A day in the life of Jay
Hello, I’m Jay Sheppard, the Senior Fundraising Manager. I’ve been asked to write about a ‘day in my life’. I thought I’d start off by telling you a little bit about myself, so you could understand more about me and why I am so passionate about fundraising.
I’m 36, from South Wales and engaged to a wonderful fiancé and the very proud father of an amazing little girl. I’m also living with an invisible illness myself, so whilst I can’t understand fully what pituitary patients live with on a daily basis, I can certainly empathise. When I was 15, I contracted encephalitis, a rare brain disease. At one stage I was given a 10% chance of living and was in a short term induced coma, but thankfully I survived. The illness didn’t come without consequences, as it caused scarring on my brain, which in turn, caused epilepsy. At one stage, I was suffering up to 20 seizures a day as doctors struggled to find the correct treatment plan; eventually they found it and I was “cured”, as in my seizures were under control. The upshot of this treatment plan was that I had to take 10 tablets per day for the rest of my life, something I know that many pituitary patients will relate to. I’ve had several seizures since, but it is under control.
After my illness, I wanted to prove that a disability wouldn’t hinder me and wanted to give something back so I went on to run five London marathons for charity, raising thousands. I became hooked on fundraising whilst working in a job I hated (Human Resources). By chance, I stumbled upon becoming a fundraiser as a career path. This was the best thing that ever happened to me. To me, fundraising is not a job, it’s a vocation - it’s something I truly love and the job satisfaction is incredible. This is the reason I feel so passionate about fundraising and why, whilst I get paid to do my job, I also do many things for The Foundation on a voluntary basis, outside of my job remit.
When I am recruiting for challenges, I am the first person to put my name down and this is on a purely voluntary basis. As a member of staff organising events, I am required to be present for the smooth running of an event, with entitlement to claim back time off in lieu. For weekends, this is a rate of double time, meaning that if I work a full weekend at an event then I could rightfully take four days off as time off in lieu, but the reality is that I don’t because I enjoy these events and so I don’t look upon it as work. This is me volunteering in my spare time. I may take off the odd few hours, usually because I am so exhausted from a long journey for instance, but I never take back the time I’m entitled to. When I organised a Masquerade Ball in London for instance, I worked from 7am Saturday morning until 2am Sunday morning and then I also worked on the Sunday to sort out loose ends before heading home but I only took a few hours off on the Monday to recover. Therefore, if you join me at an event in the future, you can do so in the knowledge that I am there because I want to be there, and not because I am getting paid to do so.
In the past few years I have climbed Ben Nevis, Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Pen-Y-Fan many times. I’ve also jumped out of planes, taken on zip wires, ran half marathons, cycled long distances and completed mud assault courses. Just recently, I organised a bucket collection in my own time, giving up three hours of my working day but then made sure that I worked until 10pm that evening so that the collection was in my time, not my working time.
I am also very fortunate to have the support of a family who subscribe to my passion for fundraising and I get them to join me where possible. My daughter has climbed many mountains and taken on fun runs, raising over £1,000 at the age of just seven, whilst my fiancé has also climbed mountains and abseiled the Orbit, again raising several hundred pounds for us.
I am willing to go above and beyond in my role to ensure we as a charity thrive, all I ask is that everyone embraces fundraising in some way or other. Not everyone can run a marathon, nor can hike a mountain, but everyone can contribute to the fundraising efforts. Whether that’s supporting us in Awareness Month, taking part in Go Orange, playing our lottery, or donating on a monthly basis. As a small charity, absolutely every little helps.
I appreciate that this is meant to be a ‘day in the life’ article but the reality is that no two days in my job are ever the same. I attend lots of enjoyable events, whether that’s events that I am organising such as abseils, zip wires, skydives or Balls, and I also attend many external networking events to help raise the profile of The Foundation. I have also had to endure many events that have been very much less than enjoyable, such as standing at the summit of Snowdon, on my birthday, in the gale force wind, with treacherous rain, sleet and snow - absolutely soaked to the bone and frozen! The positives in this post far outweigh the negatives and the one thing I absolutely love about my job is meeting and speaking on the phone to our incredible supporters, each of whom have inspirational stories. We are fortunate to have such motivated supporters in our midst and this should not be underestimated.
Recognition for fundraisers
I travel a lot in my role and I must have covered every motorway across the UK. Just recently, I formed new fundraising groups in Oxford and Canterbury, driving to Oxford and then onto Canterbury on the first day of my holidays to meet with these individuals, as this particular date also meant that I’d get to personally thank a fundraiser who had just raised £5,000 for us. I gave up a day of my holiday and then took nine hours getting to my holiday destination due to traffic, but I wouldn’t have changed any of this for the world, because to me it’s of paramount importance that fundraisers receive the recognition that they deserve. Another time, I spent a total of 26 hours driving over just three days. The reason for this was that I had to climb Ben Nevis, and then I travelled to Edinburgh to meet the Local Support Group before heading to Newcastle to meet the Area Coordinator, before the long journey home to South Wales.
Many of you will recognise my name, as I may have met you at events in the past, whilst others may have had emails from me asking you if you’d like to join us at a challenge or you may have received letters in the post from me asking if you would donate or sell raffle tickets. I often think to myself that many of you must get fed up of seeing my name, because to all intents and purposes my name contacting you is synonymous with a request of some sort, but please know that I only get in touch because I am so incredibly passionate about raising as much money as possible so that the charity is in a position to extend its services and ultimately support more pituitary patients.
When I started in my role here, the income at The Foundation was approximately £250,000. My proudest achievement was that during my time here this increased to £590,000 at one stage. This of course enabled the charity to expand and it means that we now offer more support to patients than we have ever been able to in the past. I also manage the social media channels for The Foundation and so if you see tweets or Facebook posts, then invariably this will be me. I have to say that for me, the best part of my job is when I read a comment or message via social media where a patient expresses their gratitude for support received, especially when they never knew we existed previously.
I have been told in the past that my own personal story has sounded inspirational. I have to admit that I don’t see it as inspirational by any stretch. I’m just a resilient person who has not let the cards I’ve been dealt in life hinder me. However, if my story could inspire just one person to get involved with fundraising in any capacity then I would be absolutely over the moon.
I want to help create an organisational culture of fundraising here at The Foundation because the bottom line is that without vital fundraising then the charity simply would cease to exist. We are fortunate to have many incredible supporters and the fundraising ethos here at The Foundation really does come from the top down. In my five years here I’ve seen Trustees take on challenges, our CEO taking on a zip wire, many volunteers doing all sorts of activities and many staff also getting involved. But we need more people to get involved and if you have read this story and felt in the slightest bit inspired then please get in touch. I’d be delighted to hear from you.
If you'd like to sponsor me for my next set of challenges, including ZipWorld London, Cardiff Half Marathon and the 10K Chepstow Stampede, then please click here to read more.