Quickfire with Jo Leah

Big C Charity

Jo Leah recently joined the Big C cancer charity as Head of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications. She spent 30 years in financial services and was part of the Ipswich Building Society Senior Management team for 19 years.

Published in Norfolk Director magazine, Spring | Summer 2022

Jo served on the Board of the Greater Ipswich Chamber of Commerce for seven years and helped launch a Business Brunch programme. She is now looking forward to networking with the Norfolk business community.

We spent five minutes with Jo and asked her some questions about running a charity and how it differs from a commercial entity.

How does the running of a charitable organisation compare to that of a commercial business?

There are increasing similarities. To be effective, a charity must be well-run and professional. Charities will seek to employ great people, be efficient, allocate resources well, deliver a great customer experience and provide appropriate solutions and outcomes for the charitable need we’re servicing. We must also apply measures and identify which of our fundraising activities provide the best return on investment. However, charities are a business with values at heart. So, it’s about getting the balance right, adopting many principles of business, but never losing sight of our values and charitable purpose.

Why is a strong communications strategy important for a charity?

Clear and consistent communication is fundamental to success. An effective communications strategy helps reach those who will benefit from our support and information services and engage with our fundraising community. Communication is also important to Big C’s growth strategy. It has been fundamental in developing our Virtual Support Hub, which means we are now accessible to service users across the region.

How do you plan to maintain income generation and fundraise in this challenging climate?

Big C enjoys a good reputation in Norfolk, but with cost-of-living pressures, we need to ensure we remain front of mind when corporates and individuals plan their charitable giving. As well as increasing public understanding of our work, which covers cancer support, research, equipment and education, we must ensure that grant-making trusts are in tune with the extent of our services. There is a lot of work to do, and it’s only possible due to the support from our donors.

How do you manage to keep a team motivated and working together remotely?

There is no substitute for working together in person, but video calling is now something we can’t live without. It’s essential for regularly checking in with individuals, hosting team meetings or as a coffee break chat platform. Feedback at Big C suggests that cross-department communication has improved during the pandemic. Having recently joined, I experienced a fantastic remote induction programme with heads of departments and key personnel. Staff are highly motivated, have a cause they believe in and have clear visibility of how their input makes a difference.

You have a great idea; how do you make it happen?

Planning, energy and enthusiasm are the fundamentals. Working closely with a responsive leadership team, I would also involve the marketing and fundraising team from the outset and embrace feedback. It’s important to listen to understand, not just to respond. I have been hugely impressed by Big C’s ethos of being ‘committed to being creators and facilitators of innovation’ and the examples of new thinking that create services at the forefront of cancer care.

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