EFDN Interview- Sarah Medcalf from Newcastle United Foundation

9 June 2020

EFDN Interview- Sarah Medcalf from Newcastle United Foundation

The next EFDN Interview features Sarah Medcalf who is the Deputy Head of Newcastle United Foundation. 

With a certificate in fundraising, over twelve years’ experience in the charity sector and nine years in commercial sales and marketing roles, Sarah has had extensive experience in developing and overseeing funding programmes and cultivating relationships at a senior level. In addition to, achieving and exceeding targets, project and people management and building supporter relations.

Sarah joined Newcastle United Foundation in 2012, to expand the Development and Communications team, overseeing major gifts, corporate, grant, community and events fundraising. Additionally, Sarah is a member of the charity’s Senior Management Team which is responsible for strategy, leadership, management and organisational performance of Newcastle United Foundation and recently joined Mental Health Concern as a trustee.

EFDN: What is a typical day in your role like? What do you love the most about working for the Club/Foundation?

I have two elements to my role. I oversee the Development and Communications team ensuring the charity’s strategic business objectives are met and I am now currently leading on our exciting capital project, which will see a state-of-the-art community hub built just 5 minutes’ walk from St James’ Park https://nufoundation.org.uk/about-us/teamup/. The centre, due to open autumn 2021, will become a hub to support excellence in education, pathways into further and higher education and employment and improve the physical and mental well-being of people from across the region.

A large proportion of my day will involve participating in relevant network meetings and events to promote the Foundation, identifying new capital funding streams, writing bids and applications and speaking to current and prospective partners about potential opportunities to work together.

Taking on a project management role for the new centre has been really exciting and allowed me to develop new operational specific skills. I am the lead contact between the professional project team (i.e. architects, structural engineers) and have to ensure that key milestones and budgets are met.

After 8 years at the Foundation, I feel so privileged to be part of an organisation that continues to support young people to reach their potential. Our dedicated team of 130 staff do an amazing job in motivating and inspiring people across the North East – it’s been great to watch the Foundation develop and grow as an organisation and there are many more exciting times ahead.

EFDN: What are the main target areas of your Foundation?

Our vision is to create a united community, full of passion, pride and potential. We know that football has an extraordinary power to connect, motivate, inspire and engage and from children to adults, we work with generations in our community.

Through our sporting, education, personal development and health programmes, we help people to be more active, to learn, to be more employable, to be healthier, to make connections and to and, ultimately, to reach their full potential.

Our new centre is central to meeting the needs of our local community and it will be even more important moving forward. As discussed in a recent report from UK Youth, young people, in particular, have concerns about the future such as the long term effects from isolation, mental health and uncertainty about employment. This centre will provide a safe and secure space for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to meet, learn and develop – a place where people can come together and be part of their community and build new connections.

EFDN: What is the Foundation’s most successful programme? Can you please explain in more detail what the project is about, including the project’s main aims and objectives and the impact this programme has had within the community?

Last year we engaged with over 65,000 participants across a range of different programmes, including health and wellbeing, schools and education, football, youth violence and community projects. Our ‘Be a Game Changer’ mental health programme aims to inspire Newcastle United fans to talk more openly about their mental health and wellbeing. It began in February 2019 and has, thanks in part to incredible support from Newcastle United Football Club and its supporters, already reached over two million people online, created a secure online community and actively involved 92 local businesses. Our ‘YOLO’ Early Intervention Project – which aims to reduce the risk of young people becoming involved in serious violence – celebrated its first year of delivery last month and continues to support 8-14 year-olds, parents and carers throughout the current global pandemic. Since the inception of YOLO, there has been a clear reduction in criminal offending and missing-from-home episodes, as well as a large improvement in school attendance. 89% of the young people involved have remained clear of serious violence and have not come into contact with the police since beginning work with their Newcastle United Foundation mentors.

EFDN: What kind of initiatives are you currently delivering to help to overcome the COVID 19 crisis?

During this crisis, it is clear that we are needed more than ever. With this is in mind, we have swiftly identified and responded to safe, socially distanced opportunities for staff and volunteers to engage with the community. Some of the initiatives that we’re working on are:
– Assisting the NHS staff with free mental health materials and guidance through our Be A Game Changer campaign
– Helping unemployed young people secure key worker, NHS and care roles.
– Delivering Physical Education sessions for children of key workers in schools, working closely with our partners North Tyneside Council to identify the areas in need of support.
– Making telephone calls to all of our walking footballers to combat loneliness, stress and anxiety as well as offering advice and guidance.
– Maintaining our correspondence with our ‘YOLO’ participants and their carers, plus creating activity packs and resources for them to engage with during lockdown.
– Compiling online home-schooling resources for parents and guardians.
– Helping with the distribution of more than 12,000 food parcels and vouchers across deprived areas of the region.
– Distributing free footballs to areas in need of support.
– Calling Newcastle United season ticket holders, as part of our ‘United as One’ work to support individuals in isolation.

EFDN: What makes the role of clubs and their Foundations so important during this crisis?

Despite our participants not being able to access the physical game, it has been crucial that our Foundation continued to support the children and adults that we work with daily.

Newcastle United and the Foundation have worked even more closely during the pandemic with schools, organisations and individuals that have needed help they during such difficult circumstances. Staff from each organisation joined together to support elderly and vulnerable supporters who faced an extended period of isolation and made telephone calls to over one thousand season-ticket holders who were deemed to need immediate support. The club have also supported the Foundation digitally sharing our good news stories and key campaigns across their channels. People relate to the Newcastle United badge and it is important that the Foundation continues to connect with its community and give support where needed.

EFDN: How do you stay safe, healthy and fit? Do you have any tips or advice?

I enjoy running and try to do some form of exercise every day. It is a great way to destress, especially managing home working during the current lockdown and trying to entertain three children at the same time!

EFDN: What are your (Foundation’s) goals for 2020 and the near future?

Newcastle United Foundation aim to create a united community full of pride, passion and potential and deliver a world class facility for the people of Newcastle in 2021. The Foundation’s new state-of-the-art operational base will transform the way young people transition from education to the world of work through an extensive outreach programme and will create an outstanding facility for disability sport.

EFDN: EFDN believes that Football is #More than Football. Why do you think your Foundation is #morethanfootball?

We are proud to utilise the power of football across the coaching, mentoring, education and opportunities that we provide to communities in the region that truly need them; but our professional staff and volunteers are both multi-skilled and highly attuned to the wider requirements of the many thousands of people that we are able to support each day across the North East.

EFDN: To whom would you like to #passiton too, and why? 

I am going to pass it on to Inna Khmyzova, who is the Director at Shakhtar Social. She presented an amazing story at the 13th EFDN conference of how football can have an impact on its community, even in the most challenging circumstances. I am really interested in finding out more about the work they do!

If you want to know more about Sarah Medcalf and her work at Newcastle United Foundation, then you can visit her LinkedIn profile.


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