Week 8 - Brain Tumour Research | NJIB
From badges and balloons to foam hats and colouring packs this charity has nailed a full and successful merchandise offer, mainly due to the fact that their incredible Chief Exec Sue is a former retail director and buyer. Coming from that background myself I instantly saw how tight and attractive the offer was; perfectly branded and intricately thought out with every detail to ensure maximum impact. But there was a mammoth task that needed urgent attention, packing and shipping just shy of 1200 orders. I spent all of my day and the day after up until 9pm at night packing, labelling and organising the wealth of product into each box ready to be sent off to the fundraiser.
When you go through this journey that I am on you become slightly a-tuned to the real issues in the sector. What's quite clear is the success of 'sexy' charities. Now I don't mean 'sexually appealing' but to use the word loosely in that it's appealing the mass public. Breast Cancer the Testicular Cancer is popular right now and because of all the amount of publicity and celebrity backing they have been done pretty well. But because Brain Tumour research isn't that appealing, they find it hard to sell. Getting buy in from the general public who have no connection to brain tumours is hard, but to be honest a challenge that most charities face.
Sue Farrington Smith (Chief Exec) is an incredibly inspirational woman. With her astute commercial head and compassionate streak, she has taken the small charity (set up after losing her niece at just 8 years old to a fatal brain tumour) to almost £2million in just under 10 years. Sitting in her wonderful lounge overlooking the farm with a cup of tea and a note pad in hand, she passionately and emotionally described her inspired journey. Ali was a normal little 8-year-old girl but one summers day after a slight turn, her mother knew that something was wrong. After months of tests and referrals finally an optician picked up there was something not quite right and told her to get an MRI. Within days she had been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour and the nightmare started. The nemesis inferno of a rollercoaster began and like most with the fatal cancer, survival and life expectancy is pretty much non-existent. In jut 9 short months Ali had gone from being a spirited little girl to sadly passing away. Sue recalled that her sister, normally the matron and organiser of the family sat starting into space in the same spot I was sitting in at Sue's farmhouse. With such a rapid degenerate condition It must be almost mind boggling to come to terms with. But Sue was determined to make a difference and within a week Ali's wish was formed, raising money for Brain Tumour awareness. Within the first month £10,000 had been raised and a year £108,000 was sitting in the charities bank account. The charity is now at the Million and a half mark and year on year has continued to grow in strength. Impressive strategic partnerships have been formed, clear defined aims and objectives have been set the charity has become a undeniable force in the Brain Tumour arena.
On my final day I ended up meeting a wonderful lady called Lorraine. Lorraine's granddaughter is 19 and has a brain tumour. She was diagnosed at 12 years old and the 7 year battle began. She has since had 5 major brain operations and is still fighting her corner today. Lorraine felt that she couldn't just sit by and do nothing; she wanted to help. She contacted Brain Tumour Research 2 years ago to help fundraise to ensure that grandmothers, like herself, didn't have to go through what she had. After walking through the doors one sunny summers day to collect her fundraising merchandise she asked if she could help in any other way. Since that day Lorraine volunteers at BTR 2 days a week, helping with whatever admin tasks need doing. Without her help and support, the charity would be snowed under with orders that wouldn't get fulfilled.
When you go to a charity, such as Brain Tumour Research, who have a clear aim, you can't help but sit back and admire what they have managed to achieve. As I write this, my admiration for their determination and success is pretty overwhelming. Many great lessons can be learned from this seemingly small charity, lessons which I will happily take and spread as my year progresses.