From a tiny office inside the Sussex Eye Hospital on Kemptown’s Eastern Road, Jess Burgess fundraises for the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) Charity which works to enhance the care for hospital patients and their families.
“My official job title is Charity Fundraising Manager, which means I’m responsible for charity income of many kinds, ranging from individual donations, to people who might want to run the Brighton Half Marathon for us, grants from foundations, and people who would like to host events — or who want to find other ways of giving something back.
We’re very interested in linking up with local businesses. They might be prepared to host an event, or to get us in to talk to their staff about what we do. They might have a Charity of the Year scheme for which they might consider us – or they might simply be willing to put one of our collection tins on their counter.
Jess holds a vintage collection box from the early 20th century
What the charity does is to pay for things which are over and above basic NHS care. We have four priority areas that we fund: state-of-the-art equipment, specialty training, innovative research – and what we call ‘environmental upgrades’: in other words, things that make it nicer for patients and their families while they are with us. I think it’s true to say that no one wants to spend time in hospitals, but the quality of the environment, for example, waiting in a nice bright room painted with calming colours or murals, or with nice art on the walls, can impact on your care. So we provide funds for anything to do with these four areas – as long as it’s not something which you would expect anyway from government funding.
We’re an umbrella charity – and behind the name BSUH Charity there are 250 different funds, which are designated to support different wards and departments across the hospitals. This might sound complicated, but it means that if someone wants to donate to a very specific area, which might have affected them or someone in their family, it’s possible to do this. So if a Kemptown school wanted to do something for other children, one of the hospitals we direct funds to is the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital. Or if someone’s Nan has been helped by the Stroke Unit, we can direct the money they raise towards that. We notify the teams when a donation has been made to their particular fund, and they work out how best to use it. For example, the Eye Hospital fund is managed by three clinicians and other staff members who figure out which of their needs could be met by charity funding, versus what they would expect to get from departmental funds. The first priority is always that it has to be patient-focussed, making sure that the patients get the most benefit from what we do.
Right now we’ve just launched our Pies for Patients Christmas campaign. We know that being in hospital during Christmas time can be difficult for patients and families alike, that’s why we try to bring a little taste of Christmas to each patient in our hospitals. This year, the BSUH Charity is raising money so that each patient can receive a special treat with their meal on Christmas day. We also want to recognise the hard-working staff that look after our loved ones during the holidays by making sure they are appreciated with a nice hot meal at Christmas. Details about the campaign can be found on our JustGiving Page. A fun way for Kemptown businesses to get involved would be to join us in our Christmas Jumper Day on the 8th December. On Christmas Jumper Day, people donate £1 to BSUH Charity and wear a Christmas Jumper to work, getting us all in the holiday spirit.
(Photo: Jess at the BSUH Charity Office in Kemptown)
Of course, giving isn’t always about money. Some people prefer or can only afford to give back by offering their time — and we always welcome anyone who wants to do that. We work in coordination with the hospital’s Voluntary Services Team. One of our volunteers is Peter – and he is fabulous. He runs what we call the ‘Pop-Up Hub’, which is part of our drive to raise awareness and increase engagement. Every week Peter stations himself at a different place around the hospital site so that when people walk by, he can explain what we do and hand out leaflets. Our volunteers also help with administrative roles, making sure we send out our thank you letters as quickly as possible. If anyone in Kemptown is interested in volunteering, they can either go to our website where there’s an explanation of the steps that they can take. Or they can simply call us. We’d also be interested in anyone who has links to a café or restaurant that might host us for a lunch or a networking event that we could speak to. We’re keen to connect with people locally, and to find out what the businesses in Kemptown are interested in. We’re also very happy to have our collection tins around Kemptown and we need volunteers who would be prepared to check them from time to time and give them a little shake.
One of the local businesses we have a connection with is a bike shop. They were finding that people quite often dropped in to borrow a bicycle pump to pump up their tyres. They never charge anything to lend the pump, but they felt they could make something of the opportunity, so they contacted us to ask if they could have one of our collection tins. Now when people ask to borrow a pump, the guys in the shop suggest that they might like to make a donation in the tin. It’s such a great idea.
Kemptown Flooring also really helped us out. When we moved into our tiny office, we quickly realised that the carpet had to go. We contacted Kemptown Flooring with the dimensions and asked if we might be able to buy an offcut, perhaps at a charity discount. They came straight back to say they had something suitable – we just needed to pick it up. There was no charge – they wanted to donate the entire amount. It was a huge help.
Another way for people to support us would be to participate in a sponsored event. It is incredible just how many sporting events take place in Brighton! On our website we try to have a clear schedule of the ones which are coming up where people taking part can raise money for us. For some of them, like the Brighton Half Marathon or the full Marathon, the charity actually buys places and then we give them to people who agree to raise a certain amount for us. We still have some places for both the Half Marathon and the Marathon, if anyone is interested. Some other events don’t offer charity places but it’s always possible for people to sign up and fundraise for us anyway.
My entire professional career has been charity fundraising. I am originally from the United States but fell in love with an Englishman and came over initially to work for a hospital charity in Cornwall. I would say that there are some interesting differences between fundraising culture in the United States and in the UK. But regardless of the differences, the key to fundraising anywhere is that people give and raise funds for what they care about, and what they see a need for.
Before I moved to Brighton, I always loved visiting– and one year ago, we got the chance to move here. Although it’s a city, you feel that the neighbourhoods have completely individual identities and what I particularly like about Kemptown is that it is quirky. There are independent small shops everywhere and the shop owners all seem to know each other. In the evening there is also a really nice buzz. We often go to the Thomas Kemp after work, and we find the staff there very welcoming. Growing up I really loved the TV show Cheers. You know that line in the theme song about wanting to be where everyone knows your name? I think that’s what it’s like here. It’s a place where you can feel known, and looked after.”
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