Ben Robinson, Community Fundraising Manager, on what his eight years working at Cardiac Risk in the Young has taught him.
Can you explain what Cardiac Risk in the Young does in seven words?
Working to prevent young sudden cardiac deaths.
What’s the biggest success you’ve had at Cardiac Risk in the Young?
Last year we screened our 100,000th person since the charity started in 1995. At least 12 young people a week die from an undiagnosed cardiac condition and 80 percent of cardiac deaths in young people occur without any symptoms, so cardiac screenings are the only way to detect these conditions before it is too late. We’re proud to be able to offer these screenings to any young person aged 14-35 free of charge.
What advice would you offer to other charities just starting out?
Remember that it’s not all about fundraising – raising awareness can be just as important, maybe more so. For example we hold two annual walks in London and Durham. These used to be sponsored, but we were finding that bereaved people attending were finding it difficult to fundraise after their own tragedy. So we changed it to being a support event – an opportunity to meet up with other bereaved families and to pay tribute to the young person cruelly taken from them. Our London bridges walk now has over 1,000 people attending every year. The fact there’s no emphasis on fundraising really helps the families and us to spread our message. On a practical note, I’d also advise new charities to learn to love Facebook advertising. I know people are concerned about how much Facebook knows about you, but for charities it can be very beneficial. You’re spending a few pounds rather than thousands and you know you are reaching the right people.
What’s the best thing Cardiac Risk in the Young has ever spent money on?
Recruitment. A charity cannot be run by volunteers alone, but it’s sometimes difficult for the wider public to accept that some of a charity’s funds will go on salaries. I think most charities would struggle to build to a position where they can help people without paying for the expertise that is needed. Volunteers are fantastic and play a crucial role in every charity, but there is a limitation to what they can be expected to be responsible for.
What one fundraising idea do you wish you’d had?
People are quite critical about the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I wish I’d had that idea. It did a huge amount of good. It raised awareness and money without costing the charity anything. The social media generation are the people charities find it hardest to get through to, so the fact they wanted to engage with
the Ice Bucket Challenge is invaluable. I’d love to come up with one of those to raise awareness for CRY.
What do you like about Virgin Money Giving?
It’s important to us and our supporters that it is not for profit, but the Someone Special feature is also critical – to have a public, central hub for people to get together and pay tribute. A lot of CRY supporters use Someone Special to raise awareness and support for their efforts to hold a cardiac screening in their area in the name of the person that died. Their hope is to join the community together and
prevent other families going through the same tragedy.
What do you find inspirational about your job?
The fundraisers. The devastation caused by these deaths would make most people think the bereaved would want to hide away for the rest of time, but it constantly amazes me that people facing such loss will find the positivity and energy to raise money to help stop others going through what they have. We’ve had people do all sorts of things to raise funds, such as the Mongol rally – where you buy an old banger and race it to Ulaanbaatar (The Mongolian capital for those not in the know). It is a hugely positive thing to experience – the fundraisers never cease to amaze us. They are the reason I’m still working here after eight years.
Cardiac Risk in the Young offer free heart screenings to anyone between the ages of 14 and 35. To book a screening visit the Test My Heart website.
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