Adele Korman, head of humanitarian fundraising at Save the Children, shares the rewards and knock-backs that come with a career dedicated to helping children affected by emergencies - including how a baby in South Sudan came to be named after her.
Adele Korman: humanitarian fundraising emergency programme in Bangladesh
What is your role at Save the Children?
I head up the humanitarian fundraising team which supports Save the Children in the UK and globally, to raise money and awareness for our humanitarian programmes.
Our work is split into two main areas. Firstly, we help raise the vital funds needed to deliver large scale emergency responses, reacting quickly to launch appeals for natural disasters or conflict that have left children’s lives at risk around the world.
The second element is the work we do outside of times of acute emergency. Raising money for our Emergency Fund - a vital pot of money which allows us to respond immediately to the needs of children whenever and wherever they need us for lower profile or forgotten emergencies, regardless of how much media attention the emergency receives.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I would say there are two things I find most rewarding. Firstly, to see the organisation come together when responding to a large scale emergency - galvanising to raise large amounts of money in a short space of time. For instance our response to Nepal raised £1 million in 4 days - a record-breaking amount.
Secondly, one of the most rewarding parts of my role is inspiring donors to give to lesser known emergencies that get little or no media coverage. To champion the cause and make people care is very rewarding as without it, children wouldn’t get the urgent support they require. For instance, our current response to the Ethiopia drought has raised £150,000 since its launch in November, despite the little coverage the situation is getting from media.
Excitingly, just before I came for this interview, we received a £15,000 donation for Ethiopia. This is a great result for us as the impact of these funds now will be much greater than at a later date when the situation becomes even more critical, with an increased number of children affected by the lack of food and water.
What skills have been most beneficial for your role?
Organisation - You have to be really organised as it can be a very chaotic setting to work in. In an environment where you cannot forward plan the type of emergency, its scale or the media and public attention it will receive, you have to work efficiently and forward plan whatever elements you can so we are in the best possible position to react quickly once the emergency does occur.
The ability to stay calm under pressure – Given the unpredictable nature of emergencies, you need to stay calm and come up with solutions quickly and efficiently so that time isn’t lost.
You need to have a thick skin – With the rewards that come with our roles, you also get the knock backs. No matter what, the funds we raise only stretch so far, and there isn’t always the capacity to champion all the disasters that are affecting children at the same time.
What makes the team unique?
The humanitarian fundraising team is very fortunate in the fact that we get the chance to work with brilliant fundraising, marketing and communication teams, as well as being able to work with the humanitarian department to make best use of the funds raised and directly impact on children’s lives. I have been fortunate enough to see first-hand the difference these funds make to our emergency programmes, including in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vanuatu.
In 2009, I visited South Sudan to see the opening of a health centre paid for by our wonderful supporters. We became quite the local celebrities after the centre was opened to the extent that when a set of twins were delivered in the centre the mother was so grateful she named her two girls after myself and another member of the Save the Children response team. This insight and personal experience makes my day-to-day work even more rewarding and I am delighted to say baby Adele is doing well.
Save the Children in South Sudan: Adele Korman holding baby Adele, who was named after her
What interesting projects do you get involved in?
One of the major appeals that remains an ongoing priority is the Syria response which launched in 2012. It is our biggest appeal ever, with over £19 million raised from the UK public to support our large scale response across the region.
We are also currently fundraising for our Ethiopia response to help deliver much-needed food, water and medicines to children and their families affected by drought. We are preparing a bigger public launch for Ethiopia in the spring to help Save the Children teams scale up their response to the growing needs in the country.
Are you facing any particular challenges in your industry?
Smaller scale or forgotten emergencies are often more challenging, as a lack of media coverage means the public aren’t made aware of some of the dire situations children are facing, and therefore aren’t able to support these responses. However, Save the Children does a lot of work to help raise the public profile of humanitarian crises, working with the media, campaigns and advocacy divisions to ensure children's voices are heard and their needs are met.
But sadly the main challenge we face is the increasing number of emergencies which we need to respond to. Climate change and the increasing number of children affected by conflict means there are even more children who need our support.
Do you have any tips for people about to embark on a career in humanitarian fundraising?
I came from a fundraising background and during my five years with Save the Children have been fortunate enough to learn more about the humanitarian side of our work through training and first-hand experience. It is really important that anyone looking to join the team can convey their passion for humanitarian work, to be able to champion the needs of children affected by emergencies and inspire our donors to give.
I would advise anyone looking to apply to do your research, speak to people or even volunteer if you have the opportunity.