Posted on Thursday 10 May 2012 by Ulster Business

Charity

Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer at the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, outlines the importance of building solid partnerships between charities and private sector organisations that benefit both parties. The charity was recently awarded Fundraising Partnership of the Year at the Institute of Fundraising Awards as a result of their work with PwC.

Any business decision relies on buy-in from customers, suppliers and staff, and underlining all of this is confidence and transparency.

At the Children’s Heartbeat Trust our fundraising relies on the goodwill and voluntary time of every single person who contributes to the work we do. The charity supports the work of the Clark Clinic, which is for children who are born with congenital heart disease and their families, many of whom go through great upheaval as they meet the demands of new pressures put on family life.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in children born in Northern Ireland, with some 250 children per year born with one or more condition. All of these children are treated at the Clark Clinic, which is based in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. An estimated 120 paediatric cardiac surgeries are carried out annually in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, with support from Our Lady’s Hospital in Dublin and other specialist hospitals across the UK for some very complex diagnoses.

The charity also manages some fifteen parental groups, providing continuous advice and support for families with sick children as well as parents of those who have been recently diagnosed. We are proud to have built up strong partnerships with a number of private sector organisations in recent years, including PwC.

The challenges facing our sector are significant. As well as the day-to-day support for children, the clinic and their families, Children’s Heartbeat Trust are also involved in a campaign to raise £2m for a dedicated MRI Scanner for the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. The RBHSC is the only children’s hospital in UK and Ireland without an MRI Scanner on site, which means there is currently limited access to MRI for sick children in Northern Ireland. Children who do receive scans are referred to another department in the adult hospitals or may even be transferred to another hospital outside of Northern Ireland.

Why engage in partnership with the private sector? It is clear that simply demanding ongoing or increased financial resources from the straightened public purse is not viable. Children’s Heartbeat Trust has always placed great importance on enabling strong relationships with the private sector. A successful partnership however, must be based on more than one-off fundraising events and a simple ‘throw money at it’ solution, but instead must work to build mutually beneficial relationships which benefit both charity and business.

By ensuring a regular series of events including fundraising for tangible outcomes and highlighting the positive impact their involvement can have for others in society, the private sector can nurture a better understanding of both the value of charitable donations and wider charitable support.

Charities like ours rely on the goodwill of funders, but equally important is the ability to lever and harness the expertise of private sector colleagues for our own activity. What made the partnership with PwC stand out for the Institute of Fundraising judges was the significant support that PwC offered the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, not only in terms of the funds raised but also in the professional advice and guidance that PwC enthusiastically provided. This range of support is invaluable, especially to smaller charities like ours.

The MRI Scanner appeal aims to raise £2m and while ourselves and the three other charities involved have already raised close to £1m, there remains a long road ahead in the current climate to raise a further £1m. It is by building and expanding our relations with the private sector that we can reach this target.

Northern Ireland has an active and vibrant charity and voluntary sector and many organisations are doing excellent work. By working with and developing long-term relationships with private sector colleagues, we can ensure that we meet the challenges of the current economic downturn, and ensure that society continues to support and protect the most vulnerable.

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