Our newly-appointed Director of Fundraising on why she loves her job – and how donor relations fits into God’s kingdom work.
‘Fundraising sometimes raises a bit of suspicion,’ says Erin Winfield. ‘When people hear that word, they might think: “Oh, here we go. You just want my money.”’
But the reality, as she explains, is so much more exciting than that.
‘At its heart, fundraising isn’t really about money, as odd as that might sound. It’s about people. People who care about the same cause. People who’ve put their hands up to say, ‘I’m in.’ People who are fuelling a mission, both financially and with their prayers, time, wisdom, and energy.
‘They are what my role is about. I’m here to see and know the people who partner with us, sharing how much we appreciate them, encouraging them that they really are making a difference, and inviting others to be part of this family – united around the vision for whole-life discipleship.’
We may be on Zoom on a grey December day, but as soon as she starts discussing her work, Erin’s enthusiasm lights up the room. And she makes a good point: the m-word is tough to raise in polite society. Many of us are wary of appeals to our wallet, and there’s a justified concern in our culture about the abuse of religious teachings for material gain.
But as Erin points out, we can’t let those rightful concerns harden into cynicism. In truth, fundraising plays a crucial role in helping people live out their discipleship, using the financial gifts God’s given them to join in with his kingdom work.
‘What we do with our money is an inescapable part of life. In fact, Jesus talks about money more than a lot of things – not necessarily because he thinks we’ll struggle, but because what we do with our money reveals the intention of our hearts. Holding it open-handedly, with a posture of stewardship, is a really significant part of whole-life discipleship. Giving is a muscle of discipleship that we need to exercise.
‘Think about the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Although that parable certainly relates to the way we use all our gifts, and the way we share the hope of the gospel with others, it’s also about money! There’s something very good about putting the finances God gives us ‘to work’, so that by his grace they contribute to his kingdom plan – whether that’s through LICC, a local church, or anything else. That’s why I get excited about fundraising: because I get the chance to help people discover that joy.’
That excitement isn’t something she was born with, though. So how did she get into this line of work?
‘I used to work for a major Christian charity, heading up the EMEA region. At one point I was invited to join our CEO on a visit to America and tell some stories of impact on a fundraising tour. I suddenly realised all my misconceptions on that trip. I was expecting it to be a slightly smarmy, manipulative process – but it wasn’t that at all. It was just my colleague visiting her friends, telling stories, and then asking whether they’d like to be involved. The people we met were really excited to see her, really keen to help. It wasn’t manipulative, it was totally authentic, totally genuine. Because we genuinely cared about the work we were doing – and so did they!’
Fast forward 12 years and she’s now taken up a newly-created role as Director of Fundraising at LICC. The role might be different, but the reasoning is the same: she believes strongly in the importance of the work.
‘LICC’s mission really matters. The scale and urgency of the vision – to see every Christian in the UK living for Christ in every part of their lives – make it truly compelling. And when we invite people to join that mission, we’re inviting them into something crucial, something big, something we believe has the potential to impact the whole nation. At the end of the day, that’s what made me put my hand up and say “I’m in.” Now I want to help others do the same.’
Ultimately, Erin is a people person – and it’s that sensibility she brings to the role.
‘I truly believe that fundraising is ministry. The way we serve and work with our donors is every bit as important as the way we serve and work with anyone else. I’m here to steward donor relationships, not donations – all so that we might see more Christians across the UK inspired with the whole-life vision, and equipped to make a difference right where they are.
‘That’s the beauty and the power of what fundraising really means. It’s more than money – it’s partnership in the mission.’