I think my team and I developed a collective good humour to cope with the racists, the rambling, and the downright rude. Because I’ve listened to all sorts of far-out conspiracy theories and offensive opinions, I’m less inclined to bite the bait in an argument now and I don’t get so rattled. At the same time, I can take on offensive views and prejudice if I feel the need to.
I’m also equipped with a more open outlook because I’ve seen that every conversation provides the opportunity for a new perspective or change. (Street fundraising has clearly made me really modest too…)
I found that street fundraisers were generally quite fun, supportive and interesting. My team was a motley crew of diverse people, from the young student to the middle-aged professional. We made lasting friendships by working as a team to meet targets and by supporting each other through the hard days. We created a positive, enthusiastic culture by lifting each other up and motivating one another. And by going on to lead groups within the section as a Team Leader, I was able to jazz up my CV so I could apply for jobs offering more responsibility.
4. I gained a lot of confidence and resilience
As someone who was sceptical of slogans and self-help notions, I was initially resistant to the ‘power of believing in yourself’. But I couldn’t deny the significance of positive thinking when I saw how essential it was to my success as a street fundraiser.
I learnt that when I believed in myself, or at least tried, members of the public were much more likely to invest in me too. And seeing that I was getting good results gave me a confidence that improved my next dialogue. Now, even if I’m feeling wobbly or less confident about a job, I remind myself that believing that I can do something makes all the difference.
Confidence ran in my charity’s veins and it rubbed off on me with great effect. For example, my manager inspired me to apply for a job I would have previously felt under-qualified for. ‘You’ve done this!’ he said, applying my street fundraising responsibilities to the job requirements with an oomph I hadn’t been able to muster. ‘I have!’ I said, knowing that even if I hadn’t, what mattered just as much was my confidence to put myself forward.
I exuded street fundraiser confidence during my mock presentation at the interview and I got the job. When I get job rejections these days, I also take it a lot better. Surprisingly, standing in the rain being ignored is pretty good for your resilience.
5. I had the opportunity to make a difference
The work of street fundraisers creates life-long relationships between charities and donors which save lives and help people who are suffering real hardships reach their potential. Despite the feelings of rejection on a very tough day, when I saw the money for aid projects my team was generating, I would feel an immense solidarity with my mission. And soon my anxieties about Instagram-likes and whether to get a fringe faded away in the wake of global and life-impacting issues.
It was very uplifting to see peoples’ capacity for empathy and its power to soften even the most resistant of attitudes. It was so nice to see people being genuinely happy after donating. Some Scrooges think street fundraisers are persuading people to do something they don’t want to. I think that often they are helping people do what’s in their nature.
Ultimately, street fundraising has given me a more open outlook and made me better at putting myself forward for jobs. I’ve had a good head start for sales and customer-facing roles, and I’ve got a valuable insight into how charities work. Most importantly, I got to generate income for life-changing projects. I’m committed to positivity, resilience and tolerance. And who doesn’t want to sign up for that?
Please note: If you want to get into street fundraising, then by all means do it! But just keep in mind the government and NHS’s current advice on social distancing and staying safe during the pandemic. Where possible, wear a face mask and ensure an appropriate distance between you and potential donors.
Marion Weaver has worked in outreach and as a youth leader for several charities. She’s now spending her time applying creative writing to help promote the charity sector. Her life’s showreel includes a claim to fame role in a CBBC drama and a year teaching in Ghana.