Placement year. Nothing to be Concerned about!

The Charity sector. Somewhere I didn’t think a degree in Public Relations could take you. My views were drastically changed through my placement year at Concern Worldwide where I saw the range of activities that a PR professional can engage in.

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The Community Fundraising team at Concern

Going into my interview (which was a day before I was heading off on a 6 week holiday to Vietnam and Thailand) I wasn’t convinced that this was going to be the job for me. Debating with my parents whether I should actually even go to the interview at all, I (my mum) decided I should go for interview experience. 2 days later, as I was sitting in a bar in Bangkok, I got a phone call from Concern asking me to take the job. Not a bad start to the holiday!

A day after I came back from holidays I took up my new job role. Understandably I was still abit jet-lagged after a 13 hour flight the day before and so was slightly hesitant about the workload, but think everyone realised I wasn’t going to be much use for a couple of days!

Concern was broken up into several different departments. I was based in the Community Fundraising team where we dealt with day-to-day fundraisers or events, Concern groups and worked closely with schools, amongst many other things. After finding out about my experience in the retail sector through working for Next for several years, I was also put in charge of managing one of Concern’s retail shops for a couple of months, which developed a lot of my skills massively.

Since I left school 4 years ago, my interests have always been in events and events management. I was over the moon when my manager told me I would be taking control of the London Marathon for the year. This was a major responsibility for me in the Community Fundraising team.

The London Marathon is one of the main sources of income for the year for the team as each individual needs to raise at least £2000. Concern buys several places every year and to fill them takes a lot of work (as I well and truly found out) due to the nature of different charities competing to fill all their spaces. I took advantage of piggybacking on Concern’s ‘Do Your Thing’ Campaign which was aimed at people going out and doing challenges and donating any money raised to Concern.

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Some of the team at the cheering point for our runners in London

After several months of slaving away trying to get the numbers of registrations up we finally reached the target of 12 individuals which was absolutely fantastic. It was vastly rewarding when looking through all of our participants and seeing the range of people who had signed up. Ranging from a school teacher who has completed over 25 marathons, to a successful security firm consultant from Dubai. As I had to keep on top of people’s sponsorships, I was in contact with everyone at least twice a week, and it was rewarding to build relationships with people from such a range of backgrounds. Soaking up all the atmosphere around London really enjoyable and to see our runners come over the line one by one was extremely rewarding. To make things better we raised over £32,000 (and still rising when I was leaving) which was the most the event had raised for Concern in several years.

Other events I was involved in was the Christmas Jumper World Record Attempt in Derry last Christmas. Concern were one of the benefitting charities and myself and a couple of my colleagues helped organise the event on the day. We dropped short, but it was close and was a good insight into event management! A not so happy one was my involvement in the One World Run committee. Again, with Concern being one of the benefiting charities, they required a representative on the board, which I elected to do. Unfortunately, the founding members felt that after a series of unprecedented circumstances, the event would have to come to a close. I was involved with the organisation of the closing ceremony which took place in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour at City Hall with Brian Kingston attending and speaking at the event, which was a pleasure to be a part of.

All in all, my placement opened my eyes to the flexibility of the charity sector in relation to Public Relations and Marketing. Everyone in the company made it an extremely enjoyable year, especially my own team who helped me through my events and campaigns. Was definitely worth the last minute interview!

Daniel McGrenaghan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at the University of Ulster. He can be found on Twitter @danielmcg132