19th Dec 2016

ICAP Charity Day raised a record £8.2million for charities across the world this December. Helping to secure some of this money for London’s Air Ambulance was Head of Philanthropy and Partnerships Sarah McCullough. This funding will support a new fleet of rapid response cars for the next three years.

In light of this monumental success, Sarah reflects on the day itself and provides an insight into the vital role she plays within our charity.

“We’ve hoped to become a partner of ICAP Charity Day for a number of years. It’s a day when ICAP generously donates 100% of its brokers' commissions and employees’ salary to charities and it’s a huge deal in the charity world. The event has raised close to £135million globally since it began 24 years ago.

“As you can imagine, it’s hugely competitive and we have been unsuccessful on previous occasions but obviously I kept trying.  The difference this time was that, over recent years, staff at ICAP have had personal links with our service and it now felt like a very relevant time for them to support us.

After working tirelessly to secure the partnership, Sarah had an anxious wait to see if the event would go off without a hitch. She was not disappointed and the charity received all the money it had hoped for.

“On the day itself we had our giant operation game, teams in branded shirts and our celebrities. The celebs were very willing to roam the ICAP trading floor and get on the phone to close down deals; Brenda Blethyn closed a deal worth about a billion pounds and Twiggy did around 10 million when I was walking around with her.

“The best moment of the whole process was telling our Helipad and Driver Standards Manager, Paul, that we’d got the money. Honestly, I just wanted to give good news to the team. Being able to confirm to the ops guys who took part in the event, and Paul especially, that we had the money and could earmark it for the whole fleet of cars — that was incredible.”

In her role as Head of Philanthropy and Partnerships, Sarah also oversees a number of other corporate partnerships. She explains why this type of fundraising is so necessary for a charity like London’s Air Ambulance.

“Corporate partnerships are really, really, really important (although obviously I would say that). But they are honestly important for lots of different reasons. 

“They help provide sustainable income. Phoenix, for example, went from a one year to a three year to a six year partnership. We can count on that money now and we can build it into our budgeting and forecasting for the years ahead.

“In my team, corporate partnerships also feed into a lot of different areas. They feed our event portfolio, help identify senior figures who may be interested in becoming major donors in their own right and help us gain access to corporate trusts.

“Nowadays I think the corporate world is more mindful of its social role. Giving charities a perfunctory day of volunteering each year— that era isn’t really relevant anymore.”

Day to day Sarah is responsible for budgets and forecasting, managing her staff and maintaining key corporate accounts. But she’s never shy of taking on the smaller tasks. 

“There’s a lot of silly things like stuffing envelopes and blowing up balloons. We are a small organisation and my ‘head of’ role requires me to roll up my sleeves and muck in. I’m not sitting on high in an office delegating. It’s all very hands on deck.” 

Sarah was drawn to London’s Air Ambulance in the same way as many of our other supporters — by turning on the television and learning for the first time about the work we do and the lives we save.

“I applied for this job during the first series of An Hour to Save Your Life. I literally watched the documentary on the Monday night and then spotted this role in the same week. With a child, there was a sense that this service exists for my family and friends and that’s pretty amazing.

“Then I looked deeper and found London’s Air Ambulance is a charity. I’m a corporate fundraiser by trade and in the past I’d raised money for some causes that were quite hard to get your head around. Knowing I could take a donor to the helicopter and say ‘this is what you’re paying for’ is about as fantastic as it can get for promoting a cause.

Having recently come back from maternity leave, Sarah has been thinking about the relationship between being a parent and working for the charity.

“I think having children makes the service more vital and relevant than ever. I get emotional more easily. I was always a bit of a crier, but hearing patient stories at events like our Christmas Carol Service, about people who have lost somebody, they hit you that little bit harder when you’re a parent.

“It’s as important as it ever was, but on a personal level it becomes more important. There’s the idea that it could be you. But then again, kids or no kids, that’s the thought that keeps us all going at the end of the day.”