Cause in focus – Something To Look Forward To - Play Fund Win

Cause in focus – Something To Look Forward To

February 2, 2022

Cause in focus – Something To Look Forward To

We speak to Francesca Abery, Managing Director of Something To Look Forward To, about the work they do in supporting cancer patients and their families with incredible gifts.

With World Cancer Day taking place this week, what better time to reflect on a draw we held late last year with a fantastic cancer support charity.

Something To Look Forward To enable people with cancer, and their families, to access a variety of gifts which are generously donated by people and companies. Since they charity became operational in 2016, they have supported thousands of people, delivering projects to improve the lives of those affected by cancer poverty.

We spoke to their Managing Director, Francesca Abery, about why the charity was founded, who has benefitted from their service, the challenges which they face, and how their Play Fund Win digital fundraising draw will support their work.

When was the charity founded – and why?

“The charity, something to look forward to, was formed in December 2015. We became operational in the following February. It was born from the idea of my mother and my stepfather. My mum, Fiona was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in 2007, which then became secondary in 2013, which, unfortunately, is terminal.

We learned first-hand as a family how important it is to create memories together, when someone has been diagnosed with cancer, and to have something to look forward to. But we also learned that when you are diagnosed with cancer, finances are impacted. So, at a time when you want to be doing these things, like going out for a restaurant meal, or going for a short break somewhere, it is the time that you can least afford to do it.

The idea of the charity was to be able to provide free gifts and experiences to other families across the UK. The way we do that is by working with kind and caring individuals and businesses who donate all of the provision that we offer.”

How many people have benefitted from the service?

“We’ve just entered our seventh year of operations. To date, we’ve supported just under 20,000 people affected by cancer. That includes the person with the cancer diagnosis, but also the family members, carers and friends that are also supported via the provision.

We’ve provided over 3000 gifts, and the value of the gifts and experiences we’ve provided is £916,000- so we’re getting close to that million mark! We might reach that by the end of year seven, so we’re very excited about that.”

What is your role within the charity?

“I started off as a Service and Development Manager when my mum was alive, and I was working alongside her [role] as the Founding Director. I’ve now stepped up since she passed away to become the Managing Director and [have] got some big boots to fill. I essentially oversee the whole running of the service, and that means that I manage the delivery of our projects. I supervise all of our staff. Because we are a small charity, [I also] support fundraising and gift sourcing, PR and marketing, and social media. One of the joys of working for a small charity is that you do get to do an array of things.”

What are the biggest challenges which the charity faces?

“We don’t spend any of the funds that we raise on purchasing the gifts and experiences. What we actually use the fundraising for is to fund our project workers and our gift [seekers] to build relationships with individuals and businesses, using their skills and expertise to encourage them to donate. The reason we do it that way is because it makes us so much more cost effective. We’ve learned over the years that we tripled the value of the funds provided [to us] into the amount of gifts and experiences we can provide. It’s fantastic, but what that means in terms of difficulties is that we’re not only fundraising to source the gifts and experiences, but we’re fundraising to provide the salaries for our workers as well. That’s difficult, it’s two lots of work. I’d say that’s probably the biggest difficulty.”

What are your main financial challenges?

“Our biggest cost is definitely general running costs. That’s so difficult, I think with sort of more traditional lines of fundraising, especially looking at trusts and foundations, is that securing [funds for] those general running costs and operational costs is always a bit harder. Trusts and foundations want to see you delivering new innovative projects, which is great. But if you have something that works, like our main service delivery, that’s what we need funded. They don’t often want to see it just going on staff costs. That’s why having streams like Play Fund Win, which is essentially completely restricted funding for [our] organisation [is] what’s really helpful for us.”

How has Covid-19 impacted the charity?

“The COVID pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on our fundraising, and more specifically, our community fundraising. When we went into the first national lockdown, all of our planned community events had to be cancelled. It was difficult to reschedule anything with so much uncertainty [and] we completely lost that revenue that we would usually rely on. Community fundraising at that point was, I think, our biggest income stream. So that was incredibly anxiety provoking. I think now, so many months later, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Some people are doing community fundraising events, but not as much as we’ve seen before, because people are still concerned about their safety and their health. We have to think ethically as an organisation as to whether we should be pushing these sorts of large-scale fundraisers in the community, which is why we’ve had to improve our digital fundraising presence. [It] is definitely something that’s new to us as an organisation. I am kind of self-taught in that area I suppose, we don’t have a specific social media manager, who does those things but we’re learning – and Play Fund Win is part of that.”

How have you previously carried out fundraising?

“We have three main fundraising streams. The community fundraising could be individuals taking on challenges or larger scale events, and part of that would come to regular donations or one-off donations from members of the public as well. Then we have our trusts and foundations. We spend a lot of time researching trusts that might want to support our cause, it takes a lot of time writing the bids, to submit them. It’s hard work, I think it’s about 10% success rate at the moment, which can be quite soul destroying. But we do need to have regular, different streams coming in.

The third one is corporate fundraising – building relationships with larger businesses and asking them to donate on a regular business and securing partnerships. I guess the new one for us now are more digital campaigns. Two Christmases in a row, we’ve run what’s called the Big Give campaign, and now we’re working with Play Fund Win to do monthly raffles.”

How do you see the future of fundraising for charities?

“I think I think the traditional sorts of fundraising events will still go ahead. Because not everyone is switched on, I suppose. But undoubtedly, you need to have a digital presence. I think part of that is to is to help your fundraising as well. We’re aware of that and trying to move with the times. We’ve really tried to improve our supporter journey, as well. As a small charity, I suppose that was difficult for us to concentrate on in the beginning, but now we’re really trying to improve that and to engage people in in the digital campaigns that we’re running.”

How was your experience of using Play Fund Win?

“I think the setup was really simple and we felt very supported even from the beginning when we were finding out about whether we actually wanted to work with Play Fund Win, like having some really honest, open and frank conversations was really, really helpful. For our first draw we offered an experience rather than a cash prize, and that was a five-course tasting menu in a top London restaurant. We obviously had to source that through one of our donors.

Then really, it kind of went to Play Fund Win to help us create all the assets we needed, advice around how to push things out, where to advertise, how to market it. Then we had a month to  reach people, to engage people in the draw via regular social media posts. We utilised our three social media platforms, our e-newsletter, and our charity website.”

What support did Play Fund Win provide for your draw?

“Being able to speak to Kyle [Play Fund Win’s Business Development Manager] about some of our concerns and worries with it. We provide experiences to our cancer community and we wanted to be really careful about what we offered as a prize in fundraising as well. And just having him there, I suppose throughout the whole of the process. Although we worked with James [from Play Fund Win’s marketing team] most closely, I feel like Kyle was always there, kind of overlooking, and ensuring that we were receiving all the support we could get. That’s quite impressive from a more senior member of staff.”

How will you be using the funds raised for the charity in your draw?

“So, the funds that we’ve raised from our first draw, because they are unrestricted, will go into helping us deliver the service in 2022. More specifically, we have always delivered what we’ve called our main gift programme, which has never been formally funded, which is absolutely bizarre. We’ve just renamed it as our Experience More programme. Following the pandemic, we want to provide more experiences to our cancer community who were forced to shield for such long periods of time.

The money will go towards us being able to source more experiences and we will triple the value of what was raised from the draw into the provision that we can provide!”

To find out more about raising funds for your charity or good cause, or one which you are looking support either personally or as a business, please contact us on and we’ll be happy to help.

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