A day in the life: Kate O’Shea, Development Manager at Perennial
Kate O’Shea is Development Manager at Perennial, the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping all horticulturists in times of crisis. She has worked for Perennial for since May 2012, is based in Cheshire, and drives interest in a support for the charity from companies and individuals working across the horticulture sector.
Kate is retiring at the end of January 2017 and although is looking forward to the new challenges retirement will pose, she will miss the varied work she currently enjoys for Perennial and will be sorry to say goodbye to the team.
Here Kate talks about her work and looks ahead to the challenges that her successor will face.
How long have you worked for Perennial?
I’ve been here nearly five years (started May 2012) and will retire at the end of January 2017
How did you first hear about Perennial and what made you apply for the job?
A friend in the charity world had heard about the job and she knew I was looking to move from industry side to the charity sector. It was the perfect move for me as I had worked in the world of fresh produce and horticulture for years, so although my background is a business-based one, I already understood the seasonal challenges faced by horticulturists and the low margins of many businesses. I also realised that Perennial, as an occupational charity, was going right to the heart of looking after those that work in this industry.
I applied because I had always known that towards the end of my working life, I wanted to put something back into society, and having been able to do this in the very broad world of horticulture has been great for me. I think that those of us who have worked in the corporate world, managing large groups of people and suppliers, can offer a lot to a charity and really understand the challenges faced by many staff.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Well the good thing is that my days are varied. I can be supporting major fundraisers, attending shows (both public and trade), writing articles or can be found at my desk making calls and writing letters. We meet a lot of people at shows, events, conferences and award dinners and it takes time to follow up all the new contacts. Some may want information on the charity for their staff, others wish to organise a fundraiser for us, discuss a legacy or someone may need to get in touch with our Caseworkers to seek help. It’s always something different.
What aspects of your role give you most satisfaction?
I think the engagement with people, whether they own large landscaping companies or are self employed designers or gardeners. It’s a very varied industry with lots of different sectors, but there is one common denominator lovely people.
I have particularly enjoyed working with a great bunch of fundraisers called the “Three Peakers” over the past few years. It’s not just that they have raised a shed load of money for Perennial (their two main events have raised £66,000 and donations are still coming in) it’s the fact that they also help us spread the word about our services, they support us individually as Perennial Partners and sponsors and they make me laugh out loud all the time.
I have loved seeing all the amazing show gardens created by talented designers and built by fantastic contractors in support of Perennial. In particular I loved being involved with the creation of our Gold Medal Best in Show winning garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in 2015 with the lovely Paul Hervey-Brookes. I learnt so much from watching him and his team at work.
I have also enjoyed working with the British Association of Landscape Industries who started opening doors for me back in 2012, and their support for Perennial remains invaluable to this day.
If you could change one thing about your role what would it be?
The role is great, I have been given great freedom to pursue and develop areas of interest such as legacy giving and corporate engagement, so I don’t think there is anything specific I would change. I am going to really miss it and know that my successor will enjoy the variety and satisfaction that the role offers and the great team of people I have had the pleasure of working with.
What can horticulturists do to help spread the word about Perennial and its services?
There are lots of very easy things that can be done such as putting up our posters and having our leaflets available in receptions or in rest rooms and canteens. Social media is fabulous for spreading the word too. Make sure you follow us on twitter @PerennialGRBS and always RT our service messages. Invite Perennial to your open days, trade events, trade shows and membership meetings. If we have an information stand at a show we get the opportunity to meet lots of people including potential clients. We are a small team, so any event that allows us to speak to a lot of people in a short space of time is really effective.
You plan to retire in 2017 – looking back over your time at Perennial, what achievements are you most proud of?
The fundraising made possible by the Three Peakers, the engagement with Sir Roy Strong at the Laskett Gardens, and the overall number of supporters, companies and membership bodies that I have brought into the Perennial family during my time at the charity.
What are your hopes for Perennial in its next phase of development?
We have a fantastic service team who make a real difference to so many lives, but we are facing increasing competition from other charities for funding, we have an aging population who may experience crippling care home fees and will be less able to support charities and all the time our client numbers will continue to grow. This all fuels our need to spread the word further about Perennial and to strive even harder to create opportunities for horticulture companies to become supporters. I would like to see Perennial reach more companies and therefore more clients who need our help, and that these companies can all support us in some small way. What is very clear to me is that the charity world is all about numbers. It’s not always about making massive donations (although those are always gratefully received) it’s about everyone involved in horticulture or the garden loving public all giving something, however small. Together we can continue to change lives for the better.
Current Perennial job vacancies can be found here.