Interview with Hannah Sheedy, Head of Fundraising and Marketing at the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy

Published: 04 Dec 2013 By Morgan Hunt

Hannah Sheedy was recently appointed as the new Head of Fundraising and Marketing at the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust. Having forged a successful career in the charity sector, including six years working across several key fundraising departments at Cancer Research UK, Hannah is now embarking on her next big challenge of helping drive forward the DKH Legacy Trust’s ambitious growth plans over the next few years.

Hannah talks to Morgan Hunt about her fundraising and marketing plans for the charity, her observations on how the charity sector – in particular fundraising strategy - has evolved over the years and offers career advice to those looking to progress their career in fundraising.

What prompted your decision to apply for the role at the DKH Legacy Trust? What were the biggest influencing factors for you?

“I’d been working at Cancer Research UK, the country’s largest fundraising organisation, for the past 6 years, across 6 key fundraising departments. All these roles have provided me with experience which I believe will be of value now to the DKH Legacy Trust as they look to grow their fundraising income and increase brand awareness. During my time at Cancer Research UK I worked with the charity’s major donors to plan their high value campaigns and worked with the team to establish a new volunteer board; I worked in the corporate partnerships team project managing Cancer Research UK’s £3 million campaign in partnership with high street retailer TK Maxx and I also worked closely with the high value fundraising committees on event delivery.

To be enticed to leave Cancer Research UK I needed to be inspired by a strong leadership team who had a clear strategy and ambition for significant growth and to be recruited into a role where I had influence on shaping the long-term fundraising strategy. I was attracted to the role at the DKH Legacy Trust for many reasons; one of which was because of their in-depth and focused business plan which provides a coherent framework for the organisation over the next three years and articulates the action plan for the trustees and the charity’s staff.

I wanted to join a dynamic, young charity at a pivotal time, which is why I am thrilled to have joined the DKH Legacy Trust.”

With the DKH Legacy Trust’s ambitious growth plans, it’s an exciting time to join the Trust. What is the Trust’s vision in terms of future growth and objectives and what are your key priorities for helping achieve this vision?

“The DKH Legacy Trust has incredibly ambitious growth plans over the next few years, looking to increase the charity’s unrestricted fundraising income by 83% by 2016. To help us achieve this, my key priorities will be looking at ways in which to increase brand awareness of the charity to attract more people to fundraise for us. This will be through an integrated marketing and communication plan via digital channels and also working on a regional strategy to create long-term sustainability in the areas in which our programmes are delivered across the country.

Another priority will be to reach out to new potential partners and to further develop our existing partnerships, by looking at creative ways of working together.”

You have a strong background in the charity sector. What changes have you seen in fundraising from when you first joined the charity sector, in terms of strategy, tactics and objectives?

“I think charities have got better at sending targeted, relevant communications out to their supporter base over the years, mainly due to better technology. Charities know more about their supporter base than ever before due to CRMs being in place, which has improved the way in which charities are able to communicate to their supporters, which in turn builds stronger relationships. Charities are also utilising social media channels better in order to deepen their relationships with their supporters, as they now have the technology to interact with their supporters in real-time.”

To what degree has digital marketing trends/technologies transformed fundraising strategy?

“I think charities have come a long way with their digital presence over the last few years; with effective social media campaigns and with mobile giving. Charities are realising that their supporters are now spending more time than ever before on their smartphones and tablets and so know that they need to ensure their website is mobile first and adaptive. We're seeing more and more organisations looking at how best they can communicate their stories through mobile channels and what impact this can have on donor loyalty and attraction.

Cancer Research UK’s online campaign last year, Dryathlon, is a good example of how charities are using digital channels as new fundraising streams and being clever about how to engage people with a mass campaign using something that people do anyway, such as giving up alcohol in January and turning it into a multi-million pound fundraising campaign.”

 What are the qualities that you feel make for a strong fundraising candidate?

“Above all else to demonstrate passion for the cause.

To be an effective communicator with the ability to flex communication styles and content based on the audience you are looking to reach.

Tenacity, so as to not give up as it can be hard sometimes to ‘make the ask’.”

You’ve worked your way up through the ranks to the coveted title of Head of Fundraising and Marketing at one of the UK’s fastest-growing charities. What advice do you give to others aspiring to follow in your footsteps?

“To take the opportunity to work across a number of different fundraising teams - secondments are a great way to do this; to build relationships with your peers in other charities, so as to gain greater knowledge of the sector; to find the time to volunteer for other charities so as to be aware of the supporter journey from either side. Finally, to keep abreast of trends outside of the sector, so as to provide valuable insights with how people are spending their free time, which can help inform the development of new fundraising products and partnerships.”

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Morgan Hunt

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