Welcome to the exciting second edition of Cedar Garden Sessions, where Hannah, our Brand & Web Marketing Officer, will be interviewing members of the Penny Brohn UK team to find out more about them and the work they do behind the scenes to keep our services up and running.
This month, we are interviewing Emma Gilmore, who has been at Penny Brohn for 6 years, as part of the Fundraising and Comms Team. Now, Head of Community & Challenge Events, it’s great to have her joining us today.
Hi Emma! It’s great to have you in the Cedar House today. Sorry it’s a little gloomy outside – it was lovely and bright this morning so it looks like we have mistimed it!
Perfect timing! [laughs]
So Emma, how did you come to work for Penny Brohn? Did you know the charity before you arrived here?
Well, my lovely Grandad used our services before he passed away in 2008, so I was always aware of its existence. After I finished Uni I had a sales job for a year or so, while deciding what I wanted to do and whenever we did fundraising I always insisted it go to Penny Brohn. I was on the website one day – must have been 2011 – just looking for some bank details to pay in the money we had raised and saw they had a Community Fundraising role advertised. So I went for it, and here I am!
Ah that’s very fortuitous… Not so much for your previous employers but we’re glad you spotted it! So what exactly does the role involve?
I have been here for a while now, so my role has changed a few times. I’m now the Head of Community & Challenge Events, which basically means I look after anyone who gets sweaty or organises anything themselves!
[Laughs] That’s a great job description!
We have places in the Bristol 10K, Bath & Bristol Half Marathons and London Marathon… do cycling challenges like London-Paris and RideLondon and lots of treks like the Great Wall of China and the Himalayas – and pretty much everything in between! As quite a small charity, we have to work really hard to fill our event places on these kind of events. I have a great team who also look after all the community fundraising stuff, which includes things like collections, school fundraisers & university RAG events. We also organise our own fundraisers… Christmas Concert, Afternoon Tea and Comedy Night – that’s my favourite part of the job! Plus, we also have the exciting new challenge of setting up Friends of Penny Brohn fundraising groups.
Ah yes, of course! What sort of stuff do they do?
Oh all sorts! We have some amazing supporters raising money for us. We’ve had people put on events like barn dances, cake sales, sponsored ice-skating, coffee mornings, head shaves and live music nights.
Wow! Very active people you work with then.
Yeah – we really care about looking after our supporters because they’re so good to us. So as well as doing all the promotions and helping people to organise their own activities, we send them all fundraising packs, calling them all to welcome them to the team, to say ‘good luck’ the day before and ‘well done’ the day after, sending everyone thank you letters and certificates.
Great! So you have mentioned your favourite part of the job overall but what is the most exciting thing you are working on at the moment?
‘Mad May’ – as it’s fondly known – is quickly coming round, which means we’re in middle of a lot of organising, promoting and recruiting!
Oh yes, Mad May is creeping up on us. For those that don’t know it, can you explain why this time is named this?
[Laughs] So ‘Mad May’ is an incredibly busy 4 week whirlwind! We have 9 runners in the London Marathon who have pledged to raise over £35,000 between them and the Bristol 10K where we hope to have a team of 130 runners plus 65 volunteers. Then we have a weekend in a marquee in our garden with Long Table Lunch on the Friday, our Afternoon Tea on the Saturday, which this year falls on the same day as Prince Harry’s wedding so it’ll be Royal Wedding themed…
Ah yes, could there be a more suitable Afternoon Tea theme?
…and we also have a Comedy Night on the Sunday. In total we hope this period hope to raise around £140,000.
That’s fantastic. So what exactly is it about events planning that makes it your favourite part of the job?
The organising! I have a bit of a reputation for being the Organiser in all aspects of my life! There is something unbelievably satisfying about organising an event like the Afternoon Tea from scratch and then seeing it all come to life on the day. There’s always such a buzz in the team and when we hit our target for that event and know that we’ve enabled the charity to support more people, it’s just the best feeling. On top of that it’s really not a bad place to come to work. We have amazing views over the garden from our office and our team is awesome!
That’s true! It is pretty amazing. So, is there a particular moment that stands out to you as a highlight of your time at Penny Brohn over the years?
Ah wow that’s hard, I’ve been here so long! Hmm… I suppose it’s not one moment in particular but getting to know Rich, one of our service users and his family has been amazing. They are the most positive, inspiring and lovely people. Whenever work gets a bit stressful or we have to get up at 5am to set up a cheer point at a race or are re-arranging flowers in a wet marquee at 10pm the night before an event or worried because we still have 150 tickets to sell to our comedy night and we don’t want to let the comedians down – knowing we’re helping people like Rich makes it all worth it.
Ah, what a wonderful answer. Thanks for sharing that Emma.
…Oh and I suppose meeting Prince Charles was pretty cool too!
[Laughs] Yes, that was pretty big news around the office. I think a few people might choose that as a highlight! So finally, the big question… what is your favourite dunkable biscuit? And dunkable is the key!
Ok, well this is controversial – and please don’t judge me because I know how much you love them – but I really don’t like hot drinks – except the odd hot chocolate! – so dunkability isn’t really a factor for me.
If I hadn’t already learnt this, I might have dropped my tea then [Laughs].
Probably a good job we have already had this conversation then! [laughs] But I’m still a massive biscuit fan, so you can’t judge me too much! And for me Caramel Chocolate Digestives win every time.
Oo, curveball! I’m not sure where it sits next to Harrison’s Custard Cream selection last month but it’s a strong choice.
It’s probably a good thing the packet is so small!