Caroline Taylor is Head of Income, Marketing and Communications at Derian House Children’s Hospice – a charity which helps seriously ill children from across the North West to make the most of every moment. She spent the first 10 years of her career in journalism, working on newspapers in London and Lancashire, before entering the world of communications and PR.
At Derian House she is responsible for fundraising, communications and marketing, helping to raise the £5million the charity needs every year to continue to provide care for its 450 families. She lives in Leyland, Lancashire with husband Andrew, children James and Robyn, and hamster Mango.
What you’ve learned over your career?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my career is that being nice and working hard can get you to where you want to be. You don’t have to be pushy, over-confident or bullish to be a leader – and in fact lots of research now is finding that these qualities are detrimental to leadership.
I always felt that not being naturally authoritative meant I wouldn’t be good at managing people and avoided that type of responsibility. But in fact when it came to it, I have learnt that qualities such as empathy and loyalty are much more important.
For me, building a team that is excelling has happened not because I am the best at everything. In fact, it’s been about identifying the strengths in others and appreciating how we are all needed to make things work.
Giving people the space and freedom to shine, valuing each team member and letting them come to work as their whole self has been the key to success in building a motivated and successful team where morale is high and coming to work is fun.
When you had to make a big change at work, what helped you through the process?
During COVID, fundraising at Derian House ground to halt. Our charity shops were closed and all our events were cancelled. We had to make a change with how we raised money, and fast.
We decided to launch direct mail campaigns and engage our donors using social media. Our work had been much more focussed on awareness-raising up to this point, with the fundraising team responsible for bringing the cash in.
Telling people the story of Derian House and our children, using digital methods and a postal campaign, has given us an important new income stream, bringing in more than £100,000 per year. The strategy was so successful that the fundraising and communications teams have merged and we now have a much more digital focus to all our fundraising and will continue to do so post-pandemic.
What would you recommend to anyone feeling like they are in a similar boat?
Don’t be scared of change or experimenting. Keep refining campaigns and strategies to test what works and what doesn’t, or what could work better. There’s no wrong decisions, just lessons to be learnt.
What kept you motivated during that period of change?
Having such a strong team of people who felt motivated and supported made the changes in our fundraising team so much easier. Everyone got behind the new ideas, did work outside their role to support other team members and generally pulled together.
This is massive and the results are showing in the figures – the team is performing better than ever before. Making sure that people want to come to work and do the best they can in their job ensures that no time or energy is being wasted with in-team arguing.
When everyone is pulling together in the same direction, amazing things can happen.