Penny Brohn UK

Help change life with cancer. For good

Cedar Garden Sessions: Laura Weston

Welcome! We can barely believe we are already onto our June edition of Cedar Garden Sessions, where as always, Hannah, Digital & Web Manager, interviews a member 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, Hannah speaks with Laura Weston, who is currently finding her feet in Penny Brohn’s Fundraising team as  our new Major Donor Manager.

So Laura, how did you come to work for Penny Brohn UK?

My first job after happily moving from quiet Dorset to buzzing Bristol was a year-long maternity cover at Hft, a national and really special charity for adults with learning disabilities. I got so much enjoyment and satisfaction there, raising funds for people who really need it and realised my future was in charity fundraising. I had previously worked in school fundraising and before that in PR. Towards the end of my time at Hft, my colleague and friend Helen Sanderson (a former Trusts fundraiser at Penny Brohn) spotted the Major Donor Manager opportunity here.

Oh you’re friends with Helen? We miss her a lot!

Yes, I am. The warmth of her recommendation and encouragement to apply was irresistible. She clearly loved working here!

That’s lovely to hear.

After my first interview I realised this was somewhere that would really inspire me. It would have been the heaven-sent healing haven of a dear friend of mine who lost her glittering life way too soon to breast cancer, but who was a pioneer in cancer and nutrition. She even appeared on Oprah in the US after her husband created a literally ground-breaking nutritious garden for her on a small patch of dirt outside her flat in California, USA. So it is mostly thanks to Penny Brohn’s Helen and my much-missed school friend Elizabeth that I am here, and very happy to be so.

Wow, that all sounds like it was meant to be! So, what does your role involve?

Well, ultimately, of course, it is about raising money – gifts of £2,000 and above. However, big gifts usually only come through the development of good relationships. Relationships are at the heart of major donor fundraising – engaging existing and potential donors in our work and finding ways for them to be involved and have an impact, so they feel really central to our vision and fundraising needs. Strong relationships can take time to develop so major donor fundraising is often a ‘slow burn’ effort that can take up to three years when working with individuals new to the organisation. Great work by Sarah Crooks – my predecessor – means there are a number of existing donors and supporters and it is important for me to be in touch and thank them for what they have done and are doing for Penny Brohn so they appreciate how much we need and value their generosity. It is also about collaborating with my colleagues across the fundraising team and indeed all staff members and volunteers – everyone can play a part in my role by helping open up their networks and more people than might think they can can become a major donor – it is not necessarily about having huge amounts of money but about wanting to do the most they can to support Penny Brohn. Winning the Lottery would be a help of course!

We can only hope [Laughs]. So what is the most exciting thing you are working on at the moment?

It has to be an event that is taking place in July for our major donors and supporters, which is all very hush hush at the moment. With the CEO and Chair of Trustees standing by at the event, I shall have to present a cool façade but I will be quivering with excitement inside!

How intriguing – I can’t wait to hear more about this mysterious event.  And what would you say is your favourite part of the job so far?

Major donor fundraising is a mix of all the professional things I love most: having creative ideas and joining the dots between small opportunities to create one great big concept that grabs attention (you have to stand out in the competitive charity ‘marketplace’); writing; thinking strategically; being busy and having goals to reach … but most of all I enjoy people. So my favourite aspect of the job is getting out and about, meeting people and relationship-building – luckily so given its importance!

That’s fab. And is there a moment that stands out to you as a particular highlight of your short time at Penny Brohn?

After just a few days here, Clio Khan, Special Events Officer, left for her maternity leave. I was moved to see the effort and generosity of her colleagues (my new colleagues) in her send off. A baby bath chock full of presents (some beautifully hand-made) and the most incredible number of incredible tasty treats, including a water melon carved into a baby carriage, complete with a baby sitting in it (an orange with a dummy in its mouth!)! I realised I was among some very special and creative people which is fantastic!

Aww yeah, we’re going to miss Clio too! What a send off it was! So finally, the big question, what is your favourite dunkable biscuit?

Gingernuts – what else? [Laughs]

[Laughs] Quite right too!

Thanks to Laura for joining me in the Cedar Garden this month. It was great to hear about why she has come to join the team and her experiences so far. The biscuit leader board is holding firm with Gingernuts getting a second vote in a row!

We’ll be back here with another member of the Penny Brohn team next month. So keep an eye out for the next Cedar Garden Sessions.

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