Mary-Louise Aitken

OCHS Strategic Funding Consultant

Since May 2020, Mary-Louise has carried out consultancy work with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, undertaking assignments connected to a broad range of needs including: leading discussions around branding; offering mentorship to a graduate of the Centre in the development of their fundraising skills; writing campaign materials for two Research Fellows; drafting a five-year Strategic Plan; tailoring a Deed of Gift; and offering consultation with regard to forging a bridge between the OCHS and the world-wide Yoga Community.

As a freelance consultant, Mary-Louise has worked with Paddy Hunter-Murphy Associates since June 2018 carrying out assignments for a number of charities including: Her Centre (a women’s charity based in London); Studio Ten (a charity which supports graduate artists and offers outreach to vulnerable members of the community, including veterans); and The Kingsley Organisation (a charity offering support and opportunities to individuals with special needs as well as their families).

Between March 2017 and October 2018, Mary-Louise worked as a Strategic Funding Consultant at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford where she worked closely with the Faculty Board Chair to identify and secure funding for core faculty activities, available from both internal and external sources.  This role entailed the management of 54 Trust Funds as well as gathering extensive experience in endowment fundraising.  During this time, Mary-Louise: advised the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies about potential fundraising strategies and revenue streams; co-authored a planning document which initiated a pan-university initiative to raise £36M, including infrastructure costs, for a ‘Hebrew and Jewish Studies Package’; and co-authored a plan to raise money to retain the core activities for the Oxford China Centre which subsequently formed part of the discussion documents within the Humanities Division Development Office in connection with this.

During her time with the University, Mary-Louise undertook activities in relation to external funding, in close consultation with the Head of Development at the Humanities Division.  As well as working in close cooperation with the University and Humanities Division Development Offices, she worked with the University’s North America Development Office on a wide range of fundraising initiatives which included an international aspect, and with an Oxford college where she assisted in the latter stages of making an approach to a private individual.

In her 20s Mary-Louise worked as an international, freelance Operatic Soloist, singing for companies such as Glyndebourne and Welsh National Opera.  In the 1990s, she recorded a BBC2 series with Sir Jonathan Miller called ‘Opera Works’, and appeared in a televised performance of WNO’s new production of Humperdinck Hansel and Gretel (broadcast on Christmas Day 1998).

Today, Mary-Louise is an accredited Yoga Alliance yoga teacher and is passionate about linking a variety of well-being practices such as Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation, and Pranayama techniques to create engaging yoga sequences for online as well as ‘in person’ participation. In February 2021, her second feature article for YOGA Magazine will be published.  In addition to this, Mary-Louise is writing a book with Professor Mark Smith, the eminent Egyptologist, which will link seven Egyptian goddesses to yogic philosophy and practice (with the working title, The Goddess Returns).