Making a difference is what drives Kate Frost (BSc Management Sciences, 1997). She left her financial career to pioneer a charity that turns pennies into pounds to make a big impact.
What is Pennies from Heaven and how did it come about?
Superman 3 sparked the idea. In the film, a computer programmer realises everyone’s payslips are being rounded down to the nearest cent, so he starts diverting those small amounts and uses the money to become a world-class supervillain. Our founder, Anthony Law, wondered: what if we could use the same principle but instead of lining our own pockets, we ask people to donate those cents (or pennies) to good causes?
And so, Pennies from Heaven was born, with employees invited to donate the pennies from their payslips to charity. So far, we’ve raised £7 million which has benefited more than 800 charities per month, which feels amazing.
What are your favourite things about your job?
Making a difference. Our charities tell us the money they receive from Pennies from Heaven makes a huge impact. My aim is to get to a point where we’re raising £1 million a year (we’re currently at £700,000). It’s an incredibly exciting time, and I love what I do.
For me, it’s hugely important to feel pride in the work I do. I love running my own business. It's very rewarding. But it can be hard – you care so much about the work that you never really leave the office behind.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to succeed in your line of work?
I think anyone looking to have a senior role in the charity sector should spend five to ten years working outside the sector, learning how companies work. Personally, I wouldn’t work for a charity straightaway as commercial acumen is invaluable. It’s important to have patience and develop your sales and relationship skills; you need to be comfortable talking to senior managers in large companies. This was a skill I developed at Warwick and honed at Barclays.
I’d also recommend finding people in a career path you’re interested in, as working with them can be really inspiring.
Why did you choose to study at Warwick?
Each year of my degree, I chose different subjects that gave me a good grounding on how businesses and the economy works. When I applied to Warwick, I wasn’t aware of the intercalated year, and this turned out to be a great opportunity. I studied at the University of Illinois and was able to choose completely different modules, including Greek Philosophy! It was probably the best year of my degree and I’m grateful to Warwick for that experience as it helped me to stand out in the job market. It was also where I first became interested in charities as I became a mentor for local teenagers, which was really rewarding. I could see the difference I was making in their lives, even though it was a small effort on my part.
What did you do after you graduated?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do (and that was okay! I now tell my children that not knowing what you want to do for a living is perfectly acceptable). In the last year of my degree, big companies came to campus because they wanted Warwick graduates. This gave me confidence and meant I felt no imposter syndrome when entering the world of work.
I joined the Barclays Bank graduate programme and spent ten years building my experience. At the same time, I started organising charity fundraising events in London, which gave me a new purpose and made me think about what I really wanted to do with my career.
Although I enjoyed what I was doing at Barclays, I didn’t feel I was making enough of a difference. So, I started researching, wondering how I would ever pick just one charity to work for. I realised my values were centred around giving in general and that’s how I found Pennies from Heaven. I decided to take a six-month career break from Barclays to work with Pennies from Heaven. That was 15 years ago and I’m still here!
"I love running my own business. It's very rewarding.”
Did you know?
Did you know the University is a charity? Learn more about how you can change lives by supporting students and research here.