Rose James, director of development at HEY Children’s University

14th Mar

As she enters her ninth year at local charity HEY Children’s University, Rose James is stepping up into the role of director of development, heading up the fundraising and businesses development at the charity.

Hi, Rose, congratulations on your new role! You haven’t always worked in the charity sector, though. Tell us about your background…

Well, joining HEY Children’s University and the charity sector was a bit of a career change for me. I was previously a primary school teacher and, after I decided to leave teaching, I didn’t really have a plan and I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I saw an advert for an administrator at Hull Children’s University, which was a charity that I was really passionate about. I applied and a couple of days later I saw an article in the paper that 645 people had applied for the role, so I thought “not a chance!” To my amazement, I got the job!

About six months into the job there were quite a few changes at the charity and I took on the partnership manager role, creating partnerships with local businesses to allow the charity to grow. This was a new challenge for me as I had never done any fundraising before and I had never been part of the “corporate world”.   

Fast-forward to nearly nine years later, I have really grown in confidence and I am now the director of development at the charity. My goal is to make sure that everyone in our area knows about HEY CU and what we do, so that we are able to help more children.

So, what does HEY Children’s University do?

Put simply, we give children the chance to dream.

Many children around Hull and the East Riding do not have the same opportunities that other children have in the UK. Many have never been much further than the street in which they live and some children will never visit another city until they reach adulthood. Because of this, some children say that they don’t have a dream for the future and that is heart-breaking.  We believe that every child is brilliant at something, but how can those children find out their unique talents if they don’t have the opportunity to try new things?

‘If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’- Albert Einstein

Our charity gives (primary school-aged) children opportunities that they may otherwise never have and gives them the chance to discover their interests and talents – the chance to create their own dreams. We aim to light up every path that a child could take in life and show them all of the possibilities. Despite what the name implies, HEY Children’s University is about ensuring that disadvantaged children know about all the pathways into careers: be that an apprenticeship, starting their own business, working their way up in a company or attending college or university. Every child should understand what career opportunities exist and how to achieve them.

We create experiences are designed to raise aspirations, confidence and self-esteem. Some of these experiences include days at local businesses where the children learn about the industry, meet the staff and take part in a range of activities. We also give children the chance to visit other cities such as London and Edinburgh, offering sleepovers in exciting venues such as the Natural History Museum and the HMS Belfast battleship.  

We are currently working with 8,000 local children and 150 children living in foster care. But with one in three children in this area growing up in poverty, there are thousands more children that need our help, so we hope to raise enough to be able to reach them.

The charity has a great relationship with the local business community. How did that develop?

We work closely with many local businesses and it has made an incredible difference to our work over the years. The Humber business community is so generous and I know that people are really passionate about making a difference to the local community.

I love partnering with companies as there are always so many exciting things that we can do together and we can get really creative. I think our partners love that they can be involved directly in the cause that they are supporting and come along on the experiences that they have sponsored. There aren’t many charities where you can see exactly what your donation has paid for, and you can’t beat seeing that look of wonder and delight on a child’s face when they are experiencing something new.

We also work with some of our partners to design a bespoke experience for the children so that they can spend “a day in the life” there and be inspired to work there in the future.

Volunteering is very much on the agenda for many businesses at the moment and we have a programme that seems to work really well for companies. Most of the opportunities are during work hours and there’s so many things to choose from, so there’s something for everyone.

We currently have formal partnerships with 15 businesses. This has been a big part of our charity’s growth and has helped us to go from working with 1,500 children a year in 2013, to working with 8,000 this year. I hope that we can continue that growth as we create more partnerships.

What is the best thing about working for a charity?

I am motivated by making a difference and I strongly believe that our charity does just that. I know that every person at HEY Children’s University wants to ensure a better future for disadvantaged children and it’s such an amazing environment to work in when everyone is so passionate about what they do. I’m very lucky to have a CEO that is very supportive of my sometimes “out there” ideas and I love that so many new and exciting opportunities are coming up for the charity all the time.

It’s important for me that I can be “hands on” in my job role and being able to help design experiences for our children and then see them take part in them is so rewarding.

Every day is different and I get to meet so many inspirational people and work with companies that are committed to making a difference too. I can honestly say that I enjoy every day at work.

What’s coming up for HEY Children’s University?

I’m SO excited for our big charity ball on May 20. It’s 1920s themed and is taking place at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. I have so many things planned to give the night the “wow” factor and I know that people are really loving this year’s theme. It’s our biggest fundraising event so I am aiming to sell more tables than ever this year. This ball has been more than two years in the making due to the pandemic so I can’t wait for all of our guests to finally come together again and have an amazing night while raising money for local children.

We are also in the process of planning an exciting calendar of fundraising and challenge events for our supporters. We have marathons, fun runs, raffles, quiz nights and more so there will be lots of opportunities for people to get involved.

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