Celebrating Small Charity Week


It’s Small Charity Week (13-18 June 2016) across the UK, raising awareness of the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector, and raising the profile of small charities – just like us.

Rockinghorse is often misconstrued as being a much bigger organisation than we actually are. In fact, we are a local, independent children’s charity that is operated by a team of just eight people. That’s not eight in the fundraising team, or eight people in the marketing team, that’s eight people in the whole charity.

With so much heritage in Sussex (having been around for nearly 50 years) the profile of Rockinghorse has risen dramatically over the last few years, which is testament to the hard work of the small team in our aim to improve the lives of sick children across the county.

Here, we answer some of the most common questions asked about the charity…

Why is Rockinghorse so important? Isn’t the funding of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital the responsibility of the NHS?

It is our role to provide the services, facilities and equipment that are deemed too costly or not necessary by the NHS. Only the core services, facilities and equipment are provided by the NHS, so the charity is here to fund anything over and above what they can provide.

For example, the High Dependency Unit at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) may be furnished with a ventilator, but due to patient demand, it might be that four ventilators are required on the unit – this, of course, can be life-saving – and this is where we come in.

As well as providing life-saving and cutting-edge medical equipment, our funding ensures that children are treated in an environment better suited to their needs; we believe that no matter where they are, children should always be allowed to be children. With this in mind, we also provide funding for furnishings and toys as well as much-needed counselling and therapy sessions for both patients and parents.

Last year we funded indoor and outdoor sensory spaces which have proved a welcome distraction for young patients and their families spending long periods of time in the Alex. Besides providing an alternative environment in which youngsters can relax and reflect, these spaces aid their social and developmental skills.

We work tirelessly to ensure that the services we support have access to the best possible kit and equipment, to help ensure a safe and positive experience for the babies, children and teenagers who use them.

Does the need to raise money ever lessen?

The restrictions and overspend within the NHS have meant that Rockinghorse is needed now more than ever before, which may come as a surprise to some. More and more local children’s services are requiring our support and applying to us for funding, including local respite centres and mental health units.

Every project we fund is approved by the hospital committee and our board of trustees. This ensures that the most appropriate projects are being funded and are sustainable for the services that needs them. In addition to those projects, we also fund presents for sick children at Christmas and provide treats at Easter, but this is all part of bringing normality to a child’s hospital experience in what can prove an incredibly difficult time for a sick child and their family.

How has the profile grown so quickly in recent years?

Rockinghorse underwent some necessary changes three and a half years ago with the introduction of a new charity CEO, Ryan Heal. With that, team changes were made and we re-focused on the cause and made our commitment clear; to make life better for sick children in Sussex.

Through a new found strategic direction, Rockinghorse has re-engaged itself in the local community. We pride ourselves on the relationships established within the business community in Brighton, Hove and further into East, West and Mid Sussex.

One of our key objectives was to demonstrate exactly where and how funds are being spent at the paediatric centres we support, including the Alex in Brighton, as well as the neighbouring Trevor Mann Baby Unit (TMBU) and its sister site, the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) based within the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

Why are we perceived as being a bigger organisation than we really are?

Rockinghorse is often misconstrued as being ‘one of the big boys’, when in fact we are a local, independent charity operated by a team of just eight staff, two of those part-time.

Our charity is nearly 50 years old (Rockinghorse was founded by Dr Trevor Mann back in 1967), and with that heritage we are often perceived as a bigger outfit than we actually are. Of course this comes as a huge compliment and is a direct indication of the dedication and hard work of the current team.

We are also supported by a small pool of volunteers of whom we rely on at our key charity fundraising events throughout the year.

Our fundraisers do well to manage expectations and many supporters are genuinely surprised that we are such a small team. We are lucky to have such incredible support in Sussex, but due to the perception of the size of the charity, it can mean that local community groups, schools, businesses and individuals may think we do not need their support, which is certainly not the case.

What challenges do we face?

The daily challenges any small local business faces affects us. Changes in the market can have a direct impact on the charity, and, as much as we rely on their generosity of donations from our supporters in order to fund our ongoing projects, we also rely on the gifts in kind donated to Rockinghorse to enable to day-to-day running of the business.

We simply do not have the funds to pay for all the back-office necessities and therefore rely on the incredible support of other local businesses, such as Trident, who have provided all our IT equipment and ongoing IT support free of charge.

What is the extent of our geographic coverage?

Predominantly, we are a Sussex-based charity. Rockinghorse is best known-for its work in Brighton and Hove – which is where the Alex is situated – but, of course, the hospital caters for children all over Sussex, even including the fringes of Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

What is the best way to get involved?

Get in touch with us! We work with many different types of supporters, who choose to fundraise for us in different ways. We offer charity places in challenge events such as marathons, triathlons, cycle rides as well as many of the new military-style assault course team-building events. We also host our own in-house events – such as the Midsummer Ball and Best of British sporting lunch – and our supporters can also hold their own fundraising events such as quiz nights, dress-down days and cake sales.

Our office is open from 9.00am-5.30pm Monday to Friday, and we can be contacted on 01273 330044 – meet our team by clicking here.

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