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A year in the life of a hospice business ambassador

18 September 2018

When Simon Greenfield became a business ambassador for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, little did he know that he would have to brush up on his raffle skills, walk hundreds of thousands of steps, and even take a visit to the House of Lords. Here, the managing director of creative communications agency, Colour Cubed, gives us an intriguing insight into his ambassador role…    

So, why did I become a business ambassador?

To begin with, it wasn’t because I felt an urgent need to get involved with charity work. In fact, it was quite the opposite! I had never been busier in my job as managing director at Colour Cubed but as the Hospice had become a good client over the years – and I started to understand more about the vital work they do – I decided that I wanted to give something back. Little did I know what was in store for me…

How about that never-ending raffle?

It’s day one of being an ambassador so what’s the first thing I do? I decide to host a quiz! I like quizzes and thought it would be reasonably straightforward to hold one. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to get all our clients together, whilst raising the profile of the Hospice and much-needed funds.

I knew that the first thing I had to do was find a prestigious, local venue to host it. As the new Library of Birmingham had just opened – and as they were one of my clients – I decided to ask them. So, there I was, in the manager’s office of the biggest library to be opened in the UK for decades asking if I could hire her library for the night. And for free. After a lot of persuasion and reminding that the event was for a fantastic cause, I ended up hiring it out for forty quid, which was to cover the cost of security. I was thrilled!

The night was a brilliant success. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and we raised thousands of pounds for the Hospice. The only slight hiccup was the extremely long raffle. My co-director at the time, James, had done a magnificent job of selling raffle tickets but then spent an hour putting all the tickets from the book into a bucket. But when I say all the tickets, I mean all of them – even the ones that hadn’t been sold. Thankfully, we still managed to announce all the winners on the night and get their prizes to them.

“You don’t think anyone will remember my promise, do you?”

Not long after the quiz night, the Park Regis Hotel opened on Broad Street and became a major client of Colour Cubed. I used my business ambassador skills to help the Hospice become its ‘Charity of the Year’ and soon enough, the hotel decided to host a ‘Fright of Flight’ event to raise money for the charity – which involved abseiling a whopping 48 metres down the front of the hotel.

Before the event, my colleague James and I met up with Rebecca and Robin, the hotel’s senior management, to enjoy a few drinks and have a good catch up. However, as the night went on and we became slightly more tipsy, talk soon turned to the upcoming abseil. Robin declared that as general manager of the hotel, he should take part and go down first. James, who is absolutely terrified of heights, immediately volunteered to go second.

The following morning, bleary eyed, James came to the realisation of what he’d said the previous evening. “You don’t think anyone will remember my promise, do you?” he asked hopefully. “Too late” I said, “It’s already all over Facebook”. And so his fate was sealed. However, he did it (see terrified photograph below) and we raised thousands of pounds for the Hospice.

A trip to the House of Lords

One of my highlights as business ambassador was James and I being asked to attend a hospice event at the House of Lords. There, I witnessed ex-Tory leader Michael Howard ask Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England, for more money to be provided to the hospice movement, so that more people can receive the care and support they need. It was an honour to be there and I felt a great sense of pride when Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice announced its four-year strategy (2016-2020) to provide ‘Hospice Care For All’, which Simon Stevens praised.

Raising bucket-loads of cash

By far, one of the most difficult things I’ve done was take part in the Big Brum Bucket collection. You’d think it would be pretty straightforward to just stand there with a bucket but it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s a challenge. I was collecting with colleagues in Harborne but as there were other charities bucket collecting that day, it meant that I had to use my persuasive skills to encourage people to donate to the Hospice.

Thankfully, most people did stop to give a pound or the loose change they had in their pocket. However, there was one woman who stopped after she saw my t-shirt and bucket. “Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice?” she said, “They looked after my friend and were just lovely”. Then, she opened up her purse, took out a £10 note and popped it into the bucket. She said, “They deserve far much more than this but it’s all I’ve got on me”. It made all the hard work worth it.

Quite a bit thinner now

It’s always a challenge to get other people to fundraise for the Hospice but the team at Birmingham St Mary’s are always coming up with fresh ideas. The most popular with team Colour Cubed – and therefore the most successful – was the ‘Step Together’ challenge. This involved getting into groups to see who could collectively step the most over two months. Every member of staff volunteered to participate (and they properly volunteered too, no arm twisting!).

We split the staff, including directors, into two teams and decided to have three trophies – most steps by a team, most steps by one person, and most steps in one day. Competition was fierce and after two months of stepping, both teams were neck-and-neck and a whole lot thinner. In the end, the ‘Peaky Striders’ beat ‘The Pedominators’ 2,770,569 steps to 2,749,504 – just 21,000 steps difference. We had a lot of fun taking part and it was great to see the whole team get involved and get into the spirit of fundraising.

In conclusion…

I really enjoy being a business ambassador for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. We’ve hosted and took part in some great events and there’s been a lot of laughter over the years.

But the most surprising thing I’ve done was when I went to visit the Hospice at Selly Park. Being shown around and meeting patients, staff and volunteers was a very humbling experience. Rather than being a place of sadness and death, I was surprised to see that it was a place full of laughter and life and it really brought home how vital the Hospice’s care is.

Thank you Simon for sharing your experiences as a business ambassador with us! If you think a business ambassador could be a role for you, or if you think your place of work could support the Hospice, take a look at our corporate partnerships page.