Mary-Jane Willows

The Rank Foundation funded the position of AYME’s primary fundraiser and has since gone on to raise a considerable amount of money for the charity.

The Rank Foundation funds my position at the charity, as its primary fundraiser. Since being in post, I have secured funding from trusts including the Sir James Roll Charitable Trust, for £1,000. A schedule for trust applications has been produced, sample bids drawn up and a reporting structure put in place to ensure our trust funding practices are clearer and a routine of actions established. I have also taken on individual giving, referred to by the charity as ‘membership fundraising’, catching up with all correspondence, developing AYME’s online fundraising presence (e.g. Just Giving and Virgin Money Giving pages) and putting procedures in place to encourage fundraising, and make sure all fundraisers are thanked in a timely fashion and their details logged. All of these actions meet the objectives for my post.

I have developed AYME’s social media presence, producing not only guidelines for how social media should be used by those employed by the charity, but also guidance on how the channels themselves should be used and spoken through to promote AYME appropriately to our followers. My work on the social media accounts has nearly doubled Twitter followers, with 263 when counted on 15th September, and Facebook followers at 967, compared to 698 when I started in March. I have also taken a dormant LinkedIn account and rejuvenated it with updated company information and regular news updates. This will be a good starting point for developing corporate support in the future.

Associated with my post are three young volunteers. These handle media representatives, celebrity correspondence and AYME’s fantasy football league. I have worked closely with these volunteers to re-assess and develop their roles – incorporating more tasks that they enjoy, changing their responsibilities to meet the experience they have of their positions, and empowering them and inspiring them to be better at what they do. I have also worked very closely with AYME’s team managers, worth mentioning in particular an awards entry I wrote for the Telegraph Volunteer of the Year Awards. My application saw a team manager shortlisted as one of three finalists for the national award which celebrates volunteering effort, commitment and dedication in individuals from across the country. Where she was not successful in winning the award, simply attending the awards evening was a huge achievement for the team manager, as she travelled to London in September with her mother and our Volunteer Manager to celebrate her work and be commended by celebrities including Boris Johnson and Dame Barbara Windsor. The accolade won AYME significant media coverage and our celebrity volunteer is now working to follow up with the high-profile individuals following the event.

AYME’s website was in much need of change when I came into post, having been stripped of many members’ stories by previous amends. I have worked tirelessly with AYME’s website host, Grass Roots, to bring back members’ photographs to the website, and have set up and utilised a case study template and writing style in order to share as many of their stories on the website as possible. Everything I have done has been with an aim of getting our members’ and supporters’ ‘voices’ back on the website, and reflect why AYME does the work is does.

Training has been a key driver of my development whilst at AYME, particularly when it comes to trust application writing. The charity not only invested in a day’s training run by the DSC in London about trust writing specifically, but I also spent time at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) to learn more about its fundraising team. The day was instigated by a connection with the Rank Foundation, and I found the whole experience invaluable. I remain in contact with NRAS’ Fundraising Manager, who provides continued support.

Along with myself, RANK has also funded an experienced Grant writer to submit an application to Comic Relief for a Youth Worker. This new member of staff would work alongside and support the Volunteer Manager  works 15 hours a week in this role, in her work with AYME’s volunteers. The role has been identified as a priority area in AYME’s strategic plan and the first round application has been submitted. She has also applied to funding to GC Gibson Charitable Trust, Mazars Charitable Trust and Comic Relief to support this work.

The only unplanned change has been that I am due to have a baby and will go on maternity leave in October. I have every intention of returning to AYME as I am very happy here indeed, both with the team and in terms of my love for my job. In my absence, cover has been arranged in the form of a Charity Works graduate, Geri Ferguson.