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The importance of business development for hospices

Author: David Spilsbury
13 July 2017

David Spilsbury is the new Director of Finance and Business Development at St Ann’s Hospice in Manchester. Here he explains that while his role may not sound like a natural fit for a charity, it is in fact vital for a hospice to grow and ensure it is providing the best possible care.

The hospice world is new to me.  I am just over a month into what is a brand new role at St Ann’s, as Director of Finance and Business Development, having joined from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  I am already brimming with ideas, and excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Raising an eyebrow at business development

To some, the words “business development” when used in association with a charitable organisation like a hospice, might raise an eyebrow.  In fact, charities often shy away from admitting that they are a business at all.  But as we all know, the economic, political and healthcare landscapes are changing apace, and to ensure we are not left behind, we must not be shy about the fact that hospices are complex businesses.  We need to be just as agile as other sectors when it comes to rising to the challenge of adapting quickly, or responding to - and creating our own – opportunities.

It is not about becoming cut throat or corporate in our ways.  We are proud to be caring organisations that play an important, warm and supportive role in our local communities.  But, we do need to think smart about how we can continue to ensure hospices remain as relevant now as they were almost half a century ago when St Ann’s opened.  And that is why I am excited to take on this brand new role.

Hospices are complex businesses

While this is the first time I have worked for a hospice, the nature of business development is something that cuts across sectors.  Like many hospices, St Ann’s has a complicated business model, and whilst our core purpose is to provide exemplary care to patients from across Greater Manchester, the areas in which we work are much more widespread. 

We have three hospice sites, community services, fundraising and support services, fourteen shops and a hospice lottery.  Approximately a third of our funding comes from nine different clinical commissioning groups and in addition, we need to fundraise around £16,000 every day just to keep our services going.  There is a lot going on.

Within this complex environment and changing external landscape, business development is more important than ever, and it can mean many different things.  As we all know, hospice care has changed so much in recent years, so there is not a one-size fits all approach.  There is no template to follow when it comes to seeking out new opportunities. 

What we can do is ensure our organisations are fit for purpose, our staff and volunteers are empowered and excited to be part of our journey, and that our leadership teams are clear and focussed. We need to be clear-sighted, determined and ambitious enough to say yes and make things happen.

We must remember that people are at the heart of what we do

People are the most important factor when it comes to hospices.  Whether that is the people we care for, their families and friends, or the staff and volunteers who make that care possible; the businesses who choose to support us year in, year out, or the individuals who give up their Sunday to climb a mountain or help out at a fundraising tea party. 

It is also important that hospices employ a mix of talent both from within and outside the sector.  There is such a wide range of experience at St Ann’s, like many hospices, and we simply could not provide the high quality care we do without the many staff who have worked in the sector for decades and deeply understand how to deliver the very best for our patients and their families. 

However, we also have a growing number of staff who have joined the hospice from outside of the sector, and each of those also bring along with them a valuable range of skills, perceptions and experiences.  This is an important and vibrant mix, and differing views are healthy for an organisation.  By joining forces, inputting different standpoints and navigating through this mix, teams can work together and drive forward the changes we need.

Collaborations and core purposes

Working together is key.  In the short time I have been in the sector, I have realised that hospices are brilliant collaborators.  Building and growing partnerships is key to developing our businesses, and ensures we can continue meeting our core purpose of improving the lives of our patients and their loved ones. 

That is the most important thing we should all remember.  Whatever new initiatives we take on, whatever avenues we go down to build and grow our businesses, the people we care for every day should always remain at the heart of what we do.  That is certainly why I am here, and so excited to be joining such a dynamic sector.

For more information visit St Ann’s Hospice

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