Interview with team leader Peter Jenkins, Book Trust UK
What is your team’s responsibility in ELINET?
We are the Fundraising Strategies Team, our concern is not just money, but resources, partnerships, strategy. We want to prompt strategic thinking, and to share experience, particularly through your case studies. Our responsibility is to engage you, the website reader, whether you are a member of ELINET, or involved in the literacy sector, or just interested.
We are excited about promising practices in literacy, and will advise on how to ‘make the case’ to funders. And public engagement and corporate partnerships give weight to our case to policy makers.
Raising money and resources for literacy enables new initiatives to start, standards to be improved, and leads to fewer people with reading and writing difficulties.
What do you hope to achieve with your team?
We are creating a toolkit. Practical case studies and guidance will prompt ideas: how to fundraise, diversify and increase income, support sustainability. We want to help literacy promoters do more. But our guidance must suit a variety of partner needs and be useful in differing funding contexts.
There are many fundraising toolkits out there. All our guidance and case studies will come from the literacy sector. We want it to be your toolkit, shaped by your submissions. And we want to show that fundraising is not an add on, but integral and creative. We have to think ‘out of the box’.
What are the main challenges in your work?
We have surveyed the ELINET network. Organisations differ greatly in structure and activity. Some are very experienced at fundraising, others are starting out. They come from very different country environments. The toolkit must be accessible and useful to organisations at different stages of their fundraising journey.
Literacy organisations can forget they are charitable, that their cause is critical, that the public want to give, and that companies can see the benefits we could offer them. Perhaps we forget our stories: Pippi Longstocking or Billy Goat Gruff. We are not Cinderellas.
How can those obstacles be overcome?
We work with pilot organisations that are very different in type, and in location across Europe – E, S, NW, NE. They are road-testing our models. Some scratches will improve the final design.
The toolkit must be versatile and relevant. That relies on the contribution of the wider community: your experience, case-studies, comments, additions, and fundraising stories. For us these stories are as exciting as Grimm. For the ELINET network they are gold dust. We want your tales of wealthy corporate Giants tamed in the Carpathians, or cosmic Kalevala partnership-negotiations in the Finnish swamps. Such feedback will determine the work’s success.
Personally, how did you become interested in literacy work?
I read English Literature at university, and became a Literature lecturer and teacher, working in the UK and overseas. Then I moved into the Literature-promotion charitable sector, working with overseas writers, and writers in community events and increasingly in schools. I saw children experience the impact of reading and writing I had known. I became a fundraiser as soon as I moved into the charity sector, managing arts-in-education departments and then an organisation. It enabled me to develop new programmes and expand activity. Now as a fundraiser at Book Trust it is enlightening to see how effective partnerships dramatically increase reach, and gratifying to know we engage every child in the country while increasingly targeting the most disadvantaged with innovative work.