Me&MyJob: Banking on charity's future
Jobfinder talks to Suzy McIlveen about her work with Marie Curie Cancer Care, using her financial background to raise money to help people through some of the most challenging situations in life
What does your role involve?
I am responsible for all fundraising events led by Marie Curie Cancer Care in Northern Ireland. As part of this I manage, lead and develop our events team to maximise the number of people participating for Marie Curie Cancer Care and fundraising so that the charity can continue to provide free care for people with terminal cancer and other illnesses in their own homes and in the Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast. Last year the charity cared for almost 1,900 patients in Northern Ireland.
How did you get into the position in the first place?
With over 10 years of professional investment banking experience, in 2008 I combined a rewarding financial career with a challenging role within a charitable organisation. I joined the Mencap fundraising team as senior events fundraiser and latterly became regional fundraising manager.
For many years my primary focus outside of work had been charitable fundraising, with very active personal involvement as a volunteer fundraiser for Marie Curie, specifically.
I applied for my current job at Marie Curie Cancer Care in 2011 enabling me to combine my personal passion for Marie Curie with my professional fundraising experience.
Did you always want to work in this sector in some capacity?
I have always been involved in charitable fundraising.
I first became involved through volunteering with the Marsden Hospital in London, aged 16, where I manned their hospital radio one evening a week. Further to a long career in the City of London, I felt it was time to apply my expertise and passion full time in this sector, with Marie Curie particularly.
What training or previous experience do you have that has helped you in your current role?
My extensive and varied commercial experience is of course all relevant to my day to day work at Marie Curie Cancer Care. My previous charity role combined managing the existing fundraising event portfolio with considerable business development to ensure our team achieved growth potential; improved cost to income ratios; as well as increased diversity of income -- all very transferable skills and highly applicable to my current position at Marie Curie.
What is your organisation's role in local community?
Marie Curie Cancer Care is an end of life care charity.
Our nurses provide free care to people with terminal cancer and other illnesses in their own homes and in the Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast.
We know that most people would like to die at home if they had a terminal illness, with a minority opting for hospice care.
However, more than 50% of deaths still occur in hospital, the place people say they would least like to be.
Marie Curie Cancer Care campaigns for more patients to be able to make the choice to be cared for and die in their place of choice.
And how does your role fit in as part of this?
My role is to deliver a successful and diversified portfolio of events; growing net income so that Marie Curie nurses can continue to provide the expert care they are well known for across Northern Ireland.
I am currently working on Marie Curie's flagship walking event, Walk Ten, taking place at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh (August 17) and Stormont (August 31).
Walk Ten is a series of 10k summer evening walks followed by a picnic and then entertainment, which raises vital funds for the charity and celebrates the work of Marie Curie Nurses.
From runs, treks, triathlons and cycle rides to swimming, walking and dancing, our events portfolio has something for everyone.
Information about all the charity's events and how to sign up can be found at www.mariecurie.org.uk/en-gb/ events.
What sort of personality and qualities do you need to do your job successfully?
Fundraisers are the sales and marketing arm of a charity. This role requires confidence, resilience, excellent communication skills, empathy and the proven ability to develop and manage relationships with all types of supporters and potential partners.
You also need a good sense of humour.
We recently worked McVitie's Jaffa Cakes in their Mud Madness appeal, which saw our supporters tackling a 4.5-mile run through multiple muddy obstacles -- great craic in aid of Marie Curie.
What are the biggest rewards of the job?
Personally, knowing that the money we help supporters raise for Marie Curie will help families like my own. We were blessed with a Marie Curie Nurse on my Mum's last night. I am now fortunate enough to be involved in a job that enables me to support that provision of service.
Professionally, the events team is a tight knit group of enthusiastic professionals who enjoy seeing an event delivered at the highest level. Exceeding targets is a great reward, given we know this helps Marie Curie nurses provide many more hours of care to people with terminal illnesses.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
A take on 'If at first you don't succeed ... ' -- Keep trying, from multiple angles but with sensitivity and with a firm grasp on what you are trying to achieve and why. Equally, know when to give up and why you gave up.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the same job?
Consider volunteering first to get a taste for it -- charities have lots of opportunities across many different areas of fundraising. Event fundraising is hard work and requires real persistence; it's certainly not glamorous.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I enjoy spending time with my two young sons and husband. I am also getting out and walking a lot more, as I have signed up to Trek Peru 2013, for Marie Curie. For anyone interested, log on to www.mariecurie.org.uk/ en-gb/events/overseas-charity-challenge/inca-trail-trek-2013-9010.