Career Story: Erin Woods - Charity Manager
Here at Merlin, it’s always a pleasure to put dedicated team members into the spotlight. This week we’ll be speaking to the wonderful Erin Woods from Merlin’s Magic Wand Children’s Charity. Erin has worked within Merlin Entertainments for 6 years, beginning her career as a Graduate Programme Coordinator in Merlin’s HR team. Now she’s the Charity Manager, helping to support children facing challenges of serious illness, disability or adversity around the world.
So, Erin, what first brought you to Merlin Entertainments?
I was first interested in joining Merlin Entertainments because I was aware of the incredible opportunities to work with people all over the world and I loved that the business trades in fun and memorable experiences – from that alone, I knew the job would be good craic! I also loved that they had a dedicated children’s charity and took any opportunity I could to get involved and volunteer, including running a bake-off competition as a fundraiser and volunteering as a table host at their gala dinner event.
For anyone who doesn’t know, what is Merlin’s Magic Wand?
Merlin’s Magic Wand is a global charity which supports children facing challenges of serious illness, disability or adversity to experience the magic of Merlin Entertainments attractions through our charitable programmes – what we like to call our ‘3 Magic Spells’.
Many people know that Merlin Entertainments owns great brands like Thorpe Park Resort, the London Eye and LEGOLAND, but not many people are aware that Merlin has a dedicated charity partner which helps to bring the magic of those attractions to children in great need.
Although we are a separate entity to Merlin, we are very closely affiliated with them and could not do what we do without the Merlin attraction teams and charity champions around the world, as well as the support of the Merlin Exec team, some of whom serve as our brilliant charity Trustees.
So, what’s your role all about?
I love my job! Being the manager of this fantastic charity is really rewarding and enjoyable, and the most important things that I do include making sure the charity team is set up for success, implementing a clear strategy and having oversight of our operations, finance and governance. It is also really important to be a great liaison and business partner for our colleagues in Merlin Entertainments, adding value through employee engagement and community connections for the attractions.
What’s been your proudest moments whilst working at Merlin’s Magic Wand?
Some of my proudest moments whilst managing the charity have included being a part of the Merlin’s Magic Spaces launches and seeing the smiles on the faces of the children that we’re helping; hearing from attraction managers about how Magic on Tour activities have made such a difference for their teams and the children in their communities; and getting lovely messages from families who have had an amazing Magical Day Out which has taken their minds off challenging daily routines.
We really make a difference for these families and it feels incredible to be delivering that. On a personal note, using my newly developed public speaking skills to make speeches on behalf of the charity has been a source of personal pride and fulfilment as I used to be so nervous about speaking in public! I like to use what I’ve learned to coach my team in presenting and public speaking too and help them become more confident.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your role?
The biggest challenge that I’ve been facing in my role recently has been adapting to the impact of Covid-19. Like many charities our income and operations have been impacted by the pandemic. As well as making plans to adapt our magical programmes to ensure they can continue despite the impact of Covid, I have also been drawing up plans to diversify our income streams and reshaping the team to ensure we have the right resource and skills to deliver the new ambitious strategy. Our priority now is ‘Bringing the Magic Back’ and giving our beneficiaries something to look forward to in the near future.
Who works for Merlin’s Magic Wand?
We're a small but dynamic team who are passionate about what we do. We're also recruiting!
We are currently recruiting for a talented Fundraising and Partnerships Manager who will manage and optimise the charity’s income streams and account-manage corporate partnerships. They will be supported by a Marketing and Fundraising Executive who is tasked with helping us to develop our external brand profile and public awareness.
We are also recruiting for a Magical Programmes Manager who, with the support of our wonderful Magical Programmes Executive, will manage and optimise the operations of our Magical Days Out applications, project-manage our Merlin’s Magic Spaces and support the Merlin attractions to deliver Magic on Tour community outreach activities. The charity team has regional support from dedicated champions in the USA, Australia, Europe and Asia.
Fancy joining the team? Apply at www.MerlinCareers.com.