Posted on Tuesday 11 December 2018 by Ulster Business

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The Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice wants to partner with business leaders from right across the province. We speak to some of its supporters, including Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, and why they are firmly behind the charity

When Northern Ireland’s top sporting exports and business leaders are getting directly involved in a charitable cause as worthwhile as the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, it’s hard to ignore the work the organisation is doing on a day-to-day basis.

The Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice was established in 1996 and is the only dedicated palliative care service in Northern Ireland.

Among those working closely with the charity are Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, founder of Vanrath, Wayne Sullivan and Pinnacle chairman, Ken Montgomery.

The organisation cares for around 350 infants, children and their families, each year. With annual costs of £3.8m, the children’s hospice depends heavily on donations from the public to keep vital services going.

But in addition to that, the children’s hospice is focused on boosting and growing philanthropic relationships with Northern Ireland business leaders who want to establish long-term links and a partnership with a charity who make a positive and meaningful impact across Northern Ireland.

And as a result of that, it’s Time to Care programme was created – looking at new and innovative ways to reach out for key support.

Heather Weir is chief executive of the NI Hospice. “The NI Hospice costs £14m to run each year, and we have to raise £7.5m for direct care costs every year through our fundraising efforts,” she says.

“As well as relying on the local community, we rely on business support too. With the vast amount of charities out there, we have been looking at how we can align the charity with business leaders and their companies, in terms of a fresh partnership approach.

“We looked at how we could make supporting a charity feel really meaningful for businesses.

“As a charity we need business insights, and not just in fundraising support. Having a network of business leaders is a practical way of supporting the hospice.”

Heather says, aside from helping young people with life-limiting conditions, it’s also a chance for them to help improve their companies corporate social responsibility agenda.

For Co Antrim man Brendan Rodgers – who paid a visit to the organisation’s Newtownabbey base alongside Wayne Sullivan and Ken Montgomery – the connection started with a letter from the NI Hospice, back when he was manager of Liverpool.

“When I met Heather and came over, it was something from a personal perspective. We are all brought up as carers in Northern Ireland, and we want to give back. But I also felt that my role and responsibility as a manager – sport touches a lot of people and I could use it in a way that would hopefully open up doors for the NI Hospice in a different way.

“In the last number of years, it’s been a great opportunity for me to meet people like Wayne, who I have met before – like-minded people who are very driven in their professional life, but alongside that, they have a real duty of care for organisation they support.”

“What you have when you support the NI Hospice is something tangible.”

Wayne Sullivan, founder of Vanrath, said: “What we have come up with is a project where all donations and funding goes into a specific account that is designated solely for the use of spending on nurse salaries.

“You know where the money is going and that really ticks a box from our perspective. The nurses also come out to provide presentations of what they have been doing.

“But as return for this, we get to use the brand and we co-partner. This is a marketing partnership.”

The Time to Care relationship with companies also includes a Business Ambassadors network, which brings leaders together across a range of events.

Ken Montgomery, chairman of Pinnacle, said: “For us at Pinnacle, my interest was the corporate social aspect of it and giving back to the community. Running a successful business in the community, I think there is a big role for corporates to play.”

“It was also selling it to our own employees – the people working in the company. One of the things that appealed to me was having the direct contact with a particular nurse, and you felt the direct impact of what you are doing.”

The key focus is enabling businesses to fund the cost of a qualified children’s nurse for a year. That relationship then offers a company access to co-branding opportunities and its own business network.

The Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice has opened two new cots this year, at a cost of £350,000 each. And for each cot, the children’s hospice needs five paediatric nurses.

And the target for the NI Hospice in the next three years is focused on achieving maximum capacity, bringing it to 10 cots and beds, serving over 1,000 infants and children living with a life limiting and life threatening illness. That’s an additional £1.4m over the next three years that’s needed.   

So, what’s the key message to get Northern Ireland businesses of all shapes and sizes involved?

“For most top businesses, their brand will have a set of values which is important to them.” Brendan says.

“The key word is alignment... you want to align yourself with those values that will drive your business, your people and your customers or beneficiaries.”

This year, it has also launched its Jingle All the Way campaign. It encourages businesses, organisations, schools, clubs, churches and individuals across Northern Ireland to get involved and fundraise through a variety of areas, including a 5k run, a Jingle bake-off and a Jingle Jumper Day.

Time to Care is a unique offer for business leaders to support the children’s hospice and the specialist nurses who  provide vital care to infants and children with a life limiting illness across Northern Ireland.


If you are interested in becoming a Time to Care partner or would like to arrange a meeting to find out more, please contact:  Susan McGookin, executive assistant to the chief executive Heather Weir at susan.mcgookin@nihospice.org or telephone 028 9078 1836

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