We’ve been asking our mentees to share, in their own words, their experience of The Elischer Foundation’s mentoring programme. Here’s what Emma Leiper Finlayson had to say…
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Emma and I’ve recently wrapped up seven years at Sue Ryder, where i held various roles including Capital Appeal Manager where I led the Aberdeen team in a £3.9m capital appeal to expand our care centre facilities. In recent years I’ve held senior leadership roles; most recently this was Head of Fundraising Strategy and Development, where I led on strategic development and change management projects.
Very excitingly, I have recently been appointed as Director of Fundraising for children’s healthcare charity, Charlie House in Aberdeen. I’ll be responsible for leading the team to complete its £8m capital appeal for a new children’s respite centre, developing the high value programme, and growing sustainable income.
2. Why did you apply to be a mentee?
I’ve always been both very ambitious and a voracious learner. I was at the place in my career where I wanted to move to the next level, to have more responsibility and to lead a bigger team. Applying to the Foundation was a very intentional step in helping me get to that next level, to start preparing, to build on my knowledge, my emotional intelligence, and develop my leadership skills. The mentorship helped me achieve that and so much more.
3. How did your mentor support you during the mentorship.
My mentor Kim and I would meet for an hour on a monthly basis via zoom. At the beginning of the mentorship we discussed what my goals were, and I developed a set of objectives and key results of what I wanted to achieve professionally over the course of the mentorship, and how the mentorship would help with those achievements. My objectives included getting out there more – growing my network in the third sector, attending sector conferences, and developing a wider knowledge and understanding of key sector areas, challenges and innovations. This would be key to helping me achieve another of my objectives - to develop a team strategy for the role to which I’d just been appointed.
Over the course of the year, Kim and I would regularly return to my objectives to ensure progress in the right direction and to keep me accountable.
Through discussions of situations and challenges, Kim helped me identify my strengths and areas I needed to develop, and gave me the confidence to be bolder and to put myself out there more. It was Kim who encouraged me to apply for an interim senior leadership role, a role which I got and led to my later senior roles.
And when my mum expectedly died, Kim adapted her support to focus on protecting my emotional and mental boundaries at work when I was dealing with my raw grief.
Kim really was both my professional and personal cheerleader, and always gave me that much needed perspective and clarity for whatever challenges I was facing.
4. Was there a great aha moment or great things that came out of your mentoring experience?
I remember feeling blown away after every session with Kim! Every time we met there would be something particular we discussed and something would click for me, whether that be another perspective I hadn’t considered or a new piece of knowledge. For example I remember Kim sharing her wisdom on value and fundraising propositions, how integral they were to articulating your why and inspiring people to support your charitable cause, underpinning an organisation’s success.
Two years after my mentorship I still regularly review the notes I took from my sessions with Kim. Its helped me manage day to day challenges and getting wider perspective for developing high performing teams, driving collaboration and underpinning culture.
The advice, knowledge and wisdom I got from Kim continues to fall into place as I become more experienced and take on more senior roles.
5. What was the best bit of advice your mentor gave you?
Kim imparted so much amazing advice and wisdom, it’s hard to choose just one bit! One that sticks in my mind above all others though is always ensuring that your strategy ladders up to the Fundraising directorate and/or organisational strategy. Your own team strategy should never be done in isolation, it has to complement and help fulfill the wider goals. It seems so obvious now, but it was a key learning for me having come from working in a capital appeal that had a very specific and singular strategy, to then moving to a larger team / organisational dynamic.
6. What would you say to anyone thinking about applying.
Don’t underestimate the value of having a mentor. It is instrumental in helping navigate the path to senior leadership, developing yourself and equipping with you with the knowledge, tools and awareness to take that next step in your career.