Rowan Tree Cancer Care

Welsh charity Rowan Tree Cancer Care was set up in 2002 to provide practical and emotional support to people within Rhondda Cynon Taff whose lives have been affected by cancer. The charity’s core service uses volunteer drivers – who have all been touched by cancer themselves – to provide free transport to hospital appointments.

Complementary therapies, counselling, and benefits advice are also available at its drop-in centre and at several outreach services based in local GP practices.

There are currently 9,000 clients being supported by Rowan Tree. One client says:  “Rowan Tree arranged transport for me to hospital five days a week for a month. Everyone at Rowan Tree all have something in common – they have either been a victim of cancer themselves or have been involved in some way with someone who has. Because of that involvement they have understanding and are dedicated to making life as comfortable as possible for those who have been unfortunate enough to contract this terrible disease.”

When chief executive Rhian Dash read about Pilotlight in a newspaper article she knew they needed its expertise to guide them through a period of rapid expansion. Rowan Tree had recently moved into its first unrented property after securing funding from various bodies to buy a building. “This was something that we had always wanted to do for sustainability because we were paying £12,000-£15,000 a year on rent.

“The Pilotlighters then advised us on how we could generate extra income from the building. It has a spa and hydrotherapy pool, so we now host well-being days for companies to treat their staff to pamper sessions and we hire out our rooms for meetings.”

Rowan Tree also generates income through its charity shop which is run as a social enterprise. Rhian was keen to open another one, and the Pilotlighters helped her come up with the idea for a bridal and prom shop.

Rowan Tree graduated from Pilotlight in March 2012 and Rhian expects to see turnover increasing over the next couple of years as a result of the Pilotlight process. The number of clients the charity supports is set to increase too. At the time, Rowan Tree covered part of the borough but Rhian was keen to cover the whole area. “However, some trustees were worried that the geographical area would be too big for us. But when they talked to the Pilotlighters they realised that if we didn’t tender to the Cwm Taf Health Board for funding to provide services across the borough, then someone else would come in and take the business from us.”

The bid was successful and the funding contributes to the costs of transporting clients to any hospital in the borough for their cancer-related appointments.

Rhian appreciated being able to call on the Pilotlighters' expertise. One of those lending their expertise was Lynda Campbell, regional director for Wales at British Gas. The rest of the Pilotlight team consisted of corporate members from Royal Mail and Confused.com and an individual member.

“Everything rested on Rhian, " says Lynda. "Through this process we worked with the board and this helped them realise that they needed to take more responsibility and support Rhian better.”

The process helped the charity plan a staff restructure, develop business acumen and source new income streams, says Lynda. “There is a lot to offer by matching business people with charities. I’m encouraging my team to get involved with good causes because it will help them develop.”

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