Eager to celebrate the amazing women in Welsh business, this week we at Ivy Marketing were luckily enough to interview Hannah Fitt, the Founder of Cardiff-based charity; Safe Foundation. Discussing both the challenges and rewards of promoting a charitable business, Hannah paints a picture of the reality of working in the industry, sharing her experiences and tips with our readers.

Hi Hannah, what is the SAFE Foundation and how did it all start?

The SAFE Foundation is an international development charity. Half of our work takes places overseas in countries that are developing and half takes places here in the UK where we work with vulnerable young people. We deliver health, education and skills projects to people and communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

We started back in 2006. Myself and my twin sister, Lucy have been brought up in an environment where we were taught values of giving back, taking part and supporting people who need it so it was natural that we started volunteering and getting involved in projects overseas from a young age. Lucy spent a year in Uganda after high school and saw how there was some amazing international work going on but also how some support still struggles to filter down to some of the most vulnerable people in communities. People who often get left behind because of a specific barrier or issue they face; so for example, we work with children who have special needs in Uganda, The Gypsy and tribal communities in India, Child labourers in Cambodia and young people in the UK who are disengaged and disenfranchised. We saw an opportunity to do something very specifically for these groups and so our projects are small but very focussed.

We struggled initially as an international charity to gain support because people are naturally sceptical about where their money goes and tend to relate less to international issues than things happening on their doorstep. People found it hard to see the relevance of helping overseas unless it is in response to a crisis. This is why we thought it was essential to do a UK project where we could bridge that knowledge gap and educate young people who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) and who are facing multiple challenges (like homelessness, mental health issues etc). We teach them about Global Education topics – things like immigration, cultural sensitivity, responsible consumerism etc. Importantly we then give these young people the opportunity to contextualise their learning and experience an overseas project. When they come back they are ready to reflect on their own issues with a global perspective and we have a great track record of not only getting these young people positively back into jobs and training – but also creating shiny, happy and conscientious people.

We notice that you are currently recruiting for PR and Communications volunteers, can you tell us a little bit about that scheme.

We love our volunteers! They inspire us every day. SAFE is a really great place to come and learn about yourself and get involved in new skills and experiences so we have an exciting mix of volunteering opportunities at our HQ.

The PR and Comms team, as you can imagine are full of creativity and artistic flair and they help us to keep on top of our social media, promote campaigns for our projects, make videos of our work (to show people at our events or to send to funders); basically find really creative ways to help our supporters (existing and potential) to learn, connect and engage with what we do.

Its so much fun though – we have a laugh, we let the volunteers take a project and run with it and we are interested in being a little quirky and standing out from the crowd a little so the guys have fun with that.

We are interested in people. They are at the heart of everything and if you are an ideas person, or a closet (or out) artist of some sort then get involved.

Although you do great deal of digital marketing, we know that you deliver talks. How important is it to have a physical presence when spreading the word of your business?

Its essential. Personally I do a lot of public speaking and I will never ever stop getting passionate or enthusiastic about we do and that’s what people want to feel. Its a great way to project the passion and love for what we do. It doesn’t matter what industry or sector we work in – we are all dealing with people on some level and you can’t beat having a conversation with someone or putting a face to a name. We are also a really accessible and open organisation. We aren’t a group of people sitting in an HQ in a high rise office somewhere. We love it when people come in and have a cuppa with us – The board and the management are always at an event partying with the best of them – and it helps people respond to us on that human level.

Our digital presence really does reflect the personalities of the people behind the screen and we like to extend that to the real life experience.

What would you say the biggest challenges are in marketing in the charitable space?

Its competitive, the same as any industry. Making your appeals relevant and having mainstream appeal is hard – especially in the international sector. We are dealing with people at their most vulnerable and disadvantaged but we don’t want to appeal to people’s sense of guilt or obligation – we want to appeal to their sense of compassion and empathy while being allowed to have a great time at an event for example. So finding the balance between being an exciting, fun and dynamic charity and portraying the magnitude the desperation and need in our projects is always going to be a real challenge.

We are seeing an influx of charitable start-ups in Wales; what tips would you give to new organisations looking to gain traction?

Slow and steady wins the race. Before we started The SAFE Foundation we started something called The Juniper Orphan Fund and we weren’t ready. We had the people, we had some momentum of supporters, but we didn’t have the skills. Everyone involved in charity has a humanitarian heart – it’s why they are doing what they do – but people who care can often spread themselves too thin or try to do so much quickly. The need is always going to be there – so set yourself with the skills and knowledge first so you know that what you deliver is sustainable and realistic.

Also – people are scared of partnership work. Its always great to include as many likeminded people as possible if its going to make a difference – so don’t be precious or protective of your ideas. Share the love.

What are the next steps for SAFE foundation?

We are currently getting ready to deliver the next stage of our Global Education course for corporate clients which is important and exciting – as well as working with Ex Welsh Goal Keeper – Neville Southall to deliver it to more vulnerable young people in Ebbw Vale.

Personally, I’m off to India in October to deliver social enterprise training to our community and partners in one of our projects there.
We are going to be celebrating Halloween as best we do (its one of the highlights of the year!) and generally we are going to be moving into Bristol and the South West with our UK project and we are working at making it an amazing digital experience so watch this space.

We are always looking for volunteers – to work locally and internationally so get in touch to find out more.