I have to say that stepping up to be a Director, and especially if you do so internally, is a scary business." - Our latest interviewee is Shabby Amini, from CARE International UK" />
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June 12, 2018

Shabby Amini Interview

"I have to say that stepping up to be a Director, and especially if you do so internally, is a scary business." - Our latest interviewee is Shabby Amini, from CARE International UK

Shabnam Amini - Fundraising, Partnerships and Communications Director, Care International UK

Shabby was appointed Fundraising, Partnerships and Communications Director in January 2016, having previously worked at CARE for four years as the Head of Direct Marketing. She has a broad background of business-to-business and consumer marketing and sales in both the commercial and charity sectors.

Shabby is also a Trustee of the Africa Advocacy Foundation.

You've been Director of Fundraising for a couple of years now- how did you find the transition into the role?

"An utter imposter!" That was my first thought when I was offered the role of director at CARE. I'd previously been the Head of Direct Marketing and I had not expected to be successful in being appointed to the role. I accidentally ended up in this sector after landing a DM Officer role at the then Help the Aged. At the time I thought I'll give this a go for a couple of years and then get a 'real job' as my parents called it.

I have to say that stepping up to be a Director, and especially if you do so internally, is a scary business. I would initially sit in SMT meetings being beyond confused and wondering when I might be able to contribute fully. Those that had been my peers, were now my line reports, and it took some time to adjust to this as those relationships in particular needed my attention. I spent my first few months in listening and learning mode, my heads of teams are real experts in what they do - I vowed to not step on any toes and to add value where appropriate. Whilst I'd been at CARE for four years - I didn't actually know that much about the flows of funds through the organisation.

The role is varied with corporate partnerships, communications, individual giving teams and lendwithcare.org being part of my team. I love the variety and in some ways I feel I am better suited to this role as I enjoy externally representing the cause I love. I get to be out of the office, talking about CARE's work on a regular basis. I'm privileged to be able to see the incredible work CARE delivers, to meet the people we exist for and to be part of a global senior leadership team which has taught me lots about fundraising in many other markets. I can honestly say I have the best job in the world (for me) and my family have stopped asking me when I will get a real job!

Are there any recent campaigns or initiatives which you are particularly proud of?

In 2013 CARE International in the UK started a gender equality campaign, now called #March4Women. From less than 100 people, to last year filling Trafalgar square with 10,000 people, this campaign is certainly one my proudest. It's a cross-organisational engagement campaign with fundraising, advocacy and communications targets.

Cross-team working is not easy. I won't pretend it is. However what I have learned is that when you have the whole organisation behind an initiative from the CEO down, and with many skill sets coming together - what you produce is beyond what one team could achieve. My teams are incredible! What's more incredible is that I have had the honour of making this campaign go global.

Part of my role is to be part of CARE's Global strategic leadership team for fundraising and mobilisation. There are 10 members of the team from communications, advocacy and fundraising backgrounds and we have been tasked with collaborating and making many initiatives happen which CARE has found challenging due to its confederation model. One of the objectives we decided upon was to launch a global campaign, and in just 8 months we managed to pull this off - with 16 countries taking part, 17,000 people marching, 15,000 attending events, raising £500K and over 100,000 people taking an action. On top of that we had media coverage globally including NT New Australia, BBC, Guardian, Huff Post, News Canada, CBS Atlanta to name a few.

There is one other initiative I am totally ecstatic about. One which is currently under wraps and its killing me that I can't tell people! It's a huge fundraising win for CARE and I can't wait to reveal it. What's really special about this - is that when I joined CARE over six years ago, I had never even heard of CARE - likewise many others who I spoke with. We have worked hard with tiny budgets to raise awareness of our work, to constantly innovate and to let our staff grow - and now the phone rings on a regular basis - people are coming to us and that feels incredible. Watch this space!

You recently became a Trustee of Africa Advocacy Foundation- what were your motivations and what have you learned from the experience?

Prior to CARE I worked at WaterAid. Whilst I was there I had the opportunity to volunteer as a mentor at the Africa Advocacy foundation (AAF), based in south east London. I spent a year with the charity supporting the MD and Programmes Director with the development of a new business plan. I was amazed at how this grassroots organisation operated with 4 permanent employees and hundreds of committed and long-term volunteers. Much of the work that AAF do is very relevant to CARE's work except it's in the UK - they provide a referral service for those living with HIV/aids from mostly African communities and they have some incredible FGM advisors who go out in the communities and raise awareness of this terrible and dangerous tradition. Working with women and girls is an important aspect of their work as well as CARE's.

They approached me a year ago to see if I would be interested in becoming a trustee and I did not hesitate to say yes. I have been learning a lot about being a trustee which is helping with my own interactions with the Board of trustees at CARE - it's helpful to see the other side. They also feed me with incredible East African donuts which also makes me very happy!

I thought your recent blog about your experiences on the ground in Bangladesh was particularly moving. Has there been any improvement since?

Visiting Cox's bazar is one experience that will stay with me forever. It's an unbelievable situation and people are living in utterly terrible conditions. The scale in particular took my breath away. With many in the inner depths of the camp having no access to services at all. The shelters are placed randomly and therefore accessibility is a key issue for delivering support. An estimated 800,000 people crammed in to a relatively small area is hard to comprehend. I would love to say that the situation is fine now and in some ways it has improved. My colleagues in Bangladesh have been working tirelessly, they have so far reached over 200,000 people with food, water, sanitation and improved shelter. The monsoon season is threatening and landslides are now the biggest fear, which will lead to collapsed shelters and places many in danger.

The good news is, we have almost reached our fundraising target for the response and we are about to launch mobile medical units who can access the innermost depths of the camp, and we have so far upgraded over 150,000 shelters which should now survive the rains. Lots more to do, but its great progress. I worry about what will happen in the longer term if they don't return to Myanmar, many told me they never want to go back as they fear for their lives. I am always shocked at how humanity can treat the 'other'.

What are the greatest challenges that you face at Care International?

Raising funds is always going to be at the top of any Directors list, and when you work for an international development charity your cause is not at the top of the publics list, making it an even bigger challenge. For CARE in particular, the majority of our income is restricted and this poses challenges when we want to invest in fundraising, communications or innovations in our programme work. However when you don't have a lot of flexibility in terms of budgets - it brings out the best in teams and I truly have talented colleagues who are empowered to innovate, to test and learn and to be thinking differently - initiatives like our Third Sector Award nominated TV advert, #March4Women, our challenge event Race to Respond and the crowd-lending platform Lendwithcare.org did not cost the earth.

Every year that I have been at CARE has felt different which is what motivates me to stay. There is no business as usual anymore, if that even existed, and that keeps us on our toes.

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