In this final feature of our three-part series (click to read Part 1
& Part 2
), we spotlight two young graduates from different disciplines who found their calling in development.
Cheryl & Clarisse
Clarisse Lim and Cheryl Chin at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) share how they started their careers in the Corporate Development team, and what motivates them to keep doing what they do.
1. Is this your first job after graduation? Why did you choose to start your career in Development?
Cheryl: Yes, this is my first full-time job after graduating from university. I studied sociology and public policy, and really wanted to do something meaningful that I felt could contribute back to the community. When I saw an advertisement for a development role at NNI, I decided to give it a try and I’ve been here for 4.5 years – time really flies!
I studied marketing and business in university. I thought I knew what I wanted to do after graduation. But after completing an internship in what I then thought was my dream job, I realised I wanted to do something else.
Around the same time, my grandmother was hospitalised. During her stay there, I observed the dedication of the medical team who cared for her and how they tried to put a smile on the faces of elderly patients in the ward. Seeing the meaningful work they did inspired me to join healthcare.
I applied for many healthcare positions, even though I didn’t have direct relevant background. Then I came across an opening at NNI’s Corporate Development team. I thought it was a good fit with my skills as a business graduate so I went for it. It’s been six years since then, and I haven’t looked back!
2. How has your journey been like in Development?
Cheryl: We have a very small team here at NNI Corporate Development – it’s just Clarisse, Lina, myself and Angela (our boss!). Angela is very open to trying new things and always encourages us to do things differently to discover what works best for NNI. So I do get a lot of freedom to explore and try new ideas which is really the best part of my job.
This was also how we came up with ‘Chiong Ah!’, an ‘amazing race’-style fundraising event that is now one of two signature fundraising events at NNI. We planned and executed 100 per cent of the event in-house, without engaging an external events company. After months of planning and many thanks to our corporate partners, the inaugural ‘Chiong Ah!’ charity race took place from 1 March – 30 April 2022 and raised over $115,000 for the NNI Fund! It is something I’m very proud of.
Clarisse: In my first year at NNI, I helped run a lot of events but learnt very quickly that I preferred quieter, desk-bound work. I now do more of the proposal writing and donor stewardship reports, as well as handle the marketing aspect and social media channels for the NNI Fund. We recently finished a branding exercise for the NNI Fund, and it was a good opportunity for me to put the skills I learnt in school to good use. We even launched our very own mascot – Denni the Neuron! I hope that with the work I do, we can create greater awareness about neuroscience among the general public and raise more support for patients suffering from neurological conditions.
The other great thing about my job is that I get to meet some of our beneficiaries. While emceeing at a recent awards ceremony, I got to meet one of NNI Fund’s beneficiaries. He was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy when he was 17, and through the help of NNI Fund, he was able to get a motorised wheelchair to get around. Meeting someone who has directly benefitted from the work that we do helps me see how development officers make a difference in the lives of our patients.
3. What kind of work do you do as a development officer?
Cheryl: I focus on fundraising events and staff giving initiatives.
One campaign that we started in 2018 was the NNI CAREs. Inspired by the ‘Pandora’ bracelets with their collectable charms, we created our very own key chains with three different charms that staff can collect after they make a gift to NNI Fund or participate in one of our CSR events. This was a fun way to inspire staff to give and support our causes. Recently, we just concluded the NNINJA Giving Challenge for the 3rd year running to change up staff giving into a friendly competition among departments, but with anonymity and injecting mystery, excitement and fun!
Also since 2016, NNI has been organising roadshows at public spaces like Toa Payoh Hub and Changi Airport to raise awareness of neurological diseases. At these public awareness events, we have a NNI Fund booth where we showcase how philanthropic support can help our patients and causes at NNI.
Clarisse: We also gave out our NNI bears as a token of appreciation to those who made a donation at these events! And we had a donation box shaped like a brain which was a definite conversation starter!
Besides the ‘Chiong Ah!’ Charity Race, I also organise our other signature fundraising event - the ‘One Heart, One Mind’ Hope Hamper Draw as a fun way to spread awareness and raise funds for NNI Fund. After running the event for two years, we are doing something different this year. Inspired by the gameshow ‘The Price is Right’, this year’s event is called ‘One Heart, One Mind’ Faster Think, Faster Win! You can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nnifund
to know more!
Clarisse: I manage the branding of the fund, donor stewardship and major gifts.
As part of the MedSG200 fundraising campaign where SingHealth celebrated 200 years of medicine in Singapore in conjunction with Singapore General Hospital’s Bicentennial, we were asked to submit our fundraising priorities. After our submission, a colleague from the National Cancer Centre Singapore got in touch to suggest a potential donor who was interested in supporting Parkinson’s Disease (PD). We had to quickly come up with a proposal for this. It was adrenaline-pumping rushing to put everything together. In the end, the donor made a gift of over $700,000 in support of our new one-stop integrated care model for patients with PD. It was a really exciting moment for me to partner other institutions to raise funds for our patients.
4. What are three takeaways you have from your role as a development officer?
Clarisse: The first takeaway is to never stop learning. This was especially true for the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic when we had to adapt quickly to evolving safe management measures. We should also never be afraid to try, and finally, to remember why we are doing what we do – to improve the lives of our patients. There are times when work can feel mundane or stressful, but knowing that my work can make a difference in someone’s life motivates me to keep going.
Cheryl: Dare to dream big! With hard work and the willingness to try new things, we have been able to achieve wonderful things. Similar to what Clarisse shared, the second is to remember that when we ask for donations, we are helping to benefit our causes and our patients. Knowing this helps you overcome the mental barrier to ask for donations. As I see it, we are providing a platform for the community to do good. The third is to not settle, but always challenge yourself to do better! This pushes not only me but our team to improve on the work that we do.
5. What has been the most rewarding/enjoyable aspect of your job?
Cheryl: It has been a great blessing to have such a lovely and supportive team! I feel that colleagues make a very big difference in a workplace, and that is how my team and the colleagues at NNI are here! Everyone is warm and willing to help each other. I’m grateful that I’m part of this team.
Clarisse: I agree with Cheryl, the people connection is the reason why I’ve stayed on at NNI. The relationships I’ve built not only with colleagues from other departments but also grateful patients, donors and beneficiaries make my job that much more rewarding.
6. What do you do during your spare time?
Cheryl: This year, I’ve made it my mission to try new things! Pilates, spin classes, wake surfing and pottery (clay throwing) are just some of the new experiences I’ve tried this year. Also learning “aunt duties” to my 15-month old niece and 2-month old nephew!
Clarisse: I’m a new mum to a 7.5 month-old son, so I’m kept busy with him and don’t really have any spare time!
7. Any last words?