As you may know, last year at Invenia Group we sadly lost our friend and colleague Simone to BRCA-related breast cancer. We have since set up a fund in her name, through which we fundraise for cancer prevention and support charities.

In the last few months, we’ve raised over £9,000 through the Simone Taylor Fund. However, beyond just donations we want to champion the work of these charities, to raise awareness of their causes and the work they do. This series of interviews by our Co-Founder and CEO Paul Rodwell shares the stories of the charities we are fundraising for.



I recently had the pleasure of interviewing our friend Lisa from St Gemma’s Hospice, one of our chosen charities and a cause very close to our hearts. Read on to hear about the amazing work of Lisa’s team and this wonderful charity.


Thanks so much for joining us, Lisa. To start off with, please could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role at St Gemma’s Hospice?

My name’s Lisa and I’m a Senior Corporate Fundraiser at St Gemma’s Hospice. Before St Gemma’s I actually worked for 21 years in the travel industry. I was made redundant after COVID and saw it as an opportunity for me to try something different. I then started to research the charity sector and came across St Gemma’s, which I now fondly call my ‘happy job’.

I am part of our corporate fundraising team, which is one of three areas within the fundraising department: corporate fundraising, community fundraising and events. The hospice is a free service to the people of Leeds, but it costs £20,000 per day to run; 24% is funded by the NHS, so that leaves 76% for us to find. I’m responsible for fundraising with businesses in Leeds so a big part of my role is making those connections with companies to help continuingly fund that big amount.

A big part of my role within the travel sector was dealing with corporate partnerships and I wanted to go into a role where I would be able to transfer some of that skillset. I could see that that area of work – building relationships with businesses to support the hospice – seemed like a really good fit.

I’ve been here for 18 months now and it’s a really diverse role; I can be supporting companies with their CSR strategy and talking about how they want to fundraise, and on the same day be asked to source specific gifts or support for patients from companies. For example, we had a lady being cared for who just really wanted her nails painted, so I went out and sourced that for her.


Could you give us a bit of background into what exactly the charity does and the scope of what you’re doing there?

Yeah, of course. So, St Gemma’s has been a part of the Leeds community for about 40 years now. We’re a specialist hospice and we provide expert care for people who are at end-of-life. So we have physios, we have therapists, we have a spiritual care team and specialise in pain management as well. As well as inpatient care we offer outpatient sessions too – we have an amazing team of community doctors and nurses who go out to visit patients in their homes.

We primarily treat adults, but if an inpatient has children, we extend our counselling services to the children. And we’ve just secured the final funds for a young person’s cabin, which will enable us to better look after the patients’ families and children in a better environment that caters for young people.

So I’m proud to have been involved in that. And finally, we do have a palliative training unit as well. We are the only teaching hospice in Leeds, and we basically nurture the palliative care workers of the future! It really is just a fantastic place.


I mean, that really is fantastic, and it’s even more diverse than I imagined with the range of different areas you’re involved in there. So if someone comes into one of those different areas that you mentioned there, how do people get in contact with you? How does that work?

Patients can self-refer via their GP, or GPs will refer them or they can be referred from their local hospital. So as end of life comes close, the family will discuss the patient’s requirements. Although it’s generally done, I believe, by postcode, you can request to go to a certain hospice if you wish and then that would just depend on space. We’d love to accommodate everybody, but unfortunately, we’re a 32-bed unit.


I’d love to hear in a bit more depth how you fundraise to keep the hospice up and running; is it about £12 million you have to raise each year?

It is. So as an independent charity, we have to raise about 70% of our £12 million annual running costs and we do that through a range of different ways. We have a chain of 24 charity shops and we also have the legacies that people leave in their wills for us. We have a full 12-month calendar of challenge fundraising events, ranging from jumping off buildings to golf days to Windermere rows, whatever we can think up really. We also have our annual ball where we sell tickets and have sponsors to help run that.

So yeah, we try and keep the events fresh but there are fan favourites that we have to keep in the calendar because everyone loves them – like the Santa Dash which is coming up! This time of year, we also have Christmas tree sales; we literally have a truck that comes from Norway and donates all these trees for us and then we proceed to sell them out of the car park over two days.


It’s always a big event in our house, getting the Christmas tree, so we’ll have to come down this year! Are there any other ways that that people can support St Gemma’s Hospice apart from direct donations?

Absolutely, volunteering is a great way you can support us. To put this into context for you, there are 280 paid staff for the hospice, but over 1,000 volunteers. That really just demonstrates, I think, how important they are to the functioning of the hospice. They play a big part in our events and fundraisers; we’ve got some truly wonderful people that support our events. Lots of them help out at our charity shop hub – sorting and tagging clothes – or helping us make up fundraising packs and things like that. But really, they will give that time to whatever we need them for.


You mentioned yours is a very diverse role, what does a typical day look like for you?

My typical day involves meeting up with companies and talking through where they’re at on their fundraising journey, helping them come up with a strategy and 12-month plan which suits their organisation. We’re very aware that you’re fundraising for us alongside the day job, so we need to get that right.

I also help organise events and source gifts in-kind. I mentioned the personal gifts in-kind for the patients; we recently had a patient who wanted to attend her daughter’s wedding, but unfortunately couldn’t. So instead, we brought the wedding morning to the hospice – we went out and got decorations and lights so that she could see her daughter get ready for her wedding. We’ve also had more general support through partnerships with firms like a kitchen company who refurbished our hospice kitchens for us.


Wow that’s really special. You mentioned there the 12-month plans you work on, as a business-owner myself I’d love to know what that looks like?

What we tend to do is meet with the CSR champs of a particular company and talk about the key times to fundraise given their particular business environment. So for example, we work with some hotels, and obviously the summer months is a busy time for hotels, so they tend to have more capacity to fundraise for us in the autumn-winter time. So that 12-month plan just gives the business and ourselves visibility of what they can do and when they can do it, and makes it so that it fits in with what they want to do as well.

We do have a calendar of events all year round, but not all of them will be suited to that particular business. For example, I work with some chartered accountants who like cycling, so they’ve had cycling shirts made and do a sponsored cycle each year. It’s really about that two-way communication – we want to work with you however you want to work with us.


That’s fantastic. We’ve been so pleased here with the response to setting up the Fund. We’ve never done anything like it so you’re never quite sure how it’s going to go down, but the response has been really positive, and we’ve got five new ambassadors coming on board to help us fundraise more next year so it would be great to get your input on how we can help most.

So looking forward, what do the next five years or so hold for St Gemma’s?

As we come out of the pandemic, we’re now looking to move forward with some bigger projects, such as the young person’s cabin that I mentioned. We’ve got some important research going on to improve patient care and things like increasing our face-to-face teaching with people again.

Of course, it’s business as usual for our clinical teams – they’ve never stopped. Our care has continued and will continue ongoingly – our strapline ‘Always Caring’ really is so important to us.


That’s fantastic, such an amazing job. Is there a message you’d like to give to anyone out there before we wrap up?

Yes, I think the big message is thank you to the people of Leeds for being there for the hospice over the last 40 years. A huge thank you to our volunteers who tirelessly help us on a regular basis – really, we wouldn’t be here without that support, and we just want to uphold and continue that so that we can continue as we are, ‘Always Caring’.



Check out the St Gemma’s Hospice website to find out more about this amazing charity, or click here to learn more about the Simone Taylor Fund.