Susie went from being a fundraising consultant to the Head of Fundraising over the course of 27 years at Derian House.
Her fundraising journey began at The Christie Charity, and after five years, Susie decided to set up her own fundraising consultancy.
“Derian House was my very first client when I started out on my own.” said Susie.
“I had been put in touch with Miss Vinten and the original idea was that I would put together a feasibility study to acquire funding, and then put all the measures in place. After that, I would move on and leave them to it.
“But my initial six months became 27 years.” Susie laughed.
“When the Haydock family decided they wanted to set up a children’s hospice in Chorley, they were in need of millions to get things up and running. That’s when Margaret Vinten stepped in to help get the hospice off the ground. I’m full of admiration for this woman – she was incredible.
“Miss Vinten already had a background in attracting funding for young people. She called in all her connections and got everyone involved, including Judy Nix who, as Appeal Secretary, was beside Miss V’s side throughout the entire campaign and beyond. Miss V pulled in whatever favours she could, she gave many talks and set up support groups – there were 10 around the area.
“And then they built the hospice.” said Susie.
“And that’s when Miss Vinten started thinking about the future – at that point she had just six months of running costs in reserve. At that time there was myself looking after fundraising, Judy, of course, and a fundraising assistant. However, it became clear that Derian desperately needed a fundraising manager to drive it forward.
“The trustees thought this would be a great strategy and asked me to set up the recruitment process. One of the interviewees was a man named Trevor Briggs, who fit the role perfectly. When the trustees met him, they thought he was so fantastic that they appointed him as General Manager.
“So they asked me to stay a bit longer.” Said Susie.
“As time went on demands became greater and greater, I gave up my other clients and focussed entirely on Derian House and became Head of Fundraising.
“Miss Vinten and the trustees were incredibly trusting. They would say ‘If you think it will work, go for it’. We did some really avant-garde fundraising events – they were great. And we managed to build up the reserves we needed – which was a real testament to Miss Vinten and those first trustees.
“We did so many different kinds of fundraising events during my time at Derian.” said Susie.
“One I remember strongly was our first ever outdoor concert – a huge event. I made the suggestion after we had had a couple of successful charity concerts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Guild Hall in Preston. We had a fantastic relationship with Chorley council and Astley Hall and so we decided we would hold a major outdoor concert in Astley Park.
“I have quite a strong musical background, and when I approached Sandra Roberts, Director at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra once again, she was happy to get involved and put me in touch with Ed Warren, an international conductor at the time. It started small scale and just took off.
“We tied it in with an astronomical event called the Transit of Venus which takes place only once in several hundred years. Astley Park was staging an exhibition on it, and I thought that’s something we could tie into – and so Planets in the Park was born.
“We brought in everything – a huge orbital stage, lighting, entertainment in the afternoon. It raised around £21,000. A couple of years later we did it again, this time based on film with Pictures in the Park as the theme. It was great fun.
“And then one year I decided to hold a winter festival. We brought in a huge marquee to sell Derian merchandise with forty external exhibitors selling craft and Christmas goods. An incredible amount of people wanted to be a part of that. We brought in an ice rink, reindeer, a fairground, all sorts of things. You could hardly see the park for people.
“We also held midnight charity walks. I remember that the second one we did was absolutely atrocious – this particular night was like a monsoon and a hurricane all at once. I remember a member of the care team pulled a pair of waterproof trousers out of her bag and the wind just whipped them out of her hand. They sailed off over Chorley somewhere, never to be seen again!
“Another great event was the Morecambe Bay Walk with the amazing Guide of the Sands, Cedric Robinson who helped us raise huge sums for the hospice. Lights of Love at Blackburn Cathedral was a major focal event with my own choir from Manchester and friends from the RNCM making the pilgrimage to Blackburn each year. I look back with incredibly fond memories – we did a lot of different things.
“Derian House has changed many times over the years. To think that it all began with Margaret Vinten and all those support groups filled with people from all walks of life who just wanted to something good for local families. Derian would never have existed without them.
“Derian has an incredibly special place in my heart. It was an absolute delight of a charity to work for and in that time I have seen so many amazing families. I’m still friends with a lot of them. It was incredible to be able to do what we did to benefit them.
“I have always used the phrase ‘together, we can make a difference’, and throughout those years, I truly believe we all did.”