In this month’s community spotlight, we spoke with Don Quilty who helps run Marygate House. Marygate – the first charity to be featured in our spotlight – provide safe accommodation to people visiting the island of Lindisfarne.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came about starting your charity?
Marygate is located on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast. Marygate House Trust was started in 1970 to provide accommodation for groups who wished to visit the island for religious, cultural or educational reasons. At that time there being very limited facilities located on the island. From 1984 we acquired a second property on the island allowing us to welcome individual also.
What is the mission of your charity?
We aim to provide a warm, safe comfortable environment to welcome pilgrims to the island. People who are retreating for a short while from their home, friends and work to refresh themselves. Groups and individuals from all sorts of backgrounds, from all around the world. Choirs from Australia, Norway and Denmark, University groups from the United states and the UK.
What does a typical day look like for you?
For the team, every day is a routine of provision of meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is a great deal of domestic cleaning. For the retreatants, it is a time of rest and reflection, a time to enjoy the beauty of the island and experience creation.
What has been your biggest challenge since starting the charity?
Marygate is successful and has learnt to cope with change trends in our specialized market. The ever-present challenge has been to attract the right people to join the team.
Make sure you’re providing what the customer wants, not what you think they need.
What exciting campaigns have you worked on recently?
We do not run campaigns or fundraisers; we rely on retreatants donating what they feel they can afford. Since 1970 the donations usually exceeded the costs.
What advice would you give to other charities or businesses just starting up?
Respond to the needs of the current and future marketplaces. Make sure you’re providing what the customer wants, not what you think they need. Offer the highest standard of service your facilities and time allow. People only give to a charity if they can see what the cash is being spent on, concrete evidence MUST be shown where the cash is spent. Supporters must be made to feel their donation makes a difference. Get the right staff, better to have one good worker than two bad workers.
What tools and services would you recommend to other charities to help them improve their communications?
A good optimised web presence is very important, supported by a good reliable phone system where friendly and professional team members offer an excellent service. Our new SIP-based system from Nimvelo allows us to work more flexibly make better use of time.
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