My Charity Career – Suzanne Delaney

We were eager to reach out to Suzanne Delaney to hear of her impressive career. We hope you enjoy her ‘Charity Chat’ as much as we did. We are currently recruiting an Account Manager to join the team at FoodCloud, to find out more click here.

What is your current role and how long have you been working in it?

I am Development Director at FoodCloud, I joined FoodCloud in June 2020 in the peak of the Pandemic but collaboration and my love for FoodCloud goes back a long way before actually joining the business. I am accountable for driving the financial growth of the business as per the requirements of the strategic plan, this involves interpreting and converting organisational strategies into fundable proposals and innovative programmes, revenue can come from corporations, private individuals, major donors, government grants or the general public.

It involves leading a dynamic team of professionals to implement and deliver on complex and multifaceted corporate relationships that cover income, employee engagement programmes, cause-related marketing, sustainability programmes and food donations.

How did you get to where you are today and what influenced your decision to work in your chosen field?

I lived in Australia for many years and was a co-founder of a large digital agency that was successfully sold to Spike Networks. I returned to Ireland in 2006 and joined the Ogilvy & Mather Group as Head of Digital. One of the most rewarding aspects of my ten years at Ogilvy was working with the ISPCC and the HSE on behavioural change programmes to solve social issues, this work opened many doors to sector collaboration and meeting new passionate people with innovative ideas. I was invited on to the Board of Camara Education and went out to Ethiopia to discover firsthand how access to education and technology could change the lives of young people in disadvantaged communities.

It was during this period, I met Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien who had just started up FoodCloud. They had just developed the technology platform and were in the early stages of trial with Tesco with plans to roll out with the largest food bank in the UK. They were also collaborating with Bia Food in Cork with plans to merge and extend services to Dublin. I supported them at this early stage to define a brand strategy and took great interest in their continuous growth and development. In 2017 I was invited to become a non-executive Board Director.

In 2017, I also joined Business in the Community to focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, I managed a portfolio of twelve of Ireland’s leading businesses – integrating social, environmental, ethical and human rights concerns into their core business strategies and engaging their employees and key stakeholders into the various projects.  During this period I worked with a number of food industry accounts who were engaging with FoodCloud Services to reduce Food Waste.

COVID 19 brought significant challenges for Food Bank operations globally. FoodCloud was no exception, from extreme peaks and troughs in the supply of food, limited volunteers and restrictive work practices. Demand for food increased by 75% more than in 2019 to over 650 charities and community groups across Ireland, which meant scaling up operations and funding to build business capacity, when the role of interim Partnership Director came up it was the perfect fit for me.

What do you love most about your job?

I am really inspired by FoodCloud’s vision, where no good food goes to waste, this is driven by a mission to transform surplus food into an opportunity that opens up ideas for creativity and kindness. This work is underpinned by a set of values that everyone buys into and got us through some tough times over the last twelve months.

As a Board Member, I had great respect for the ambition and drive of the leadership team and their commitment to continuous improvement and growth in the face of adversity. I am really proud to be part of that team now and to have played a role during one of the toughest years when most companies were finding ways to keep their lights on, we were planning our vision for 2030

What’s something you’re working on that you’re excited about?

We have several really interesting ‘blue sky’ projects in the pipeline at FoodCloud but one of particular note is Foodiverse, our new global technology platform that will support the redistribution of food at all stages of the food supply chain and empower food banks all over the world to redistribute more food.

I am also excited about a project with Irish Growers to access fresh fruit and vegetables that have previously been left unharvested and in most cases go to waste. The project will explore the potential for increasing surplus food and ways to overcome the financial barriers and complexities of working with growers. Similar projects in overseas markets have been very successful in raising funds to support farmers and ensuring communities get access to healthy and nutritious food.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

I started working for FoodCloud in June, three months into the COVID 19 pandemic, when we saw some of our highest and lowest volumes of food amid panic buying and the closure of the hospitality sector. Working with remote teams to meet challenging targets, motivating others to stay the course and onboarding new colleagues was not easy, but getting partners or a philanthropic donor on board to support our work or a programme is very rewarding. Knowing that we have enough funding to achieve our strategic objectives and financial stability makes it all worthwhile.

How do you relax?

I enjoyed reading, walking, gardening, cooking and entertaining friends. Being a daughter, a mother, a sister, a wife, a dog owner and escaping from
them all to remote places is good too

What skills and personality traits do you think are essential for a job like yours?

Cultural fit is one of the most important aspects when working in the charity sector and a commitment to mission-driven work. FoodCloud’s core values are – we are role models, we are enterprising, we are in it together, we are doers and we are driven by kindness, we demonstrate these values through our work and weekly meetings to ensure everyone feels part of a great team. Skillsets like the ability to collaborate with diverse groups, resilience, adaptability, creativity, being well organised, lots of patience and being a good listener are the core skills needed for development or fundraising professionals.

What is your advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the same field?

The charity sector is full of people from all walks of life, who are driven by a desire to truly make a difference. They work with organisations that are dedicated to a cause that is meaningful to them. So the first step is to consider the type of charity you would like to work for, what are you passionate about – Climate Change, Mental Health, Education? Narrowing down the causes will help to find an organisation that you are sincere and genuinely care about.

There are plenty of skills that are transferable to a fundraising role – sales, communication, project management, team building are all beneficial to business development and relationship management. Soft skills are important also being self-motivated, good written and verbal skills, and of course multitasking is a prerequisite for the charity sector

Spending some time volunteering for a charity is a good opportunity to see how charities operate and understand the various revenue models. The Wheel (National Association of Community and Volunteer Organisations) offers several certified training programmes which are well recognised, they also have a great blog and podcasts for staying on top of trends and industry news

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I ever received was from my mum ‘Give more than you expect to receive’ this was her religion, she was the kindest person I know and my husband is the second. It has been the foundation of my personal and professional life. In life, we often seek out situations that are beneficial to us, and that will help us be successful. I have taken a different approach and look for ways to make others shine. I find joy in supporting others and providing them with the tools to achieve their goals. Leaders create leaders and when you support people they, in turn, will help you
when needed, whether it is building a brand or looking for funding, kindness always wins.

What has been the best moment of your career so far?

There have been many moments in my career that I am very proud of, from building businesses, working with leading brands, and winning awards for great work, but the decision to change direction in my career and work in the not-for-profit sector has been the most rewarding.  Having a sense of purpose and passion for improving societal conditions and impacting the lives of others has brought great meaning to my own life. I love the creativity, the constant challenges, and working with people who are truly driven to make the world a better place.

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead careerwise?

We have just completed our next three-year strategy at FoodCloud with a big vision for 2030, I am excited about my role in driving financial growth and building partnerships to help us increase our impact. I am also looking forward to deep diving into a new framework for our social impact measurement and completing my Masters in Sustainability at DCU.

If you’re a professional who works in the not-for-profit sector and you’re interested in taking part in the ‘My Charity Career’ interview series, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]   We’d love to hear from you!