Tea, biscuits and our annual report

Okay, confession time. Some charities’ annual reports are dull. They don’t exactly entice you to curl up on the sofa with a cuppa and a few biscuits in eager anticipation of flicking through them. But ours isn’t like that. It really isn’t.

As well as going through our accounts, it also talks about our main activities and the impact we’ve had. We tell patients’ stories, and take the opportunity to say a great big thank you to all our supporters and funders. We’ve tried hard to make it a good read so, if you can spare half an hour to look through it, I guarantee you will learn more about us and consider it time well spent. You can read it here.

Working on the report has left me mulling three key things – how we did in the 2018/19 financial year that the report covers; what we could have done better; and how we build on our performance. Here’s how I see it…

How we did in 2018/19

In short, it was a good year. As far as our finances go, it was a strong performance. We raised just over £212k, which was up 25% on the year before. We spent just over £231k, which was a bit more than the year before, and was in line with what we planned to spend.

That means we spent about £19k more than we raised, but that’s okay. We’d planned to do that because we had some money donated in 2016 for specific projects that we were finishing spending.

This performance gives us a stable platform to continue our work. Looking ahead, we’re aiming to have an even bigger impact, which means spending – and therefore raising – even more money in future years.

Moving away from the finances, we had a very busy year. Our core work is training sonographers, and we trained 360 in 31 hospitals.

Proud boast alert – the feedback for our training was really good. 94% of sonographers said our training had increased their confidence about referring potential heart problems to specialists. 92% rated our training as ‘excellent’, and 94% said they would change they way they work as a result of our training.

That’s enough of the spoilers – the report also goes through our impact in other projects as well, including funding pulse oximetry machines, our awareness campaigns, and our family support work.

What we could do better

So 2018/19 was undoubtedly a strong year for the charity, but it wasn’t a perfect one. We’re always striving to do the best we can, and we’ve identified some things we need to keep working on. We pride ourselves on being an open and transparent charity, and I think that means we must be honest about those areas where we are trying to do better.

Firstly, we’re not reaching enough families affected by CHD. Don’t get me wrong, we’re reaching more than ever before, but still not enough. That means some families are missing out on our support and information services – and we must do more to ensure every family hears about the ways we can help them.

Some of our projects have taken too long to deliver. We’ve only got a small team – six staff, of which five are part-time – so juggling our resources is a constant challenge. This means some projects have been sitting on my ‘to do’ list for a while, or taken longer than I’d like to get up and running, and this is a source of frustration – I want to do as much as possible to help babies with CHD, as quickly as possible.

We could make better use of volunteers. We have so many talented and amazing supporters, so we’re going to be developing more opportunities for them (maybe you?) to get involved in our work.

We need to become a more diverse organisation, to better reflect and represent our beneficiaries. This is something we recognise and that our board of trustees and leadership team are working hard to improve.

And we need to raise more money. Simple as that. We’re spending more delivering charitable projects than ever before, but that means we are committed to spending more – so we need to continuing increasing our income.

Our plans for the future

So, what does the future hold? Writing an annual report inevitably makes you look back – in this case to the 2018/19 financial year, but it is also a time for confirming plans for future years.

Our vision doesn’t change. We want every baby with CHD in the UK to have the best chance of survival and the highest possible quality of life.

We remain committed to our four areas of work:

  1. Training and supporting sonographers and other health professionals working to help patients with CHD;
  2. Funding equipment and supporting new technologies to improve detection, diagnosis and treatment;
  3. Influencing service standards and being a voice for patients and families;
  4. Providing families with information, advice and access to support.

Training sonographers is and always will be our core activity, and we’re looking at some exciting ways to expanding our training services – including online courses and resources, and using new technologies such as 3D printed hearts.

We’re going to redouble our efforts to get our awareness messages – Think 20 and Think HEART – spread far and wide; and we’ve got new information and support projects lined up.

And our pulse oximetry project goes from strength to strength. We want every newborn to have access to the test that can help show potential heart problems, so we’ll continue to fund machines and campaign for the test to become available to all new babies.

I have a spreadsheet called ‘new project ideas’. It’s a simple list and brief description of – you’ve probably guessed it – all the new projects we’d like to work on but haven’t yet had the funding, resources or time to progress. It’s a long list. Last count, there were around 30 projects sitting on the list, just waiting until we can get going on them.

That’s Tiny Tickers’ future. More of the same great work we are already doing – work that has helped increase average antenatal detection rates of CHD from 23% to 50% in the 20 years we’ve been around. Plus a whole raft of new work that we’re eager to get stuck into as soon as funding and resources allow.

And that’s where we rely on you, our incredible supporters – put very simply, without your support we can’t achieve any of that. So we remain incredibly grateful to every single person, company or grant-maker who donates, fundraises and supports us in any way.

However small you think your contribution to Tiny Tickers is, I can assure you, it’s absolutely vital. Which is why our annual report finishes with a page dedicated to thanking our supporters, volunteers and everyone who contributes to our work. But, then, you’ll see that when you read the report, won’t you? Go on, have a flick through – I’ll pop the kettle on and fetch you those biscuits…

Jon Arnold, Tiny Tickers CEO

Read our annual report here.