This week’s guest blog is a Q&A with Lisa Allen of the Pink Ribbon Foundation. This is a breast cancer charity, but it’s slightly different to the other breast cancer charities. I came across them last year during my research for my page on the different breast cancer charities and I can safely say that they are fabulous! Read on to learn more about this super charity, and the woman who works really hard with the day to day running of the charity …
What does the Pink Ribbon Foundation do?
The Pink Ribbon Foundation was established around 20 years ago with the aim of giving monetary grants to any charity / organisation concerned with breast cancer within the UK. There is some fantastic research going into breast cancer and millions is spent every year in the hope that less women will die from breast cancer in the future. With this in mind, we at the Pink Ribbon Foundation use the majority of the money raised to support charities all over the country who are helping at a grass roots level and who care for women going through treatment and living with the effects of breast cancer. These wonderful charities provide emotional, physical and practical support to women (and a smaller percentage of men) as well as their families. This provision at such a critical time, makes a huge difference and is desperately needed until there is a cure for this disease.
Can you tell us a bit about the grants that you provide?
Every year we are able, through the generosity of our corporate partners, clubs, groups and individual supporters, to help between 30-40 good causes every year, this includes some of the well-known charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Haven Breast Cancer, Maggie’s Centres, Cancerkin, Farleigh Hospice, The Primrose Centre, Bosom Buddies Bristol, and the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity. We also give grants to a number of smaller charities and organisations who support people in a very unique way, such as ‘Fishing For Life’ and the ‘Pink Champagne, Breast Cancer Survivors Dragonboat Team’ – both fishing and boating are proven to relieve the symptoms of lymphedema, which can be a side effect of breast cancer surgery and/or radiation therapy and which can appear in some people during the months or even years after treatment ends. For many of the smaller charities and organisations, a grant from the Pink Ribbon Foundation can make a huge difference. It can provide a highly skilled programme of care, complimentary therapies, counselling for patients and their families, up-date communication materials, extra nurses to care for breast cancer patients and vital research into this terrible disease. In total, approximately 110 different charities have received grants from us, many of them receiving them in consecutive years.
How does a small charity or organisation apply to you for a grant?
The process for applying for a grant from the Pink Ribbon Foundation is the same regardless of the size of the charity or how they support those affected by breast cancer. Grants are awarded annually in late July, with the deadline for applications being at the end of May. Information about the process and application forms can be found by going to our website: www.pinkribbonfoundation.org.uk. All applicants must be prepared to inform the Foundation of their projects progress at least twice in the year of the grant, unless it is to be used for a specific event/project. A set of current accounts must accompany any grant application and all organisations awarded a grant must send a letter of grant award recognition to the Foundation as soon as they are in receipt of the grant.
How do you raise money?
We work with many generous companies who market and sell a product or service using the Foundation’s Name and Logos and then make a donation to fund our vital work, these include the likes of current corporate partners, SEBO, Valspar UK, Flamingo Candles, Rapesco Office Products, Moda in Pelle, Champneys, Merlyn Showering and Galaxy Optical Services. Some companies also support us by way of donating their services, such as Big Yellow Storage. The Pink Ribbon Foundation also has its own specific car and travel insurance policies (insurePink by Hastings Direct and TravelPink in partnership Travel Insurance Facilities Plc respectively), which are not only competitively priced but which also donate a percentage of each policy taken to the Foundation. We also have fantastic support from individuals and groups who jump out of planes, bake cakes, organise Gala’s and run marathons for us and we rely heavily on skilled volunteers who provide their time pro bono which saves the charity money – these include photographers, graphic designers and PR experts. If anyone has any ideas for fundraising or would like to offer up a skill to the Foundation, I would urge them to get in touch.
What makes Pink Ribbon different to other breast cancer charities?
The Pink Ribbon Foundation is very different to many charities, regardless of sector. We have very little infrastructure and operate with three Trustees (all volunteers) and me. That’s it! We have no rented offices and I literally work from a corner in my bedroom. People are always amazed when they discover that we are not this massive corporate charity – they see our website, the companies who work with us to raise awareness and funds, the celebrities that align themselves to our cause and they can’t believe how much we achieve with so little. We definitely punch well above our weight!
Tell us about some of the well-known supporters of your charity.
The Pink Ribbon Foundation is fortunate to have a whole host of high-profile individuals supporting the work of the Foundation and the fight against breast cancer. These individuals use their celebrity to raise much needed awareness and funds for our campaigns and events. Our Patrons and Ambassadors appeal to a wide audience and include Dame Joan Collins OBE, Jeff Banks CBE, Anthea Turner, Lizzie Cundy, Patsy Palmer, Casey Batchelor, Nina Wadia, DJ Lisa Lashes, Sunetra Sarker and Shaun Dooley. We also work with many other high-profile names via social media campaigns and one-off projects, such as Katya Jones, Gabby Allen, Laura Hamilton, Hayley Sparkes, Naomi Isted, Carley Stenson, Karen Bryson, Jess Impiazzi, Sally Morgan, Brenda Edwards, Michelle Collins, Nadia Essex and many more!
Now can we talk a bit about your role at the charity…
How did you end up working for this charity?
I really enjoyed school and stayed on to take A Levels in both Art and English. I had dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer and so all of the subjects that I studied had a creative tendency, such as textiles, C.D.T (Craft Design and Technology), Fine Art and English Literature. Upon leaving school I travelled to America at the age of 18 and worked as an au pair for 12 months. Living near New York, I was also able to attend evening classes at F.I.T (Fashion Institute of Technology) where I both excelled and loved the course. Returning to the UK I enrolled at art college on a HND Diploma in Fashion Design and Business Management and although I worked hard and gained good grades, I actually decided after less than a year that it wasn’t for me. Following numerous roles in retail management, which included becoming a trained corsetiere, I then joined a publishing company who worked in the charity sector and my fate at the Pink Ribbon Foundation was sealed 😉
What time does your day start? My day starts as soon as my daughter leaves for secondary school, I’m literally switching my laptop on at 7:45am to check emails and maybe post a few messages on social media.
What does your day actually entail?
Every day is different and will vary depending on the projects that I may be working on. Sometimes I will be working from home all day, sending and replying to emails, taking calls and working on presentations and pitches. Other times I can be attending meetings, cheque presentations or organising events, such as our annual PINKLondon party in conjunction with our friend, well renowned body painter Filippo ioco.
What kind of people do you get to work with or have worked with?
One of the things that I love about my job is the interaction with so many different people from all walks of life. I can spend one day talking to women who have recovered from or who are going through breast cancer, another day discussing ideas with PR and marketing people and another with our celebrities working on campaigns or photoshoots. Everyone I meet is special and the relationship between them and the Foundation is always important, no matter the size of the company or the profile of the person.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve found about your job?
My job isn’t so much hard, as challenging. The biggest obstacle I face with anything, is money. Times are hard and the current economic climate makes persuading companies and individuals to part with their well-earned money, more difficult than it has been previously. That said, the Pink Ribbon Foundation has many USP’s and people love our friendly, flexible approach to fundraising. On the other side, whenever I have an idea for an event or project, it must be self-funded, which means that I always need to find sponsorship before I get planning. I literally beg, steal and borrow to get the job done and my philosophy always, is if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
What makes your job so fulfilling?
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am passionate about my job and I never switch off. Wherever and whatever, I am always thinking of how connections can be made for mutual benefit. A trip to the theatre with my daughter resulted in a photoshoot and blog with Strictly Come Dancing star, Katya Jones and a corporate partner that we were working with on a #CheckYourMelons campaign – filming at Hever Castle with my daughter’s theatre school, resulted in them fundraising for the charity via a pink themed Afternoon Tea during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month! My radar is on constantly and I love spreading the word and shouting about how great the Pink Ribbon Foundation is and this enthusiasm is infectious and as a result some really great partnerships come into fruition.
For more information visit www.pinkribbonfoundation.org.uk