Giving Back to society id a priority for Gemma Donnelly. It is in her words a necessity for her to give something back to make her feel valued.
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Giving Back and Making a Difference

Author since:
October, 2015
107 blog posts

Giving Back is something that is always on the mind of Workplace member, Gemma Donnelly.  She is a Legal and Technical Advisor for Couch Perry Wilkes – Environmental Constancy, for her career but always has a project on the go which involves helping others.  We asked Gemma what motivates her to give so much of herself back to her community and society.

“As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself and one for helping others”

What’s Your Why?

In my opinion, people only “bother” when:

  1. It’s not actually a hardship;
  2. There’s something in it for them (we don’t often work for free do we!);
  3. There’s something personal, something they have an emotional connection with.

For me, it’s been 1 or a connection of all 3 reasons over the years, depending on where I was at in my life.

I was well versed on how much people Giving Back meant to families with disabled children.

One of my first voluntary “jobs” (I never really see them as jobs) was at special summer schemes as a teenager.  With my older brother having disabilities I grew up being well versed on how much disabled children and their parents gain from having the support from such schemes.

I remember one year being paired with Wadmilda, a deaf girl who inspired me to learn basic sign language so that we could interact better over her 2 week scheme (not that I remember any now!).

Giving Back to Oxfam

At University I loved fashion, and a bargain, so I volunteered at the local Oxfam shop.It wasn’t entirely selfless, I got first dibs on all the good stuff coming through…so yes it cost me money to work there but isn’t that what student loans are for?!

Then, a few years into my professional career, I felt unfulfilled. Whilst I was happy that I was ticking the boxes I had set out for my career,  I didn’t feel like I was “doing good”. There was no correlation between what I did on a daily basis and helping people in difficult times.

Giving Back my time to make sick children smile

Being a people person, I (like most people) genuinely feel for people when they are in hardship, whether I know them or not. So, I Googled local projects and worked with Radio Lollipop, a charity which entertains ill children in hospital.I worked at the MRI, a couple of evenings per week after my “proper job” for a few years. I’m pretty thick skinned so I didn’t think it would strike a cord with me, but I’ll never forget my first time going into the children’s oncology ward, seeing small helpless children who had lost their hair fight for their lives.

Yes, we were only making balloon animals, colouring in and trying to make them laugh, but it’s what we could do, and that maybe took a little pressure of their parents for those few minutes knowing that someone else was entertaining their children. And, at least for a very short time it made the children smile.

Doing something I love and at the same time Giving Back

A change in jobs meant I spend a lot of time commuting across our UK offices, so sadly I had to give up Radio Lollipop. I started hiking and found it to be a hobby I really enjoy. I also love a challenge, so I signed up to the national 3 peaks, which I did 3 years in a row, raising money for Cancer Research and a couple of other charities.

That really wasn’t a hardship, I did what I enjoyed and felt good for “doing good” at the same time.

In 2016, after my mum died.  As a family we felt the need to give something back in her memory so, I ran the Belfast marathon with my 2 cousins, raising money for Mind.

None of us are natural runners at all but “out of everything bad comes something good”, much like the bond we grew in being there for each other, and raising money in my mum’s name, for a charity I truly see the value in.

Hope for Justice & HR Africa

My latest project is my work with Hope for Justice & HR Africa.

They work to help those affected by slavery in Africa, including women and children who have been trafficked. I’ve pledged to raise £2,000 for them and I’m funding my trip to Ethiopia in September to help train local volunteers.

Why am I going all the way to Africa when there’s people here that need help? Because I can. I, like most people like to help others, but we don’t always know how, or we find a reason not to. This was a project an acquaintance of mine did last year, and on seeing her pictures I thought “Awe, I’d love to  do something like that”, shortly followed by “Why don’t I?”.

Making Giving Back a priority

We will always find reasons not to do something when it’s not a priority. For me, scheduling some form of “Giving Back” in, at least once a year, is one of my priorities.

Who do you think is going to help you when you really need it?

So, if you’re thinking about doing charity work, “Don’t Think, Do”.

In September, Gemma will set off for Africa and is determined to make a difference with the work that she does.  She has also committed to raising £2000 to help towards the work this amazing charity does.  If you would like to learn more or are able to donate to Gemma’s fund please visit, Gemma’s Justgiving Page

Up Next

Scaling up your Business

Author since:
October, 2015
107 blog posts

Is scaling up your  business something that you need to do but you don’t know where to start?  Lets get going with some tips and advice.

You did it, you went through the pain, the fear and the excitement of going it alone and starting your business.  Now it is time to look at getting the rewards for your labours by scaling up your business.   How do you go about this and what do you need to consider before taking that next leap in your business’s life?

Fake it till you make it

Start to set the stage now and pretend that you are bigger than you are.  Get a mailing address in the location you want to be in to “pretend” you have already made it.  Think bigger and talk the bigger story before you start scaling up your business.  People give themselves bigger titles like Operations Director and talk about the team all the time when in fact it is them and the cat.  This not only helps other people’s perceptions of what your company can achieve for them it also helps your mindset to start scaling up your business quicker.

It is important to focus on what you want to be and not what you are.  Decide what your ambition is.  Is it to be £1m business, £5m or£10m?  Whatever it is start thinking and behaving like that now.  It is important to set a target as the decisions you make as a £200k business are very different than that of a £10m business.

Do you have all the skills you need?

Start to think early on about the skills that you are using now and the skills that you will need to get your business to the size you aspire to be.  Now is the time to sharpen the saw and get yourself skill ready for the change in roles you will be doing.  It is also the time to look at the new skills you will need your team to have or new employees to have.   If you are going to be recruiting new people focus early on the gaps that will exist in your business skills and recruit to fill these.

Don’t be afraid of getting external, temporary help and advice as you start to build you business.  There are also local business support networks often with government funding that give free advice and help.  In Manchester we have the amazing Growth Hub who offer this service.

Is your technology up to it?

For the type and size of business you are looking to grow, technology and being tech ready can get you strides ahead.  Look carefully at the technology that could help you make your leap easier and smoother.  Don’t wait for the issues to occur and then try to solve them with technology.  This can really set you back.  Likewise interrogate every piece of software that you are looking to buy.  Be sure that it will do what you want it to do, is future proof and is not costing you more than it needs.

Keep your customer touch points in-house

Contracting out some of the skills needed to grow is often a great way of being able to avoid any skills gaps and make use of established technology.  However, whatever you do that touches your customer then keep it in-house.  You don’t want anyone else to have a relationship with your company other than the people who are on your payroll.  Business and sales are personal. You will have seen other companies as they grow outsourcing these touch points like call centres or customer service and it never works.

Investors invest in people not product

If you are going to be looking for investment to scale up don’t think it is your product or service people will invest in.  As much as obviously it is important to get your product as investable as it can be, it is you and your management team that is more important.  You need to work very hard on your personal presentation and approach as a great product but a team that an investor can’t work with will not get investment.  However, a great management team who an investor can work with and knows will commit everything to making it work can get away without having to have a perfect scale up ready product.

Your differentials count as you scale up your business

As you scale up your costs will increase and so your sales and profitability are even more important.  Many companies in this position end up differentiating on price out of desperation to get sales in.    What are your differentials now and how can you make the gap for these and your competitors even wider?  Talk to your customers about what they would want and choose over price and make it happen.

Interrogate your competitors

Looking at your bigger competitors is a great way of learning best practice.  If you can get some insight in to their business model, employees, technology it is a great place to start looking at who you could do it even better.

Keep hold of your values

When you started your business, you had key values that you performed to and have made you a success so far.  When you start scaling up your business, you are handing over some of the reigns to others and your time will be pulled in different directions.  Make sure that everyone understands your key drivers and values and that you monitor that they are staying as you would like them to.  You need to make sure you communicate these values clearly.

Recruit Well

When you are looking to build your team, it is important to not look at skills first.  You need to have synergy with your colleagues.  It is important that you do like them and that you can get on with each other.  Recruit to make sure that they have the right personality for your scale up first.  Once you are clear on this then look for the skills or for people you can train the skill as you scale up your business.

When you have your teams make sure your values are communicated well as you scale up your business.  Your teams need to understand the way you expect them to work and behave in work.  It is not having rules but a structure to your values that is important.

Assess your barriers to scaling up your business.

Finally, when scaling up your business it is always good not to worry about failing but to concentrate on what it will be like when you succeed.  However, it is good to be prepared and to think of what could prevent you from going.  It could be your location, premises, competition, skills.  Whatever it might be, have in the back of your mind what you will do to ensure if it is an issue it will not slow you down too much


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