Alumna interview: Lucy McNally shares her story – NAFS and beyond

Lucy McNally attended the National Arts Fundraising School in 2016, three years after joining LAMDA (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art) as Development Manager (Individual Giving). We caught up with her to find out what impact the School had, and how she’s getting on in her new role (and sector) as High Value Partnership Manager at Woking & Sam Beare Hospices.

What stage of your career were you at when you attended NAFS, and what prompted you to attend?

I had joined LAMDA in Dec 2013, one month after public launch of the Act Now! Capital campaign. So when I attended the National Arts Fundraising School we were in the midst of a challenging capital appeal (during its first year the project costs went up by £10m!), I was managing a Seat Campaign and also looking after the Friends & Angels membership programme as well as gathering information & ideas for a new Patrons scheme to launch with opening of new facilities.

The Fundraising Team at LAMDA were big fans of NAFS – my line manager (Vicki Kelsall) had attended a few years before me & thought it would be a excellent development opportunity for me in light of the significant projects I was working on. I came back full of enthusiasm for the course so much so that our colleague Penny then attended in 2017!

Tell us what you remember from the School… Any ‘lightbulb’ moments?

Where to start? It’s an intense six days covering a range of modules on all aspects of fundraising from capital appeals to writing a strategy. There’s plenty of group discussion while going over examples and case studies, which I found particularly beneficial. There’s emphasis on self-development and innovation rather than ‘follow the rules’ but the team also give you practical approaches and techniques. I still use these, for instance the three key questions when reviewing something: ‘what works, what doesn’t work & what would you do differently?’ I also love the simple tools like the three books for funding ‘evidence’ – Guinness World Records, The Bible & Who’s Who.

Lucy McNally
Lucy reviewing some print with a fellow participant on NAFS in 2016

Two phrases still say as “I am not the target market” to remind me to think for the donor perspective and “Give, and get or get off!” to keep board members focussed.

There is so much I’ve remembered and so I don’t forget my 300 page NAFS folder is still very much one of my reference tools.

Since then what have you gone on to do?

Three months ago I joined the fundraising ream at WSBH. It’s a new role focusing on major gifts as well as managing the Corporate Fundraising Manager and the Trusts Fundraising Manager. The programme gives an insight into all areas of fundraising and the lessons learnt for the arts are transferable across causes – so I approached the hospice move with confidence.

What’s been your greatest fundraising achievement since the School?

I am particularly proud of managing the Make It Happen campaign, which raised £750k (£500k to unlock a match gift of £250k) to close LAMDA’s Act Now! capital campaign.

The school gave me the confidence I needed as well as a tool box of techniques & approaches – it was invaluable.

Lucy McNally

If you had to name one thing in particular which you learnt on the School that has remained with you, what would it be?

Get the basics right, know your stuff and get everyone involved in fundraising. Build relationships, communicate and keep saying thank you.

Would you recommend NAFS to others?

Definitely – it’s a great opportunity away from the day to day aspects of your role to take stock and reflect on what’s working as well as what your challenges are personally and as an organisation. You meet other arts professionals with varied fundraising experience from a range of organisations, and there are opportunities throughout the week to share experiences and discuss ideas, so that you can learn from each other as well as Bernard & the team. Plus there is the famous karaoke night – what more could you want!

The support doesn’t stop after the week, the team arrange alumni events which are a great opportunity to meet other fundraising professionals and top up your learning, but they are also there on an informal bases, I recently wrote to one of the directors to ask for some help in designing donor journeys for my new role. Before I knew it I received an email with a brilliant six-page guide on how to build that for the hospice. Thank you!

And finally, how would you describe the School in three words?

Enlightening, fun & memorable!

NAFS Class of April 2016
The National Arts Fundraising School Class of April 2016

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