Interview – Mandy Weidmann
Fundraising Whisperer l Publisher l Entrepreneur – Mandy Weidmann
Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun).
What do you consider the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
Hands down, the most rewarding part of my job is the thrill of helping people. It never gets old. Our work helps school and club fundraising volunteers in a very practical and real way. Every single person on my team is driven by that.
The most challenging part for me is the whole ‘running a business’ thing. I’d much rather forget about the realities of revenue and forecasting (so dull!) and concentrate on providing smart resources so volunteers don’t have to reinvent the wheel all of the time. Fortunately, the core of my advertiser base has been with me for a long time and are really supportive of my work, so, for the most part, I can get on with the important stuff that gets me out of bed each day.
If people were considering becoming a publisher what advice would you give them?
We started out as a print publication and, while we continue to publish that every year, more of our work is now in the ‘influencer’ online space. If we were starting today, we’d probably skip the print publication and simply try to build an audience online. Having said that, our annual Fundraising Directory is much loved and we’ll continue to ‘fight the good fight’ with advertisers who continue to move more of their budgets online and we’ll publish it for as long as there is support for it.
What qualifications or experience is required to become a publisher?
As long as you have an engaged audience and passion for your field, you can be a successful publisher. Being prepared to evolve and innovate is a must in a fast-moving environment, but the fundamentals stay the same – if your advertisers find work through you, you can continue to have a business.
What path did you take to become the Fundraising Whisperer?
I began working life as a lawyer and I loved every minute of it. I loved studying it (except constitutional law!) and I loved the work. I worked in litigation, though, which is difficult with young children. I went back to work part time after my first two kids, and when I had my third, decided to ‘time out’ for a while.
At around this time, my parents were distributing an eco-friendly laundry detergent and I came up with the ‘brilliant’ idea that it would make a great fundraiser as it operated on a refill system that could provide ongoing revenue to schools. I was wrong (!) but the process of setting it all up showed me that there was nothing out there that did a great job of connecting school and club fundraisers with the suppliers who serviced them.
I met Helen Creswick who ran a hobby website called Fundraising Ideas – she lived locally so we met for a coffee and became soulmates straight away. In the same breath, we both described what was needed – a publication full of supplier information that was sent to schools and clubs, supported by a comprehensive website that supported volunteers. Within two weeks of meeting, we had each put in $500 and started the Fundraising Directory! It was a success from the start and although it was the ‘blind leading the blind’, we had an absolute ball!
Two years later, in 2008, Helen was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and passed away shortly after. It was truly devastating and took me a long while to recover and get my ‘mojo’ back.
When I reflect on what I’ve achieved, I know she’d be very proud of me. I still miss her – I’m pretty sure we’d still be kicking butt and having a lot of laughs together!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I still don’t know!
Were there any other careers you considered pursuing when you left school?
See above 🙂
Is this your first career? Can you see yourself remaining in this line of work forever?
No, this is my second wind. I have no active plans to ‘retire’ as the Fundraising Whisperer, but forever is a long time…
What are your standard hours?
Standard hours? What are they? hahaha.
On my weekends, you’ll often see me heading off to a school fete to interview the organiser and discover cool new tips and tricks to share. I’m also happy to tinker away on projects at night.
During the week, anything is possible. I do a fair bit of running around after my five kids so I really value the flexibility that I have. I have a small but kickass team to support me too.
It’s totally true, though, that if you’re doing something that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life … I am lucky enough to feel like that on most days.
Is there anything you can tell us about your job that people wouldn’t expect?
I have been recognised in public a couple of times and asked for a selfie once, which has completely thrown me!