Back in 2019, about 18 months after our charity launched, we won a place to present our work to The Funding Network. It was a special night. We spoke for 6 minutes about our work, answered questions for another 10, and then retreated out of the room while everyone pledged a pot of money. Together, they raised over £8500 for the HMF. Little did we know how important that money would be.

As 2020 developed into crisis, the whole team at Hearts were stretched beyond belief. All our hopes had been riding on being able to employ one more team member. While all our fundraising plans were collapsing around us, that special night meant we could take the risk. And once Asmaa Shariff joined us, the rest has been history – her tenacity has unlocked potential across the whole organisation and made everything change again.

At the time we pitched to TFN we had to turn away many of the mothers who approached the Hearts Milk Bank wanting to donate their milk. This was due to a lack of funding as the process of screening each potential milk donor costs £100. The primary objective behind pitching to TFN was to raise funds to enable us to screen more of the women who wanted to donate their milk – which would in turn result in a higher quantity of milk coming through our milk bank to be pasteurised, enabling us to help more families and save babies’ lives.

Since the TFN event we have recruited 536 donors, pasteurised 4521 litres of donor milk, issued 3952 litres (up from 1506 in 2019), and supported over 200 families in the community. We also hired a new lactation consultant to support new parents using a new digital platform called Virtually. This ongoing project aims to enable us to reach more people who need our service, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in many isolated parents in times of crisis. The funds from the TFN event made a vital contribution to this growth at a truly critical time.

We were therefore overjoyed to be asked to apply for TFN’s next stage – the Strategy Funding Group (SFG). The SFG is a group of individuals who want to give significant amounts to non-profit organisations who have been through the TFN process and are looking for strategic or transformational support. We presented on the 16th June, and were overwhelmed to raise almost £25,000.

Again, this funding will be transformational, funding lactation consultants and hub coordinators as our network of hubs rolls out across the country. Each hub will contain freezers for donor milk to be easily accessible to local hospitals and families at home, building critical infrastructure and reducing our carbon footprint, but critically enabling equity of the ability to donate milk. We are developing hubs specifically in areas that currently have no milk bank services, and where funding for maternal support services is sparse. Planting small seeds that will create ripples of impact. Watch this space for more announcements soon!

On behalf of each one of us at the HMF and Hearts, we are so grateful for the support of everyone at the TFN and SFG.