Going the distance

Della Marian, now public fundraising manager for Traidcraft, had no choice but to reach for the phone to secure her qualifications

Fundraising is my third career, and having the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Diploma has helped enormously. It has already helped me gain two promotions, but living as I do deep in the country I couldn’t have achieved it without distance learning – and the help of a really good tutor.

I work for Traidcraft, which is an organisation dedicated to alleviating poverty in the Third World by helping producers to sell their products for a fair price in international markets. We sell goods direct to the public by mail order and through a network of fair traders. We also raise funds from the public for our charitable work. This is mainly through direct mail appeals, telemarketing, inserts and major donor development. This aspect of our activities is the job of my department.


Senior position


I started here three years ago as the fundraiser in a small department just before completing my CIM Diploma. After a year, I was promoted to public fundraising manager, then a middle management position.

A year later, a decision was taken to grow public fundraising considerably and my job was upgraded to a senior position, in effect head of public fundraising.

I already had many years’ business and marketing expertise – I ran my own catering business for 16 years and then managed a cookery book publishing business.

When I decided to take the course, I was working in the Lake District, and the nearest university was a two to three hour drive each way. Distance learning was the only option.

I had decided I needed a good qualification to move up the promotional ladder. I wanted to understand a lot more about business and marketing in its modern form is at the core. Twenty years ago, it just meant sales and promotion. Now it is a strategic approach to business management.

The CIM Diploma involves a three-year course split into the Certificate in Marketing, the Advanced Certificate, which is degree level, and finally the Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing which is accredited as 60 per cent of a masters degree.

My first year of distance learning proved a disaster – the tutor just wasn’t qualified. As it happens, I could have had an exemption for the first year, but I had wanted to give myself as broad an immersion as possible. I did get my first-year certificate, but I knew I needed a change of tutor if I was going to succeed at the more advanced levels.


Life-saver


It was just before my exams that I discovered Tactics – it saved my life. I spent a Sunday morning on the phone to Tactics’ principal, Angela Hutton, the day before my first year exams, and realised that the service they were offering was superb.

Angela knows her subject backwards, is very direct and always hits the nail on the head, so no time is wasted. She is also a hands-on practitioner, with day-to-day involvement in the business world as a consultant. She pushed me, motivated me and answered my questions so that I had the knowledge and skills I needed.

The course is not an easy option. I tend to be methodical and conscientious, and found I needed more than the six hours a week that is recommended.

Tactics provides the study materials for each module (four for each level). Although I bought additional textbooks for the first couple of modules, I soon realised that the material provided by Tactics was sufficient.


Hints and tips


The work consisted of assignments at the end of each chapter, including questions from previous exam papers. One very good thing about Tactics was that from the start, you are given hints and tips on how to approach the exams. This was all backed up with telephone support from a tutor to whom you have unlimited access – providing you can get hold of them. They were very good at returning calls, although there could be difficulties in co-ordinating return calls during working hours. If you are busy working to deadlines or in meetings, it can be difficult to fit them in. I understand the system has improved now, with most tutor contact in the evenings, when students need it, and increased use of e-mail.

I did most of my studying in the evenings and weekends – for those three years, my life revolved around it. But it was worth the effort. The Diploma is very broad – it covers all areas of marketing. For example the second year included writing and using income and expenditure reports and balance sheets. It covers areas like new product development, pricing, communications and distribution, writing a strategic marketing plan, risk minimisation and identifying an organisation’s weaknesses.

Marketing is at the core of a business (or it should be!) and that is as true of the charity sector as it is in the commercial business world. Having the diploma has helped enormously in giving me a distinct advantage.


Verdict

Tutor is a lifeline


With any distance learning course, the quality of the tutor is vital. However good the teaching materials are, if the tutor is poor, you are unlikely to succeed, because the course provides the framework and the tutor puts the flesh on it. She or he has to be knowledgeable and experienced, of course, but they have to be able to impart that knowledge over the phone, and at the same time pick up on the student’s needs.

Without the interaction with other students in a class, the student is reliant on the tutor as a lifeline and Tactics understands this. My own success was to a large extent related to the support I got from Tactics.

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