It's all systems go for 'The Love Run' which takes place on Valentine's Day

We catch up with Public Engagement Manager of the Irish Heart Foundation, Anne Riordan to find out about her career to-date and the current fundraisers and campaigns that she is involved in
It's all systems go for 'The Love Run' which takes place on Valentine's Day

Public Engagement Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation, Anne Riordan.

Name: Anne Riordan

Age: 50

Lives: Originally from Bandon, Co Cork now living in Glin, West Limerick but I will always be pure Cork

Job title: Public Engagement Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

Salary bracket: 45,000-60,000

Education background: Degree in Business Studies, CIT/MTU; MII Grad, Dip in PR, Higher Cert in Counselling

Hobbies: Running, swimming, cycling – a few triathlons, walking and reading

Describe your job in five words: Helping hearts by engaging public donations

Describe yourself in five words: Caring, creative, fun loving, motivated and a high-achiever

Personality needed for this kind of work? Good interpersonal skills, creative, empathic, high energy and very organised 

How long are you doing this job? I am working with the Foundation for over 14 years and in recent times my role evolved into this position.

How did you get this job? After completing a certificate in Business Studies in 1990, and having a flair for sales I started working in advertising. I had not invested much effort in study and it was only when I had matured a little more and got some business experience that I returned to part-time academia and finished my Business degree in 1999.

My career in advertising lasted 14 years and included positions in Cork Scene Magazine, 96&103fm and RTÉ culminating in my role as an Account Manager in RTÉ.

In 2003, I volunteered with the Special Olympics World Games as an Event Manager, everyone kept telling us we would get more out of it than we put in to it and they were not wrong. It really was a very significant turning point for me and I knew I wanted to use my skills in a way that would benefit others.

Anne Riordan with daughter Grace.
Anne Riordan with daughter Grace.

So, after a few years working with a wonderful organisation in West Cork CoAction, I moved to the Regional Office for the Irish Heart Foundation taking up responsibility for the fundraising and promotion of the Foundation in the Munster Region. My predecessor Paddy O’Brien was on hand to show me the ropes and to this day he has been a mentor and friend to me. His tirelessness and dedication have been an inspiration.

One of the reasons I have been here so long is because I fervently believe in the work of the Foundation and its mission to reduce premature death and disability from heart disease and stroke. 

When Covid-19 came to Ireland the Irish Heart Foundation pivoted it’s services, taking as many services online and over the phone as possible and ensuring we were there for those who needed us most. Unfortunately, fundraising in the community has been affected but my team and I have created new ways people can fundraise and we are now in the middle of a major National fundraising campaign. As many meetings, training and events have moved online, it has allowed me to see more of my colleagues who were based around the country, and learn and engage in more ways.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Fundraising techniques have really advanced and now many new entrants get qualifications in the subject through the Charities Institute of Ireland. My role requires experience in event and project management, customer relationship management, being creative and lots of energy.

Describe a day at work: To begin the day, I do some home schooling from 9-10am. My daughter Grace is in Junior Infants and her amazing teacher Ms Dalton sends through lots of activities and events to keep the children engaged. We go through the important bits during that hour and I try to set her up with a few activities to keep her entertained for a bit.

Anne Riordan, who is currently organising the Love Run and the Show Some Heart Campaign.
Anne Riordan, who is currently organising the Love Run and the Show Some Heart Campaign.

At the moment I am in the middle of organising a virtual fundraising challenge – the Love Run, which is happening on Valentine’s Day. Every waking hour is spent ensuring our fundraisers, supporters and volunteers are equipped with what they need. This is achieved through answering queries, managing our private Facebook Group for the event and refreshing our registration page on Eventbrite to see how many more people have signed up. 

The Show Some Heart campaign is great and there will be thousands of people all over Ireland donning Irish Heart Foundation neck warmers and running or walking their 5km on Sunday, February 14.

In addition to that, I attend meetings throughout the day to develop other fundraising activities . I am attending Give panel Academy once a week and there are always opportunities to tune into webinars from online platforms on new ways to engage our supporters, when I can fit them in.

We have a daily exercise session online for just a minute but we try to do a different exercise each day – it’s so important to keep moving especially when I spend so long being sedentary or in front of screens.

I completed a personal productivity course with e-Bridge a number of years ago and realised the importance of clearing my inbox each day. At the moment that is a huge challenge as many people have signed up for the Love Run and all queries are coming back to me. I have great support but I really like to answer as many as I can personally. We are also monitoring fundraisers activities and offering support where we think it is needed.

On top of the current Love Run event in our Show Some Heart campaign, I am helping to plan future events, which include recruiting supporters for marathons and mini marathons, The Echo Women's Mini Marathon being an important one for the Irish Heart Foundation. I am also supporting other fundraisers including people who wish to avail of our wedding favours and organise other events for us. Sometimes the support I give is technical; it might be explaining how to use platforms, promote the event but a lot of the time people are fundraising because they lost someone or have been affected by heart disease or stroke.

How many hours do you work a week? At the moment it’s very busy but usually I work 40+ hours per week. I also volunteer for four hours a week as a Facebook moderator on two of our support groups; Life After Stroke  and the Heart Support Network.

What do you wear to work? My professional wardrobe is collecting dust and I have been living in leisurewear since last March. I do try to stay active so it is more comfortable to be wearing sweats.

Is your industry male or female dominated? It seems to be about 70% female to 30% male. As the sector grows, it is becoming more gender neutral.

Does this affect you in any particular way? Not at all.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: It used to be and a lot of that was because I was on the road so much and was under pressure to be places. On my return I used to have to catch up on emails. I think not having to be away and being able to spend more time with my family has definitely taken most of the stress out of my job. 

I am working with an amazing team and we are really collaborating and having fun while we are doing it. 

I am going to say I am at a healthy stress level of about four, lots of work to be done but getting there.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work as part of a small team that is part of the fundraising department. We were joined this year by some really talented Graduates and I am delighted with their help.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? I think I’ll retire when I am no longer able to contribute or else when I’m old enough to – I have big plans for afterwards including writing, gardening and maybe training for an Ironman at 65???

Best bits: The best bits are the people – I meet the best of people who are so kind and generous, some are real heroes who have survived loss or traumatic events and all they want to do is help others. The staff are amazing and are so committed to helping and assisting people in our support services.

I have met many young people who have survived out of hospital cardiac arrests by bystander CPR, to know that nearly 190 people were saved in 2018 (most recent figures). We provide training in communites and schools, which is on hold at the moment due to Covid restrictions. We have just run an Act F.A.S.T. awareness campaign so people will recognise the symptoms of stroke and act quickly; we know through previous research this kind of awareness can save hundreds of lives each year.

Worst bits: Now I realise the worst bit was all the driving. I would like to spend a little more time with my daughter but try to make up for it at the weekends.

Advice to those who want your job? If you want to work for any not for profit organisation it really helps to have a personal reason for getting involved, you will feel more passionate about your work and be a lot happier. Always a good idea to volunteer first, get a feel for the culture of the organisation, and see if it’s a good fit for you. Be prepared to work hard and wait for me to retire.

Any other comments?

After working with the Irish Heart Foundation so long, I never miss an opportunity to remind people that they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke significantly. There are still 1 in 5 people having a stroke each year and unfortunately 1 in 3 of us will die from heart disease but by eating healthily and consuming less alcohol, not smoking, getting regular exercise and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels we can reduce our risk by up to 80%. There’s lots more details available on our website www.irishheart.ie 

Over the years, I have learned that I am only limited by my own beliefs. We are all capable of doing anything we truly want as long as we work hard enough for it. We may not get the same results as others but as long as you put in your best effort you can be proud of your achievements.

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