Heather McFarlane | Bat Conservation Trust

Heather McFarlane is Director of Communications and Fundraising at the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and is responsible for growing the income and the number of supporters for the UK conservation charity.

What are you most proud of achieving in your work?

I’m really proud of our Big Bat Map, which is a website that I commissioned to provide a map where people can log their bat sightings and, importantly, learn more about bats. It has bat hotspots and events, with links to local groups to help people get involved in bat conservation.

I’m also really proud of the social media which enable to reach a wide and growing audience online. We even got charity of the month on Just Giving for our social media work which was a nice endorsement of the work we do.

I just love it when we get money in – as a fundraiser that’s a time to celebrate.  It might come from an appeal which I’ve written myself, or it could be through a successful grant proposal which a member of my team has pulled together. However we get the funding, it’s brilliant!

It’s nice having two jobs – the Communications and the Fundraising – but it’s also difficult because you could think that you’ll spend your day writing lovely prose, and actually half of your team might be off sick and you’ll have to spend the day answering the phone to membership enquiries, and media calls.

Some calls can be very strange – I was once asked how best to cook a bat!

What’s it like to work for the Bat Conservation Trust?

It’s a really interesting place to work because we’re a small charity, and we’re a close knit group of people. I feel really connected to the conservation work, and I have a really close relationship with the people I’m raising money for. Because of the communications work I do, I also get to tell the world about it.

I also really like the work we do at the Bat Conservation Trust, because we find out more about bats, take action on the ground and inspire the support which is needed to enable that all to happen. Support might be financial or about people having the motivation and willingness to volunteer and help bats.

Bats are hugely diverse and found in lots of different habitats, so we work in cities and think about building and planning and development as well as being involved in ancient forests and conserving trees. Wherever bats are we work to ensure that they are being taken into account.

Are there any key points in your career which have led you to your current job?

I didn’t start in conservation, I started by working in communications and through widening participation – getting kids into higher education, and also trying to get women into science.

Then I moved into a more science and policy area, and got onto a graduate scheme with the Royal Society of Chemistry. Later I found out that my office would be moving, and it forced me to sit down and think more about what I wanted to do.

I decided that I wanted to work somewhere smaller, younger, more environmental and creative, and in the charity sector.

I saw a job at the Bat Conservation Trust as a Communications and Development Manager, applied for it and this set me off on my career in conservation.  It brought together my skills in communications, events organising and policy work into one role which I really like.

What advice would you give others looking to follow in your footsteps?

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Get as much different experience as you can – either for one organisation or across the field that you’re interested in.

It’s not easy getting a job in conservation without doing some volunteering. But you can do it – like I have done – by working in other related sectors. Sometimes it’s easier to work in conservation when you have experience from outside of it. You don’t have to go in direct; you can go to the side and jump across later when you have experience and knowledge which is of value to conservation.

What’s the best way to get a job at the Bat Conservation Trust?

At the Bat Conservation Trust there are lots of people who started on our Bat Helpline and have gone on to other jobs in the organisation like training managers, woodland officers and fundraisers.

That’s a great way to get into the Bat Conservation Trust if people are interested in working for us. We have opportunities that come up regularly over the summer where people can help and get involved in our work.

What is your favourite song?

I have been listening to Default by Django Django on a loop.

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