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Marie Downes (Fundraiser)

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Marie Downes is a volunteer fundraiser currently helping a small community and voluntary organisation called Children’s Hope which supports disadvantaged or at risk children in the local community (Dunlaoghaire, Ballybrack and Sallynoggin). Initially, when Marie decided to volunteer she specifically wanted to put her business skills and experience to good use and learn something new at the same time.

Marie previously worked as a project manager with EDS, a global IT consulting company and Arantech a CRM software solutions provider. In Arantech Marie was responsible for generating funds for research and development for various IT projects. This involved applying for grants to organisations such as the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. Marie is transferring quite a number of her business skills into the volunteer fundraising activity she is now involved in.

We are a small organisation, as a team we do not have all the business skills we need. We work with our local volunteer centre in Dunlaoghaire-Rathdown to help us create new roles to fill some of theses gaps. Marie volunteering with us as a fundraiser is literally a lifeline. Marie has excellent research capabilities and communications skills

Alison McNamara, Founder, Children’s Hope


Marie has worked with a number of community and voluntary organisations as a fundraiser, Her first role was with The Rose Project where she researched different grant and funding sources both internationally and in Ireland. The Rose Project delivers programmes that address maternal and child healthcare issues in Malawi. Some 30,000 babies are born with the HIV virus each year and Malawi experiences the highest rate of maternity mortality in the world for a non-conflict country. These problems are preventable, the Rose Project focuses on the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, building new maternity hospitals and supporting healthcare workers in the country.  The Rose Project is run on a day-to-day basis by a team of 20 volunteers with many different skills and experience. Funds are raised annually through a variety of fundraising efforts driven by a specific fundraising committee. Marie was responsible for just one of the approaches.

Mary Donohoe, Director of The Rose Project, emphasizes the importance of working with other similar organisations both in Ireland and internationally that share common goals and objectives to your own. This leads to greater sustainability and helps to secure grants from donor agencies.

“Research and fundraising application processes are a time consuming business. It is great to get volunteer fundraisers such as Marie on board. My time is often already stretched! Marie was able to focus solely on this task and even find out about some international & EU funding programmes that we had not yet applied for”.

During her six months with The Rose Project Marie did most of her volunteering work from home and attended bi-weekly meetings for guidance, feedback and support. There are many different sources of funding for small non profit organisations from local county councils, government departments, corporate social responsibility programmes, the EU or other international programmes. Application processes require excellent written skills, research and understanding of the different eligibility criteria, and most importantly the ability to pitch and sell the organisation in a particular light each and every time. As a successful fundraiser, Marie understands how to portray an organisation and its different aspects in their best light, and press the right buttons so to speak.

In recent times many of the traditional fundraising sources have dried up in Ireland. In addition, many Irish people are supporting charities that tackle social issues at home as opposed to those abroad or in Africa. In these challenging times The Rose Project continues to build its capacity and extend its services by developing its volunteer strategy. They are increasing their focus on providing volunteer nurses and medical staff for the hospitals and health centres in Malawi.

Mary Donohue ensures that her organisation is set up so baseline costs are always kept to a minimum. The Rose Project has a well-developed and fairly extensive volunteer strategy (average of 40 volunteers working remote, ad-hoc, part and on a full time basis, at any one time). The volunteer strategy together with an annual fundraising plan of activities enable the organisation to keep developing and growing!

It is also imperative that as much of the funds and donations raised as possible go directly to the source, those you aim to help. All of this must be made visible and transparent to donors. The role of the accountant on Mary’s fundraising committee is really crucial, but having a cross section of skills is invaluable and necessary too, such as legal expertise, human resources and general business acumen.

More recently Marie began to volunteer as a fundraiser with Children’s Hope. This organisation is in existence for 10 years, it supports disadvantaged or at risk through extra curricular educational activities.  Alison McNamara, Director at Children’s hope has focused on developing partnerships with up a 150 different organisations such as National Wildlife Trust and Science Museum. Together they are creating education courses that make subjects such as science, engineering, geography etc. come alive for children. The Children can learn and become interested in different subjects in their own way. A group of students from Children’s hope have even gone on to take part in the young scientists competition.

Children’s Hope now wish to expand and help more children, to achieve their goal they must take fundraising to a new level. Marie is just getting started in her new role and is inspired by Alison McNamara its founder. Alison is quick to comment;

“We are a small organisation, our focus to date has been on helping the children, our skills including my own, consist of mainly counseling and teaching. As a team we do not have all the business skills we need. We work with our local volunteer centre in Dunlaoghaire-Rathdown to help us create new roles to fill some of theses gaps. The volunteer centre then helps us find volunteers to fill these positions. Marie volunteering with us as a fundraiser is literally a lifeline. I am really pleased, Marie has made leaps and bounds in a short space of time. Marie has excellent research capabilities and communications skills”


For Children’s Hope Marie has successfully applied for quite a few small but substantial grants from the county council and local VEC. Children’s Hope has also recently been listed as a lotto beneficiary. Marie is also reaching out to their 150 partners to investigate developing new funding type relationships.


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