From shoppers to sports clubs to schools, our volunteer fundraisers inspire communities up and down the country. They spread the word of Guide Dogs and raise vital funds that help make it all possible.
Here we shine a spotlight on Julie Wood as she tells us about her role as a Regional Community Fundraising Manager in the North West.
What is community fundraising and why is it important?
Guide Dogs has an incredible fundraising community. We have just under 400 local fundraising groups across the country and last year we raised over £5 million for Guide Dogs. We really are the front line of fundraising – we’re out there day in, day out inspiring support.
Our fundraisers raise money in lots of different ways. They organise store collections, attend local events to sell merchandise and manage the collection boxes that you see in shops. They also work with local businesses or community groups who raise money to Name a Puppy or choose Guide Dogs as their charity of the year. This is all supported by a network of speakers who share their story through talks to groups and schools.
As well as raising a huge amount of money, our fundraisers are an important presence in local communities. They help raise awareness of the different services we provide and help promote other opportunities to get involved with Guide Dogs, such as volunteering.
Can you tell us a bit about your role?
My role is to make sure our Community Fundraising Relationship Managers support our volunteer fundraisers so they have everything they need – from creative ideas, to merchandise, to support with banking the money they’ve raised. We have six Regional Community Fundraising Managers across the country, and we look after around 4-6 Community Fundraising Managers who in turn each support around 10 to 15 groups.
It’s a busy role. We’re constantly spinning plates, so I have to be very organised. When you work in community fundraising you need to enjoy getting out and about and not be afraid to ask questions or ask for donations. You also have to be a people-person and manage lots of relationships – it’s no coincidence that we all love to talk! We need to make sure our volunteers feel supported and also enjoy what they do.
Throughout the year we organise national community fundraising campaigns, such as the Guide Dogs Tea Party, the Guide Dogs Appeal and our new campaign for schools called Fund Race. We make sure our volunteers have all the information and resources they need to take part and feel confident sharing these with the general public.
How did you get into community fundraising?
I’ve worked in community fundraising for over 20 years, and I just love it. I’ve worked for lots of different charities – from large, national charities to small, regional charities.
I started my career at Barnardo’s where I loved going into schools and talking to children about other people’s lives. We’d highlight the differences and show how raising money can give other children a better future. Some of the fundraising resources I created at Barnardo’s are still used today, nearly 20 years later!
I joined Guide Dogs in 2020 and I really feel like I’ve found my place here. Everyone here is so passionate and helpful.
What’s in store for community fundraising in the future?
Community fundraising has definitely evolved over the years, and especially after Covid. The pandemic was really challenging as we couldn’t get out there like we’re used to. We had to be creative and develop new ways to spread the word. We launched virtual events, and our speakers can now give virtual talks to groups if required. Our talks are much more powerful in person, but it’s really opened up new ways to reach and connect with people.
The role of cash in society is also changing. Lots of people don’t carry loose change these days. We’re developing new ways that people can donate – we have contactless devices, our collection boxes have QR codes to link to our website and we’ve recently sourced an app where people can make donations or buy their merchandise on.
What makes Guide Dogs unique?
Of course, we’re best known for our life-changing guide dogs. We know that when dogs are involved in our fundraising we often raise more – at collections we start to see a lot more notes than coins! But dogs also help break the ice and start conversations about our wider work.
Many of our volunteer fundraisers are in guide dog partnerships and we’re so grateful when they share their story and inspire support. We also have ambassador dogs who might be rehomed guide dogs, retired dogs or even pet dogs. I have a rehomed guide dog named Shadow who’s one of our ambassador dogs who comes along to collections and other fundraising events.
Working at Guide Dogs is so rewarding. You know you’re making a difference, but when you work in the community you get that feeling first hand. When I go to events and meet people, I always come back with a huge smile on my face.