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Karen McMurrich

Marketing and fundraising director 

Born September 13, 1959; Died November 2, 2013 

Karen McMurrich, who has died aged 54 following an asthma attack, lived by the philosophy of giver's gain. Motivated to make a positive difference to communities and individuals, she embodied the ethos whether it was in her role at Scotland's largest children's charity, whilst helping a range of Glasgow social enterprise companies or volunteering her extensive skills as sponsorship manager of Queen's Park Football Club.

With a career in fundraising, marketing and business development that encompassed the UK to the Americas and Asia Pacific, she had garnered an ocean of experience that made her a hugely effective networker: an influencer who got things done through her commitment and professionalism - and with the aid of a vibrant, charismatic personality. She gave freely and enthusiastically and the benefits came flowing back.

In her most recent role, with Aberlour Child Care Trust, she rebranded the charity, regularly exceeded fundraising targets and repositioned the organisation to raise its profile, engage with government ministers and secure a $1m donation from Microsoft. Last year Aberlour also became the first beneficiary of The Herald's Christmas appeal.


However, her career began in an industry far removed from the charity sector - Scottish Gas. Paisley-born, the daughter of successful Clydeside blacksmith Colin Renfrew and his wife Myra, she was educated at St Ronan's and then Park School where she played tennis for the West of Scotland.

She went up to St Andrews University where she graduated with an MA in 1981. The following year she gained a postgraduate qualification in business, law and administration and joined Scottish Gas as a trainee in public relations, where her duties included writing for the in-house magazine Gas Life.

After a brief stint there she moved on as marketing executive for conferences and incentives for Scotland's most prestigious hotel, Gleneagles, and then in 1984 she became the first sales promotion and marketing manager of Greater Glasgow Tourist Board.

There she developed and implemented the sales promotion plan to market Glasgow at home and internationally before becoming involved with the Glasgow Garden Festival as marketing and customer relations manager for horticulture operations.

Much of her career involved promoting Scottish trade overseas and she continued in this vein when she joined Scottish Enterprise in 1989 as a senior executive developing new joint business initiatives for Scottish companies in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US.

By 1998 she was head of corporate marketing, she had gained a marketing qualification from the Brussels School of Management and she produced an event celebrating Scotland's opening game of that year's World Cup in Paris against Brazil.

Her role at Scottish Enterprise also saw her become head of international trade for The Americas where she was responsible for developing Scottish business in Canada, US and South America. It was in this role she conceived and secured funding to establish Scottish Technology and Research Starcentres, an initiative to help Scottish firms break into the American market. Since then more than 500 companies have been supported as a result of her vision.

Mrs McMurrich was with Scottish Enterprise for 16 years, latterly working on global marketing and business strategies for Scottish companies, including those involved in life sciences, new technology and tourism.

Having divorced in the 1980s, she left Scottish Enterprise in 2005 to work with her second husband, moving back into the hotel sector as a senior consultant in corporate marketing and business development with his company Tarenville Hotel & Leisure Ltd. It was during that time that she resolved to give something back to society.

She joined the board of the YWCA and became involved in a number of charitable projects, including Sighthill Community Centre plus others through Glasgow Northern Regeneration Agency, for which she fundraised and developed strategies. She also volunteered with the Tsunami Children's Charity Project and Queen's Park Football Club, for which she secured pound(s)45,000 of sponsorship to provide minibuses for the junior team.

In the last few years her talents were devoted to Aberlour, which she joined in April 2007, and where she set about identifying new fundraising, sponsorship and business development opportunities to get the most out of corporate investment. She repositioned and rebranded the trust, both internally and externally, as Scotland's leading children's charity, securing widespread publicity and increasing its brand recognition in leaps and bounds.

Fundraised income shot up and she secured donations and sponsorship from Scottish blue chip companies. The Microsoft donation in 2010 transformed Aberlour's IT systems and the following year, having secured the Tartan Army Children's Charity as a sponsor, Aberlour became one of the founders and a beneficiary of the charity's annual Kiltwalk. She also ensured that Aberlour was a founder and beneficiary of the STV/Hunter Foundation Appeal.

Meanwhile she was seeking out and persuading Scottish celebrities to become ambassadors for Aberlour campaigns. They included Annie Lennox, Peter Capaldi, Katherine Grainger and Wet Wet Wet.

Chairwoman of the Aberlour board, Jean Couper, said: "Karen made a huge contribution to the development and sustainability of services within Aberlour and to our wisdom and confidence for the future. In recent years she delivered consistently beyond target in her own area and provided much needed and welcomed advice, help and encouragement to many others.

"Her passing leaves a huge gap in the organisation in terms of her work and also her personality and vibrancy." It was her fun-loving personality that played a large part in her ability to inspire and mentor colleagues. She often talked with them of that "giver's gain" and believed it was important element to have in their lives. She gave time, energy and talent and in return received loyalty and determination to see her visions through. That generosity endured even in death when her wishes were followed to ensure her organs were donated - a final gesture of hope she might improve the lives of others.

She is survived by her second husband Alastair, her mother Myra, brother Colin, niece Elen and nephew James.

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