Competing against some 186,000 other charities to raise funds is no
easy matter, but for Kate Burk, generating cash for a children's charity
is far easier than selling advertising space in magazines. She should
know - after she graduated from Cambridge with a medieval history
degree, she moved into sales with a small publisher. So how did she end
up as head of fundraising at the Variety Club, which this month launches
its biggest campaign of the year?
The journey seems to have been trouble-free, but then Burk is anything
but a whiner. After the publisher was bought up by by Euro Business and
a stint travelling, she ended up working on BBC Worldwide publications
before setting up a publishing house in partnership with friends, which
focused on the travel sector. She came into her own financially when the
company was bought up by the International Airline Passengers
Association. 'I went back to Australia to travel and laze around, but
you can only do so much of that,' she says.
The Variety Club job beckoned two-and-a-half years ago and she's still
enjoying it. 'When I started there was just me, but now I head a team of
three. We're looking to grow that up to around eight people, but there
isn't a huge permanent staff. Some 90p out of every pound we raise goes
to projects that help disadvantaged or disabled children, and we
currently have a total staff of just 20 - the rest are volunteers,' she
The expansion in the fundraising team has been driven by the flow of
corporate cash into charities, and the Club's Christmas promotion ties
in with the charity's long association with the British Christmas Tree
Growers Association. Devised and implemented by Aztec Marketing
Solutions, the activity makes copious use of third-party support. More
than 1,000 businesses ranging from hotel chains, national heritage
extreme-sports firms and health clubs, offer either a two-for-one or
similar offer in an Amazing Days Out directory. The theme was launched
in September, but the main activity will be unveiled this month, when
more than 2 million Christmas trees will sport a Variety Club Amazing
Days Out tag.
Supermarkets, DIY stores and garden centres will sell the trees,
supported by 12-foot banners, other POS, and celebrity endorsements.
Consumers will be asked to send in an sae and a minimum pounds 1
donation to the charity; in return they will get the directory and an
identity card to trigger the discounts.
The programme is also being supported by Jet Conoco, which is donating
funds from its Smile card during December. 'Corporates are increasingly
recognising that they need to give something back, if only because it
makes PR and commercial sense,' says Burk. She admits that it's not an
all-for-nothing deal and that charities have to ensure commercial
partners benefit too.
Liaising with corporates is taking up more and more of the 34-year-old's
time: she sees it as the 'only way forward' to achieve high targets. She
hopes to raise pounds 250,000 from the Christmas campaign, and is candid
about the return on her budgets: 'Allocation is on a project-by-project
basis. I have to ensure we bring in five times what we've spent, or
we've failed,' she says.
Ironically, Burk describes herself as the 'the kind of girl who spends
more than she earns', but that's not how she comes across. And what
gives her the biggest buzz? 'It sounds very corny, but seeing where the
money goes - it generates an amazing feel-good factor.' Clearly, for
Burk, there's no better motivator.
If I wasn't in marketing ...
'... I'd be a surfing instructor in Australia.'
The job I would most like to have
'...Head of sports promotion at Carlsberg.'
My favourite promotion
'Wotsits swap-it campaign'
My most embarrassing moment
'... was at a black tie dinner with my boyfriend, keen to impress his
boss. I had forgotten my suspenders, so I used nappy pins to attach my
stockings to my knickers. As we came in, my stockings slipped down -
with my knickers.'
Variety Club Children's Charity, head of fundraising
1994 - 1998
International Media Solutions - contract publishers for BBC World
Service and airline and duty-free magazines - director
1992 - 1994
USA Today, advertising manager
1987 - 1990
Reactions, advertising manager for international finance magazines