Kate Higgs has spent nearly 20 years of her professional career working in the charity and voluntary sector across the East of England. Here, she talks about what spurred that move, and why she feels the arena resonates with her so much
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m the Director of Income Generation and Marketing at Ormiston Families. My work sees me focused on ensuring that the brand and purpose of our charity is widely understood across all the communities with which we engage. That means being able to reach and resonate with potential corporate partners, service commissioners, and end users, wherever they are across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Essex. It’s a hugely extensive and challenging job in many respects, but I love it, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.
What led you to this point in your life? And what challenges have you had to overcome to get to this point?
The early part of my life was spent in Zimbabwe, as my parents had moved there when I was a toddler. I moved back to the UK in 1987 and specifically to Ipswich. In fact, making things even more memorable, our moving day turned out to be the day of the great hurricane of October that year. The decision to return came about because life was starting to become very tough in Zimbabwe. It was undoubtedly the right choice. In terms of my first career steps, I was drawn toward the work of advertising, publishing sales and marketing. I loved it and threw myself into the challenges of various professional roles in that arena up until 2006.
What prompted the desire for change?
Tragically, it was the death of my brother which caused me to have such a rethink. I am able to talk quite openly about it now, but at the time it was really hard on myself and my family. My brother, a father and husband and wonderfully gregarious man with lots of zest for life, had received a blood transfusion and subsequently discovered he had HIV. It cut short his life to the devastation of us all, and it was in seeing the wonderful care he received at St Elizabeth Hospice which made me want to do something more worthwhile in my career.
What steps did you take to pursue that calling?
My first fundraising role was at St Elizabeth Hospice and since then I have worked at several charities in Suffolk, one in London, and then I joined Ormiston Families in 2017. I consider myself so fortunate in many respects, to have had the opportunity to recalibrate and to think about something which truly enthuses and inspires me. I get up every morning wanting to work and to make a difference to the organisation. I’m not sure many employees would say that of their place of work.
What is it about working with charities (and Ormiston Families in particular) that appeals to you?
I have been with Ormiston Families for five years now, and the work we do across the East of England inspires me every day. I hear stories of children and families facing huge challenges in their life when they come to us, and it is wonderful to hear the impact we have on helping them feel more hopeful and more resilient. I also work in an organisation which really values its staff. At Ormiston Families, I can say with complete honesty that the wellbeing of everyone is paramount.
So mental health and wellbeing is something which really matters to you?
Absolutely, yes. I’m a single mum and have always drummed into my daughter Georgia that emotional and mental health is really important and that we must all invest in caring for our own mental wellbeing as much as we do our physical health. I am also a trained mental health first aider at Ormiston Families, and a member of our wellbeing team.
What does your role involve?
I lead a wonderful team of fundraising, communications and impact and insight experts. Our role is to raise funds to sustain and grow our services, tell our story and be able to prove through robust impact measurement the difference our work makes to the people we serve.
What’s happening between now and the end of the year for the charity?
We’ve always got so much going on, and it feels like there’s even more desire and interest for our events, post-Covid. People love to engage with our team and get along to the various activities we put on. In fact, we recently staged our ninth Walk With a Fork event at Helmingham Hall, and it saw some 300 people turn up – a superb turnout. Beyond this, we have talks by Charlie Haylock, and another by Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. There are always things being added, so I would urge anyone to visit https://www.ormiston.org/events/
Any plans for the charity you can share?
Our aim is to continue to grow our offer across the East of England, so that more people can be supported by our team.
We’re constantly recruiting new people and rolling out new programmes, so whether you’re interested in one of our vacancies, or you want to keep an eye out for our forthcoming projects which support wellbeing, please do get in touch.
‘Charlie & The Dig’ – An Evening With Charlie Haylock, takes place on Friday October 8, 2022, at Crows Hall Barn, Debenham. Charlie Haylock helped award-winning actor Ralph Fiennes perfect his Suffolk accent for the 2021 film ‘The Dig’ and has written multiple best-selling books on the local language and dialogue, including ‘Sloightly on th’ Huh’. To see more about the work of Ormiston Families, go to www.ormistonfamilies.org.uk.
Featured image of Kate Higgs, by Warren Page