Volunteers are the key to all we do, writes Barbara Osborne
‘I’m standing here hoping to get a new fundraising group started in Deeside. And I have a confession to make…”
These were Dr Jack Taylor’s first words to a community meeting we organised. Many in the audience had known and respected Jack as their GP. What on earth was he going to confess to?
Involving Jack in setting up the new group was a natural development in his relationship with BHF Scotland.
When he retired, he was keen to do what he could to help so he enquired about volunteering. His first inclination was to teach CPR skills, but we also thought he’d make a great local speaker, which he did.
He’s since talked to lots of audiences and, I think, is especially compassionate with those fundraisers and supporters who’ve been moved to support us by tragic personal circumstances.
He seemed like the perfect candidate to get our new fundraising group off the ground. So, what was his confession?
What he then went on to say that night was: ‘I’m terrified… because I don’t know anything about fundraising!”
Amused, and really quite delighted, by his honest and humble approach, many people immediately offered to join the new group.
Jack has that rare ability to engage with all audiences with his unique blend of humour, compassion, professionalism, conviction and approachability.
And that’s why we’ve just named him BHF Scotland’s Volunteer of the Year 2015.
He’s helped to build up a group of people with a really effective mix of skills and talents and lots of local contacts. In just 18 months they’ve raised well over £3,500 at some very successful events.
This week is Volunteers’ Week, the ideal time to celebrate our retail and fundraising volunteers who generously give their time and energy to our fight for every heartbeat.
It’s a cliché, but they really are all ages and come from all walks of life. Many of them are using skills they’ve developed at work and others, like Jack, are discovering new talents.
They all have one thing in common though – they’re raising the money that allows us to fund essential heart research that’s saving lives now and will save lives in the future.
At the moment the BHF is funding £55 million of research in eight institutions across Scotland.
We probably all know someone who’s had a heart attack. Did you know that here in Edinburgh, our funded researchers are making strides in improving the outlook for women?
They’ve discovered that by using a more sensitive, gender-specific blood test, they can diagnose more heart attacks in women, which means they can get the right treatment and, crucially, be helped to avoid future heart attacks. We’re now funding a larger clinical trial and, if the results are confirmed, many more women’s lives could be saved.
This kind of research is only possible because our volunteers raise the money.
Some of our retail and fundraising volunteers come to us at a time of great tragedy for them. I can think of several people who’ve been devastated to lose a loved one very suddenly to a heart attack and I know at least two parents who have lost a small child to congenital heart disease.
In amongst the sadness they’re finding extraordinary reserves of energy and motivation to raise money so that other families don’tsuffer.
If you’d like to volunteer as an individual – or with your workforce or community group – we have lots of opportunities, from marshalling at our Glasgow to Edinburgh trek on 20 and 21 June, to window-dressing in one of our 75 shops in Scotland.
If you join our fight, you might become one of the heroes we recognise every year at our Heart Heroes awards ceremony.
This year we celebrate their amazing contributions at the BHF Scotland Supporters Conference in Edinburgh on Thursday 4 June.
• Barbara Osborne is head of volunteer fundraising at BHF Scotland. To find out more about the Heart Heroes awards and register, go to www.bhf.org.uk/conferences