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Small business focus: ‘Eight months of furlough gave me the nudge I needed’

Christina Mackay.

Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Cromarty-based Christina Mackay about her Pledge to Thrive fundraising consultancy.

How and why did you start in business?  

Following over a decade spent working on fundraising, volunteering and supporter engagement in the third sector, eight months of furlough gave me the nudge that I needed to set up my own business, supporting charity fundraising and helping businesses optimise their charity partnerships.

How did you get to where you are today?

My career enabled me to develop fundraising for some of the largest UK charities, including Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation.

I’ve also worked for some of the smallest grassroots organisations, helping them grow and reach new audiences, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most inspiring and resilient colleagues and volunteers imaginable.

This year, I made the decision to set up my own business – Pledge to Thrive – utilising my many years of experience in different environments to help not-for-profit charities develop and grow; businesses to meet their corporate social responsibility objectives and develop meaningful partnerships with charities; and individuals to develop themselves and fundraise effectively.

I’m really passionate about fundraising in the right way, looking after and inspiring people, and forming mutually gainful and innovative partnerships between businesses and charities.

Who helped you?

My biggest supporter is my husband, Ewen. He has championed me throughout my career, and he’s backed me all the way with Pledge to Thrive.

I’m blessed with some really close friends who have been instrumental in my personal growth and resilience, and I have an amazing network of past colleagues and friends, some of whom I work with on larger projects and campaigns, and others that I call upon for research, feedback, and general professional support and guidance.

I’m also on the Inverness/Highland City-Region Deal’s Impact30 2021 programme, which helps develop the young business leaders of the future through start-up and entrepreneurial support, and I regularly use the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) online resources to support many aspects of my business – from contracts to legal advice.

What has been your biggest mistake?

Not being confident in my charging model. As a business newbie I was at first nervous about charging for all the time and support that I was giving clients, but I quickly learnt the hard way.

It’s all too easy to be taken for granted and to find that free work is expected. My advice to anyone struggling with their charging model is to set it, stick to it, and be confident with it.

What was your greatest achievement?

I would say I’m most proud of how I have learnt to live with and manage a mental health condition, and still find inner peace and stability, alongside professional success.

I’m also proud to be a trained mental health first aider, and to be able to bring aspects of mental health and wellbeing into the services that I offer to my clients and their people.

If you were in power in Government, what would you change?


Great steps in mental health awareness have been made over the past 10 years, but I would like to see an increase in funding for mental health services so we can achieve parity of esteem.

What do you still hope to achieve?

To see Pledge to Thrive grow with two small but united teams, one driving the charity support forward, and the other developing the business support on offer.

What do you do to relax?

I spend quality time with Ewen and our dog, Roxy, walking, hiking, and binge-watching documentaries.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?

I’m reading Do What You Love by Holly Tucker MBE, founder of notonthehighstreet and Holly & Co, and I’ve just finished Time: The Kalief Browder Story from Netflix’s Black Lives Matter collection – both highly recommend.

What do you waste your money on?

We have spent the last few years building our own home in Cromarty, so wasting money is distant memory as every penny has been put into the house.

But, I can’t walk past a pet shop without buying something for Roxy.

How would your friends describe you?

Authentic, positive and kind

What would your enemies say about you?

What other people may or may not think of me is of no importance. Positivity only please!

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I currently drive a Renault Kadjar, but my dream car is a Ford Mustang GT Coupe.  Got a wee bit to go….

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