Joseph Howes - How I Got Here

The chief executive of charity Buttle UK tells us about his career.

An alternative careers fair

At university there was a careers fair where the likes of KPMG and Deloitte had stands - this seemed to be rocking a lot of my peers' worlds, and they saw it as a natural destination for them. It just didn't fit with me, so instead I went to an alternative careers fair where VSO had a stand. They offered a six-month programme with The Prince's Trust that combined an overseas placement with another based in the UK.

I worked in a youth centre in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire for three months and then spent three months at a school and hospital in Tamale, Ghana. It was almost a postgraduate course in fundraising, and it got me really engaged. When I came back, the Prince's Trust had a fundraising role come up, which I got.

Cutting teeth at The Prince's Trust

My role was focused on major donors, corporates and events sponsorship. It was an amazing schooling, almost a post-graduate course in fundraising. When you're 21 and first coming into the worlds of work and charity you think that anything is possible, which I honestly still do. I met Jay-Z and Prince Charles in the same day at a music festival we organised - it is an incredible organisation that can open up so many doors to support young people.

What I love about fundraising is that it can give you connections with the corporate world and communities. It's that bit of charity that is still well connected but not at the front line. While I knew that the careers fair was not for me, there was still something that connected me to that corporate world in a positive way. I love working with companies where we can make a difference together.

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Picture: Stock


Furthering fundraising experience

I could have stayed at The Prince's Trust forever, but needed to broaden my experience. I moved onto Action for Children around the time they were changing from NCH. The fundraising team went through significant change too which I benefitted from as I took on the corporate fundraising team. That is about understanding what makes a good relationship with corporations and trying to get the best for them.

Later, I also moved onto managing the community fundraising team of 70 people. Community fundraisers don't get the praise for what they do, but they have to be so talented as they have to do it all. They have to link in with the community, be major donor fundraisers, corporate as well. They are often seen as a smaller part compared with high-value donor fundraisers, but they are so important.

Moving into senior management

After Action for Children I moved to Depaul to be director of fundraising. As a member of the senior management team I was looking at every opportunity to learn and how I could give back and strengthen my understanding of fundraising. I also took on responsibility for communications and marketing - working at a smaller organisation you know you have to take on so much more because there's not enough resources. That was a fantastic thing, which I've got since moving to Buttle UK last year too.

What I learned was at The Princes Trust the phone rang, but at Depaul you had to pick it up and make the business, the cold calls. In small organisations if you aren't very good at your job you'll get found out; in bigger ones it can be easier to hide behind people.


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