Dear friends,

231044_562825042216_175580_nThis will be my final post on this blog. After seven years and 176 posts, you might be wondering why I’ve chosen now to say farewell to this extraordinary adventure.

The truth is, while I love living in the UK, and adore living in London, while it still feels like this is the place my soul is meant to be, while I can’t imagine a time I’d ever want to leave, while this is home, it’s no longer just that: an extraordinary adventure. It’s life, lived in the way everyone lives life – between grocery store runs, bill paying, vague interest in the new restaurant on the corner, remembering to clean before visitors arrive. I’ve discovered that I can no longer look at it as an outsider, and that ability to identify cultural differences was really the heart of “From Salem to St Andrews.”

I’m planning to start a new fundraising-focused blog and will be sure to send out announcements when that happens.

In the meantime, in addition to my lovely and always-supportive parents, I want to thank a number of people for their unflagging support of FS2S. Laura Davis, Catherine Jarmin-Miller, Elena Pratt, Angela Welsh Ryan, Michele Tomseth, Mardi Mileham, Debbie Harmon, Kathryn Karr and, not least, my wonderful husband could always be counted on for a kind word for every post, and knowing they were out there reading was a source of comfort and courage.

It also provided a connection to home in those early shaky new days of expatriotism and I will always, always, always be grateful for that.

Here are just a few of my favourite posts.
Hold on. Is this Qwest? Because I’d know you anywhere. 
Try to avoid running AT the Prince 
Shipping in a material world
An expat’s guide to marriage abroad 
Dog embargoes be damned.
Borderlands (I mean the ones between the domestic and international terminals) 
Stripping in Aberdeen, or, when it is not a good time to take of your bra in public? 
Turkey analytics
Homelessness is a state of mind
Gift guide for your favourite fundraiser 
Meet Immigrant #111

So for now, farewell. I’ll leave the blog up for archival purposes, of course, but soon will be seeing you under another masthead. Thank you so much for your love, support, kind words, reactions, likes, views, clicks and smiley faces. It’s meant so much to me.

Love to all,



IMG_2099We saw Hamilton this weekend. It’s unremarkable (unless you have your own blog, then you can remark on anything you want!) – except that we bought the tickets a year ago. January 2017. We weren’t even sure we’d be in the country in January of 2018. And we certainly didn’t know what we were in for this past year. And yet, we made it to the theatre Saturday night.

That’s why, this January, I am not making any resolutions or setting goals. Life will be life, and although I will always do my best to carry on with grace and kindness the truth is that I have very little power over it. So resolutions seem like whistling in the wind, a futile activity that only makes God laugh.

Instead, I’m going to identify the strengths I discovered last year that I can build on – strengths I genuinely didn’t know I had. Survival strengths. Courage. Love. The ability to focus on the practical. Focus. Humour. Sheer strength of will.

rs-243008-linIn other words, I’m not going to use 2018 as an excuse to improve myself (although God knows I could use it). I just don’t have the energy, and the world will do what it will no matter what I plan. But I’ll try to remember that I have the tools to survive whatever comes to pass – and perhaps, for this coming year . . .

“Look at where you are
Look at where you started
The fact that you’re alive is a miracle
Just survive, that would be enough.”


Photos from #RGC17

Just a few, somewhat festive photos from last week’s conference!

First, find the coffee.

rosie_made_a_thing_cards040_1024x1024I want to start my new job at the Royal Academy of Music on the right foot.  So I did what any sober, thinking member of the workforce would do – asked several hundred people, many of whom I barely know, what I should be doing in the first week.

Fortunately, the hivemind is wise.  And bored, because I got quite a few responses.  Here are the best.

Be nice to the boss! (submitted by my new boss)

Go and chat with the people who deal with basic donor queries. I always think that’s a great boost to the learning curve.

Be yourself.  Ask questions. Be ready to have to ask the same question three times because of information overload. Head to the kitchen to make tea and chat to people there.  Write down every thought / idea/ question that occurs to you – and come back to it a few weeks.  Go and see something core to the organisation that will inspire you.

Ask for a list of the top ten or 20 donors that fit your remit and fire out a little email to each one asking for a short chat – it’s the kind of thing that will get easily pushed out of the way by other meetings, etc., in a few weeks time and they will be really flattered that you’ve been in touch in your first week. 🙂

I’d adapt [the above] to include – find the longest giving donor, and send them an email.

. . . Find the coffee . . .


Get to know people, that way you’ll know their traits and how to manage them to get the best from them!

Listen lots, try not to say too often, “We used to do it this way at [my] last place.”  Make friends with receptionists, security staff and secretaries who can be valuable forever – it’s harder to do later.

Have I missed anything important?  What else should I be doing my first week?  Let me know in the comments!

Special thanks to Kirsty MacDonald, Mark Phillips, Rachel Brown, Adrian Salmon, Michael Hodgson, Fiona Williams and Mark Astarita for their input.

Wanted –

  • One driver.  Must have good playlist skills.  three-peaks-in-one-day-you-underestimate-my-powerMust be able to stay awake for at least 24 hours, navigate tiny roads at 2am, maintain patience with whiny passengers, provision high-calorie gluten-free diets at a moment’s notice.  Must not feel left out when passengers disappear for long stretches of time.
  • Indeterminate number of crazy people.  Must like long hikes in the dark, cold temperatures, esoteric personal challenges.  Must supply own gear.  Should not have high standards for overnight accommodation.

I didn’t think I could do it, honestly, when Jesse told me that our planned 12-mile hike in Wales would be up Pen-y-Fan and three neighbouring peaks.  I imagined myself being coptered off the mountain, wheezing and demanding intravenous chocolate.  I pictured broken ankles, scraped knees, skin tight from dehydration, hands shaky from hypoglycemia, cursing Jesse and his never-ending faith in me.

Turns out, not so much.  It hurt, but when we got back to the car (3600 feet of climbing later), after a Mars bar and a little water, I was sure I had more in me.  And when we climbed Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales at about 2900 feet, I was even a bit disappointed.  That’s it, Wales?  That’s all you got? (photos below).

Enter the Three Peaks Challenge.  There’s more information here, but essentially participants climb the three highest peaks in the UK – one each in Scotland, Wales and England – in 24 hours.  The starting line is Ben Nevis, in Scotland, which clocks in at 700 metres, which you begin in the evening (remember that in Scotland, in the summer, the sun sets very late).  Then off to Scafell Pike in Cumbria, a neat 978 metres, and finally Snowdon at a cool 1,078 metres.  It’s a total drive of about 10 hours (at 65 miles an hour, Wikipedia notes).  So basically, you need a driver who is willing not to climb and happy to drive you through the countryside at 2am, a headlamp, and a mission.

We don’t want to do it alone, though.  We’re taking applications for a team (we’re thinking a professor, a millionaire, a skipper, Mary Anne – oh, wait, wrong challenge) and we’ll need a driver.  Need a new personal goal?  Want to help us support kidney cancer research (or another charity – we’re happy to have you pick your own)?  Curious about whether or not you have 26 miles and 9,800 feet in 24 hours in your legs?  Or just love us and want to drive us places?

Want to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world?

Seriously.  Email me.  We’re thinking July 2018.

P.S.  Don’t google Three Peaks Challenge death, by the way.

scaredIt took me ten years as a fundraiser before I felt I had enough to say.

I admit, I was easily intimidated. The presenters I’d seen at conferences always seemed to have an abundance of creativity and experience, and programmes that overshadowed mine in everything from budget to scope. What could I possibly have to say that hadn’t already been said, and by someone who knew a lot more than me?

That was my mistake.  It wasn’t until my first presentation at the CASE Regular Giving Conference 2014 that I learned the truth: there’s no line you need to cross – in terms of years of experience or success – that makes you ready to present at a conference. It’s just a matter of gathering your courage and taking a new look at your programme from the perspective of an outsider.  You do have something to say, and you just need to find it.

There are people with more experience than you (they’re the ones doing the keynotes), but often a fresh perspective can be equally edifying.  If you’re not sure what you’d talk about, or even how to write your proposal, here are a few questions to get you started.

1. What would someone from another institution find unique about your programme? What are you doing differently from other fundraisers? What special challenges do you have (budget, staffing, data, processes, geography, donor affinity, etc), and what strategies have you tried to overcome them?

2. What surprised you in this last year? What was hard?  Did something go especially well – or incredibly badly – or just differently than you planned, and how did you respond? How will you build on this success (or overcome the problem)? Did you learn something new about your donors that you never knew before? How did you learn it, and what will you do with this information?

3. Did you find any useful partners along the way? What new opportunities or perspectives did they bring to your programme? Who were they, how did you work together, and what might you advise other fundraisers seeking similar ways of working?

4. What do the next three to five years of your fundraising programme look like? Or, are you anticipating a change in the sector overall, either because of new regulations or some other force? How are you adapting your current plans to be well-positioned to respond?

5.  What do you want to help the fundraising community do better?  In other words, when they leave your session, what do you want them to know or be able to do better than they could when they walked in?

And don’t forget – you don’t have to present alone. If you can identify fundraisers at other institutions facing similar problems or trialing similar programmes, reach out and suggest a joint presentation. Like you, they’re probably just waiting to be invited, and having speakers to compare and contrast keeps the audience engaged.

Formal or informal, strategic or tactical, I’ve found the UK fundraising audience to be incredibly kind and eager for any presentation that provides unique insight or new best practices that can improve their own programmes. And the connections you’ll make as a speaker can open new professional doors for you as well.

CASEDon’t wait as long as I did.  In fact, why not start today? If you’re a Regular Giving professional, consider submitting a proposal for the CASE Europe Regular Giving Conference 2017. The deadline is 4 August, and you can find the (really simple) instructions for submitting your proposal here. Or email me at k.finch-gnehm@imperial.ac.uk and I’d be happy to talk through your idea with you!