Kew Green Hotels has nominated Greenfingers Charity as their Charity Partner until 2019. We were speechless when they presented us with a cheque for £100,000 this year. Here we talk to their Managing Director, Neil Sewell about why they chose Greenfingers and how they use innovative and inspiring ideas to fundraise within their hotels.
- Tell us about Kew Green Hotels;
We are one of the UK’s leading hotel management companies, with a growing estate which currently includes 55 hotels across the UK, from Glasgow to Brighton. Our portfolio includes independently branded hotels, as well as a range of international brands under families including IHG, Marriott, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Accor. We’re proud of our outstanding people and proud of our results.
- How did you hear about Greenfingers and why did you choose to support this charity in 2017?
Individually we’ve all supported charities in our Hotels, however I felt it was time to focus our collective efforts, together as one family. Simply having Green in the name was a bonus to us, and so I chose Greenfingers, a small charity I thought we could make a big difference too. Meeting with the team at Greenfingers convinced us that no matter what our contribution, it would be received with warmth, dedication and would be applied to the best of everyone’s ability. Having canvassed opinion throughout our business it’s fair to say it touched everyone one us – we’re emotionally hooked!
- You’ve raised over £100k since the partnership began in late December 2016, how did you kick-start the fundraising?
Firstly, we’re all so pleased we passed the £100k milestone, we’re still pinching ourselves! In essence we wanted to have FUN and that’s certainly been the case throughout the year. The videos on the Greenfingers site have been a great help and we presented them at all internal company meetings to kick start our efforts. Each part of the business had a coordinator who communicated to a regional coordinator, and JustGiving team pages were formed to raise competition between the Regions, with each one setting their own targets. I also circulated a list of 50 Fundraising Ideas at the outset. Starting with a sponsored water ‘battle’ between our head office and leadership team in Decembers icy sea right opposite the Holiday Inn, Brighton, after which we launched the Accumulator Challenge, and developed a calendar of events for the year.
- What else have your teams been doing to raise money?
I’ll apologise in advance for not being able to cover everyone’s efforts, as this page isn’t big enough to list all their achievements!
- We took part in the Garden Re - leaf Day walk and Helen Barker from our leisure sales department took it upon herself to run in an event for every garden 53 races for 53 Gardens, which is a staggering effort with over 350 miles run.
- All our Gyms have run several ‘Athon’s’ cycling, running, swimming and linking the distance to all our clubs, or riding static bikes to Paris and beyond.
- Three Golf Days this year have been incredible, show casing the charity as well as being great fun for our customers and suppliers.
- In November we took all our General Managers to Hong Kong for our Bi Annual Leadership Meeting, where GM Kenny, bungee jumped from the Macau Tower the World’s Highest Bungee @ 233m raising a further £1000.00!
- Following a successful afternoon and evening by one of my colleagues Beverley, we’re opening our gardens in 2018 to ‘The Greenfingers Garden Party’, hosting parties in our own Gardens and fundraising with friends and families at the same time.
- Our major franchisor IHG has also match funded our efforts to an agreed value during their dedicated IHG Foundation Week, which is a global week of fundraising over all of the IHG Brands, and we’re very grateful for this support which actually sits outside of our current total raised to date.
- We now also have a Go Green for Greenfingers day annually where we all dress in green with wigs, make up, nails, you name it! Together we’re making a difference.
- Your staff are totally engaged with the charity partnership and are great Ambassadors for the charity. How have you encouraged their support?
Our activities are discussed regularly at every level of the business. We’ve got a Greenfingers dedicated in-company Facebook page, and the creativity of my colleagues never ceases to amaze me. We’ve seen everything from Zoe in Glasgow making 200 cupcakes at the start of every month with her family to ‘Old fashioned Stocks’, Guess the Smarties in a jar, George in Swindon regularly fundraising with his local Football team, or it could simply be a weekly bottle of wine raffle, this one idea in one hotel raises a £1000.00 per year. The Facebook page, personal messages, recognition and competition are key to our success. I wasn’t really a FB person, but I just love the interaction we’re all able to have. Our business is all about people and the connection we have as a group grows which is amazing.
- You’re also doing a lot to raise awareness of the work of Greenfingers Charity. Tell us what you’ve been doing.
Keeping our efforts alive and fresh is important. We have a ‘Tools Site’ which holds information and resources which we encourage the use of and if I can help I’ll ensure I respond promptly to anyone of my colleagues as it’s really important we’re all on ‘message’ and talking about the charity. Making the connection and recognising our team efforts is so important so I always make a point of thanking our teams at every opportunity in our hotels for all their hard work and fundraising efforts. There’s no shame in saying we’ve cried together discussing Greenfingers.
Our National Seasonal Display competition was born out of our Hotel in Leamington promoting Greenfingers to our guests in spring and now the seasonal competition is hotly contested from Glasgow to Portsmouth. Judged by Greenfingers, the seasonal displays are seen by all our guests in every hotel, prompting the conversation about the charity. Participating in the annual charity dinner hosted by Greenfingers at the RAF Club in London, blogs and posts online individually and on our website. At every Senior Leadership Meeting we receive a challenge from the host hotel; we’ve landed paper planes on the deck of an Aircraft Carrier in Portsmouth, been chained to a chair in Bromsgrove, competed in a sack race and played darts to list just a few – we all pay to enter and it really doesn’t matter who wins as it’s great fun for everyone competing.
Throughout our Regions in the UK every General Managers Meeting starts with a fundraiser; mini golf, ping pong in the glass, you name we’ve probably done it!
- We hear you’re trialling the Pennies for Charity scheme in some hotels. How successful has that been?
I’m pleased to say we’re currently exploring this avenue as we hear great things in other businesses so watch this space!
- Has the partnership made a difference to staff and the business?
It has made a real difference at every level. It’s brought us closer together as the family of Kew Green Hotels, as we all communicate at one level with a common focus. Team building is often overlooked, but the value that our teams get from events such as the Garden Clearance to running a 10k together has been evident to see. Yes, some are able to do more than others we know, but it’s how we work as team together that counts. It builds confidence among individuals and creates a common vision that gives back to the community.
I’ve been privileged to be told of the difference it makes to my colleagues, with the following two comments particularly standing out, “I’m talking to people I would never dream of doing, I’m being recognised, supported and encouraged from around the UK, it spurs me on to do more” and “This has made a real difference to our hotel, our team work, our appreciation of each other we’re all #proud”.
- How important is charity support to Kew Green Hotels?
We set out to add value to the business, make a difference to others and enrich the communities of our hotels. Our outstanding charitable efforts to date have made us extremely proud, as we can say with confidence that we are making a difference.
- Would you recommend that other businesses should partner with Greenfingers Charity?
Yes, from the first phone call I made to Linda in 2016 to the first meeting before our launch to the business, I’ve been very impressed by the enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism of the team at Greenfingers. Our relationship in this last year has grown to the point that we see Greenfingers as part of who we are and what we do. So give Linda a call, post an enquiry and get involved- you won’t regret it!