It turns over a quarter of a billion pounds a year and runs the largest retail operation in its sector. Yet this is no large corporate behemoth. Instead it is an organisation responsible for helping save thousands of lives a year – and it’s on a mission to save many more.

The British Heart Foundation was founded in 1961 by a group of medical professionals concerned about the rise in deaths due to cardiovascular diseases. Determined to carry out research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart and circulatory diseases, they began fundraising. Fast-forward 56 years and, while that mission remains the same, BHF has grown beyond all recognition. Today, it has over 1,000 healthcare professionals working across the UK, more than 25,000 volunteers and helpers at any one time, and is the largest funder of research into heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, investing some 100 million a year.

“What started out as four charity shops has turned into a quarter-of-a-billion-pound organisation,” says Kerry Smith, Director of People & Organisational Development at BHF. “Thanks to modern treatments built on our research, huge progress has been made. Most babies born today with heart defects survive and 7 out of 10 people survive a heart attack. But heart and circulatory disease still kills 1 in 4 and affects 7 million people in the UK so there is so much more to do”


A team effort

Now one of the UK’s leading research-led charity organisations, a large part of this success is down to its high-performing team. Entirely independently funded, it runs legacy support programmes, fundraising events and a dynamic retail operation. Its 730 charity shops – including dedicated furniture and electrical stores – make BHF the world’s largest charity retailer, with funds channelled into lifesaving research, government lobbying and high-profile campaigns.

Its “stretching strategy” for the future – which includes reducing heart disease by 20 per cent by 2020 – has led to a recruitment drive to enlist its leaders of tomorrow. Along with hiring right across the business and expanding its volunteering opportunities, BHF’s first graduate programme launched in 2016. This provides two years of in-depth training and experience across the organisation, covering everything from marketing to social media, policy to fundraising.

“We’re looking for intelligent people who are interested in having an impact on society and saving lives,” says Smith. “BHF is growing stronger every year, so it really is a place where people can make a difference.”