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Embracing thepower of purpose

Glen Fendley, Chief Executive of the Dukes Foundation, describes how his 30-year journey in fundraising has prepared him for his new role

In the early 1990’s, obtaining a prestigious graduate fast-track position in the petroleum industry seemed like the ideal path for financial success and long-term career satisfaction. However, despite the elevated level of decision-making responsibilities and the opportunity to travel globally, I couldn’t shake off a feeling of emptiness that money and benefits couldn’t fill.

The turning point came when I returned home to London to my then-girlfriend (now wife) Jane, after an

extended business trip to Houston, Texas. I was excited to share news of a bonus award that would help us secure our mortgage deposit for our first home. But I was taken aback by Jane’s own exciting revelation.

She had played a crucial role in helping one of her students, Jamie, receive a dyslexia diagnosis that would transform his learning and education.

Jane’s compassion and dedication sparked a desire in me to seek my own personal fulfilment and make

a meaningful difference in my career. Despite facing scepticism from friends and family, who saw my decision to take a significant pay-cut and leave behind a promising career in the oil sector as a “reckless move,” I knew it was time to take that leap of faith.

I seriously contemplated two professions: following Jane into primary school teaching or working in
the charity sector. In due course, I eliminated the teaching option. Although I believed I had some qualities suitable for teaching, such as compassion, creativity, communication skills, and the ability to motivate students, I wasn’t going to kid myself that I possessed the necessary level of maturity, patience, and time-management skills I witnessed in natural educators like Jane and her peer group in their young careers.

My exploration of charity jobs also proved to be quite frustrating as I struggled for months to find roles that aligned with my skill set and that truly resonated with any of the causes I cared deeply about. However, just as I was going to give up and reconsider my options, everything changed when I stumbled upon an advertisement from the NSPCC recruiting staff to their major gifts department. The charity had a compelling mission and I had no doubt that I had the transferable skills to make a success of the major gifts fundraising role: active listening, a genuine curiosity for people’s motivations and interests, persuasive communication abilities, and an aptitude for building meaningful relationships.

After a rigorous interview process, I was thrilled to receive the news that I had been offered the job. However, I did later discover that the decision to hire me had not been unanimous among the interview panel. It was the Fundraising Director, Angela Cluff who took a chance on me and cast the deciding vote. That decision marked the beginning of an incredible career journey for me — a true ‘sliding doors’ moment. My arrival at the NSPCC coincided with a momentous time in its history. The charity was on the verge of launching an unprecedented national fundraising campaign with an ambitious £250 million target, aimed at eradicating cruelty against children. I distinctly remember the impactful words spoken by then CEO, Jim Harding, on my first day in the role. He expressed a fervent hope that our collective efforts would be so powerful and transformative that one day, the NSPCC would become obsolete, no longer needed in a world free from child cruelty.

These visionary and aspirational words have been echoed throughout the years, inspiring not just the NSPCC but countless other charities as well. They continue to fuel my motivation as a fundraiser, reminding me of the profound importance of our work and the immense potential for making genuine change in
the lives of children and young people.

Joining the NSPCC proved to be an exceptional training ground, allowing me to master the art of major gifts fundraising and acquire the most effective methods of soliciting donations from high-net-worth individuals. Early on in my tenure, I helped to secure a handful of significant donations, which cemented my passion for professional fundraising. Witnessing the power of philanthropy and how it brings social solutions to
life is a joyful experience.

To this day, there is nothing that compares to the fulfilment I find in nurturing relationships with prospective supporters, getting to understand their passions, and then presenting a compelling case for giving generously.

My four-year tenure with the NSPCC was nothing short of life-changing for me, personally and professionally. It reaffirmed my belief in the power of purpose, the importance of compassion, and the profound impact that individuals can make when united behind a common cause.

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Dr. Henry Drucker and Kay Sprinkel Grace, who mentored me early in my career change. Dr. Drucker, the architect of the groundbreaking £340 million Oxford University fundraising campaign, taught me the importance of storytelling to communicate the impact of philanthropy. Kay Sprinkel Grace showed me the value of connecting with donors on a deeper level by uncovering shared values. As I continue on my journey as a professional fundraiser, I am committed to passing on the knowledge and wisdom I have gained to the next generation of fundraisers. I hope to inspire and mentor others, just as Dr. Drucker and Kay Sprinkel Grace inspired and mentored me.

Throughout my fundraising career, I have been fortunate to work with non-profit organisations dedicated to causes that are close to my heart, such as youth and environmental conservation, healthcare, and education including London Youth, Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre and RSA Academics Ltd.

As my reputation in the fundraising world grew, I became a sought-after international consultant and philanthropic broker, supporting over sixty charities and educational institutions worldwide
in achieving campaign success. I am humbled by the countless moments when I have been involved in helping to facilitate great acts of major philanthropy all over the globe.

It goes without saying that not every campaign I’ve led has been a resounding success, and not every meaningful fundraising relationship has yielded substantial donations.

But I have always held onto the wise words of my favourite teacher, Mr. Lockie: “Embrace setbacks, but don’t let them define you. Let them teach you.” His guidance has been my compass, urging me to learn from my successes, disappointments, and challenges. As I embark on the next chapter of my career, I remain committed to these principles driven by humility, resilience, and an unwavering passion to make a difference in the lives of the young people we serve.

Looking back on that ‘leap of faith’ moment in 1995, and my ensuing three-decade journey as a professional fundraiser and consultant, my life has been filled with unexpected twists and opportunities that continue to ignite a passion within me — and 2024 is no different! I am now about to take on the role of Chief Executive of the Dukes Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dukes Education.

It is truly an honour to serve an organisation that through bursary provision and making charitable grants, will positively impact on the lives of thousands of young people worldwide.

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