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  • 01 Apr 2016
    Becky Slack is founder and managing director of Slack Communications, and author of Effective Media Relations for Charities: what journalists want and how to deliver it. Recently I met with a volunteer clown who had been working with child refugees in Europe. He told me how, armed with a purple curly wig and a red nose, he had spent time on the Greek island of Lesvos, helping spread a little love and cheer among the families who had made the treacherous journey by boat from Syria. He described how the children, with their mucky faces and scared eyes, were at first very suspicious of his games and magic tricks, but before too long they would be grinning from ear to ear, all desperate to play along. The story of those children and the image it created in my mind really stuck with me. Much more so than the statistics I’ve read, or the calls for the refugees to be “resettled” (whatever that means) that have come from many aid organisations and politicians. Storytelling is a key component of effective communications. Neuroscience has taught us that humans learn and communicate best through stories. Fundraising research has highlighted how strong personal stories help supporters connect to the cause. Human interest stories form the foundation of most journalism. So how can charities create engaging stories about their work and the impact they achieve? 1. Tell real stories about real people People are interested in other people. They give money to help other people. They buy magazines and newspapers to read about other people. Therefore, charity stories should focus on people. From the people the organisation has helped to those who work and volunteer for, and donate to, the organisation, charities have a wealth of stories about real lives that they can share. Where possible, the person in the story should be allowed to speak for themselves; this can be a powerful way to demonstrate how an organisation makes a difference. For an excellent example of this in practice, check out Invisible People, an organisation that uses film to share the experiences of people who are homeless.   2. Use techniques used by traditional storytellers Traditional storytelling techniques involve characters – usually a protagonist and antagonist, and structures centred around themes such as conflict and resolution, or triumph over tragedy. These techniques translate perfectly to charity communications: could your charity or the person you helped be the hero? Can you identify a problem and explain how your organisation brought a resolution? The Invisible Children documentary about child soldiers in Africa provides a great example of this. The story has a bad guy (Warlord Joseph Kony), lots of good guys (the children, the charity workers, the donors), and it highlights how something terrible can be transformed into something positive (conflict and resolution). The story had a global impact with 100 million views over just six days and 3.7 million people pledging support.   3. Don’t be afraid to use emotion Charity communications should be centred around a number of key messages, the objective of which is to influence how people think, feel and behave, particularly in relation to the way in which they support your organisation. Psychologists and therapists use visual, audio and kinesthetic modalities to help the mind imagine different experiences. When an individual thinks about an emotional and/or sensory experience, parts of the brain light up as if they’re actually happening for real. Encouraging people to think about how they would feel in a particular situation helps immerse them in that story, and will help connect them to that experience. This means providing more than just a basic outline. To really visualize what is happening/has happened, the story needs to contain descriptions of the key elements, such as the location, the weather, the look on someone’s face, what they were wearing etc etc. A case in point is this story by the Guardian, which featured as part of its 2015 charity Christmas appeal and helped raise a record-breaking £2m.   4. Think about style, tone and format Minds wander, very quickly. If you haven’t grabbed someone’s attention in the first few seconds you will have lost them altogether. Opening with a question can be a good way of achieving this, as can introducing a tantalizing nugget of information that will leave audiences wanting more. The length of a story is also important, particularly in relation to digital media. While there are some occasions where long-read essays are welcomed, in the main online stories need to be short, sweet and concise. Language is also very important. Littering a story with complex technical terms will almost certainly turn people off. Use plain English at all times. For examples of charity jargon at its best (or worst, depending on which way you look at it), read Aidan Warner’s blog on charity clichés. It’s a couple of years old but the same sentiment still applies.   5. Make the most of photos, video and audio As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words. Photos, graphics, cartoons and illustrations can all be used to help convey complex ideas simply and effectively. Indeed, digital content, be it on Facebook, Twitter or websites, receives many more click-throughs and shares if accompanied by a photo. Video and audio can also be hugely impactful. A colleague of mine told me about the time she interviewed a number of donors about why they gave to her charity. These were then played to the entire organisation in a darkened theatre. Removing all other sensory elements while the team listened to the supporters was a hugely emotional and motivational experience for all those involved. WaterAid used images – both still and moving – to full effect as part of its The Big Dig. They armed their workers on the ground with smart phones and instructed them to report back on the progress made as they provided a village with clean water. Day-by-day, week-by-week, images of the build and stories of the villagers were uploaded, providing supporters with an almost real-time perspective on how their money was making a difference. In a world where we receive thousand of messages every day, standing out is difficult. Storytelling can help you cut through the clutter and engage people in powerful, emotive and inspiring messages. Tell a memorable story, and chances are your audience will remember you.     Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield        Image © WaterAid/ Jason Larkin/ Emily Fyso  
    5357 Posted by Becky Slack
  • Becky Slack is founder and managing director of Slack Communications, and author of Effective Media Relations for Charities: what journalists want and how to deliver it. Recently I met with a volunteer clown who had been working with child refugees in Europe. He told me how, armed with a purple curly wig and a red nose, he had spent time on the Greek island of Lesvos, helping spread a little love and cheer among the families who had made the treacherous journey by boat from Syria. He described how the children, with their mucky faces and scared eyes, were at first very suspicious of his games and magic tricks, but before too long they would be grinning from ear to ear, all desperate to play along. The story of those children and the image it created in my mind really stuck with me. Much more so than the statistics I’ve read, or the calls for the refugees to be “resettled” (whatever that means) that have come from many aid organisations and politicians. Storytelling is a key component of effective communications. Neuroscience has taught us that humans learn and communicate best through stories. Fundraising research has highlighted how strong personal stories help supporters connect to the cause. Human interest stories form the foundation of most journalism. So how can charities create engaging stories about their work and the impact they achieve? 1. Tell real stories about real people People are interested in other people. They give money to help other people. They buy magazines and newspapers to read about other people. Therefore, charity stories should focus on people. From the people the organisation has helped to those who work and volunteer for, and donate to, the organisation, charities have a wealth of stories about real lives that they can share. Where possible, the person in the story should be allowed to speak for themselves; this can be a powerful way to demonstrate how an organisation makes a difference. For an excellent example of this in practice, check out Invisible People, an organisation that uses film to share the experiences of people who are homeless.   2. Use techniques used by traditional storytellers Traditional storytelling techniques involve characters – usually a protagonist and antagonist, and structures centred around themes such as conflict and resolution, or triumph over tragedy. These techniques translate perfectly to charity communications: could your charity or the person you helped be the hero? Can you identify a problem and explain how your organisation brought a resolution? The Invisible Children documentary about child soldiers in Africa provides a great example of this. The story has a bad guy (Warlord Joseph Kony), lots of good guys (the children, the charity workers, the donors), and it highlights how something terrible can be transformed into something positive (conflict and resolution). The story had a global impact with 100 million views over just six days and 3.7 million people pledging support.   3. Don’t be afraid to use emotion Charity communications should be centred around a number of key messages, the objective of which is to influence how people think, feel and behave, particularly in relation to the way in which they support your organisation. Psychologists and therapists use visual, audio and kinesthetic modalities to help the mind imagine different experiences. When an individual thinks about an emotional and/or sensory experience, parts of the brain light up as if they’re actually happening for real. Encouraging people to think about how they would feel in a particular situation helps immerse them in that story, and will help connect them to that experience. This means providing more than just a basic outline. To really visualize what is happening/has happened, the story needs to contain descriptions of the key elements, such as the location, the weather, the look on someone’s face, what they were wearing etc etc. A case in point is this story by the Guardian, which featured as part of its 2015 charity Christmas appeal and helped raise a record-breaking £2m.   4. Think about style, tone and format Minds wander, very quickly. If you haven’t grabbed someone’s attention in the first few seconds you will have lost them altogether. Opening with a question can be a good way of achieving this, as can introducing a tantalizing nugget of information that will leave audiences wanting more. The length of a story is also important, particularly in relation to digital media. While there are some occasions where long-read essays are welcomed, in the main online stories need to be short, sweet and concise. Language is also very important. Littering a story with complex technical terms will almost certainly turn people off. Use plain English at all times. For examples of charity jargon at its best (or worst, depending on which way you look at it), read Aidan Warner’s blog on charity clichés. It’s a couple of years old but the same sentiment still applies.   5. Make the most of photos, video and audio As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words. Photos, graphics, cartoons and illustrations can all be used to help convey complex ideas simply and effectively. Indeed, digital content, be it on Facebook, Twitter or websites, receives many more click-throughs and shares if accompanied by a photo. Video and audio can also be hugely impactful. A colleague of mine told me about the time she interviewed a number of donors about why they gave to her charity. These were then played to the entire organisation in a darkened theatre. Removing all other sensory elements while the team listened to the supporters was a hugely emotional and motivational experience for all those involved. WaterAid used images – both still and moving – to full effect as part of its The Big Dig. They armed their workers on the ground with smart phones and instructed them to report back on the progress made as they provided a village with clean water. Day-by-day, week-by-week, images of the build and stories of the villagers were uploaded, providing supporters with an almost real-time perspective on how their money was making a difference. In a world where we receive thousand of messages every day, standing out is difficult. Storytelling can help you cut through the clutter and engage people in powerful, emotive and inspiring messages. Tell a memorable story, and chances are your audience will remember you.     Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield        Image © WaterAid/ Jason Larkin/ Emily Fyso  
    Apr 01, 2016 5357
  • 01 Apr 2016
    James Rees, Anthony Nutt Senior Research Fellow, The Open University Business School These are difficult and unsettling times for voluntary organisations – with resource constraints, increasing media scrutiny, and turbulence in public perceptions being added to the ongoing challenge of responding to public policies and diverse social needs.  In such times of uncertainty it is more important than ever that organisations have effective leadership; and particular concern has been expressed about the need for smaller organisations in the sector to develop and enhance their leadership skills. Leadership skills, of course, can be applied at different levels of organisations. New sector resource from The Open University It is against this backdrop, and thanks to a generous donation by an alumnus, Anthony Nutt, that the Open University Business School has established a new resource that provides access to free leadership courses and knowledge for voluntary sector organisations. The Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership builds on research and expertise within the university and aims to progress new research of particular relevance to the leadership challenges faced by smaller organisations. Smaller organisations make up the majority of the sector – they really represent the backbone of much voluntary and community effort – but in many ways have been under-researched and many issues facing them are poorly understood. The Centre will work with stakeholders from academic, practitioner and policy groups to advance understanding of the complex issues voluntary organisations face, the ambiguities of stakeholder responsibilities and accountabilities, and the dynamics caused by changing public policies.  As well as providing free leadership development opportunities, it will lead on new areas of research and help to disseminate best practice and new thinking. Free courses The first online course, Introducing the Voluntary Sector, is eight weeks long and is now available on the free learning website OpenLearn. Involving three hours of study each week, the course covers the structure of the UK voluntary sector, funding issues, stakeholders and the role of volunteering.   It is a Badged Open Course (BOC), which means that on completing the course, each learner will get a digital badge and certificate of participation. This can be shared on social media profiles, made public in the learner’s OpenLearn profile, and can help build confidence by providing a record of achievement. Working in the Voluntary Sector, the second course from the new Centre, focuses on the practicalities of working or volunteering in voluntary and community organisations including: working with volunteers; marketing and communication; budgets; fundraising; taking part in meetings; working in teams and partnerships; and building resilience.  This course will be available later in the year and is also a BOC. Two further free courses focusing on leadership will be available in Autumn 2016.  The courses are open for anyone interested in learning about and developing leadership in the context of voluntary organisations.  You do not need to be in a position of seniority to enrol.  Volunteers and professional staff at any level are welcome; indeed a key argument made in the courses is that leadership can come from many levels.   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield      
    2208 Posted by James Rees
  • James Rees, Anthony Nutt Senior Research Fellow, The Open University Business School These are difficult and unsettling times for voluntary organisations – with resource constraints, increasing media scrutiny, and turbulence in public perceptions being added to the ongoing challenge of responding to public policies and diverse social needs.  In such times of uncertainty it is more important than ever that organisations have effective leadership; and particular concern has been expressed about the need for smaller organisations in the sector to develop and enhance their leadership skills. Leadership skills, of course, can be applied at different levels of organisations. New sector resource from The Open University It is against this backdrop, and thanks to a generous donation by an alumnus, Anthony Nutt, that the Open University Business School has established a new resource that provides access to free leadership courses and knowledge for voluntary sector organisations. The Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership builds on research and expertise within the university and aims to progress new research of particular relevance to the leadership challenges faced by smaller organisations. Smaller organisations make up the majority of the sector – they really represent the backbone of much voluntary and community effort – but in many ways have been under-researched and many issues facing them are poorly understood. The Centre will work with stakeholders from academic, practitioner and policy groups to advance understanding of the complex issues voluntary organisations face, the ambiguities of stakeholder responsibilities and accountabilities, and the dynamics caused by changing public policies.  As well as providing free leadership development opportunities, it will lead on new areas of research and help to disseminate best practice and new thinking. Free courses The first online course, Introducing the Voluntary Sector, is eight weeks long and is now available on the free learning website OpenLearn. Involving three hours of study each week, the course covers the structure of the UK voluntary sector, funding issues, stakeholders and the role of volunteering.   It is a Badged Open Course (BOC), which means that on completing the course, each learner will get a digital badge and certificate of participation. This can be shared on social media profiles, made public in the learner’s OpenLearn profile, and can help build confidence by providing a record of achievement. Working in the Voluntary Sector, the second course from the new Centre, focuses on the practicalities of working or volunteering in voluntary and community organisations including: working with volunteers; marketing and communication; budgets; fundraising; taking part in meetings; working in teams and partnerships; and building resilience.  This course will be available later in the year and is also a BOC. Two further free courses focusing on leadership will be available in Autumn 2016.  The courses are open for anyone interested in learning about and developing leadership in the context of voluntary organisations.  You do not need to be in a position of seniority to enrol.  Volunteers and professional staff at any level are welcome; indeed a key argument made in the courses is that leadership can come from many levels.   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield      
    Apr 01, 2016 2208
  • 16 Mar 2016
    Mike Zywina is an experienced fundraiser and the founder of Lime Green Consulting, providing affordable consultancy to smaller charities specialising in fundraising strategy, events management and individual giving. He is also a trustee for AbleChildAfrica and an ambassador for Good News Shared.  Sunday 20 March is World Storytelling Day, an annual celebration of the art of storytelling. Given that charities typically have a wealth of inspirational material at their fingertips, this is a timely reminder of what we could achieve if we used stories more to inspire our supporters and share our key messages. There’s no doubt about it, the humble story is still holding its own. In a world full of data, statistics and spreadsheets, there are loads of ways that charities can demonstrate their impressive impact and the hard-hitting reality of the problem they’re trying to solve. Yet studies have repeatedly proved that most people are more inspired by a great story, a compelling case study, and the impact their donation can have on a single beneficiary. Stories captivate us on an emotional level in a way that rational facts rarely can – and many of us trust our heart over our head when making decisions such as donating to a charity or buying a product. Stories can burn an image onto our brain and help us to make sense of the world and our experiences. They’re a bigger driver of our behaviour than many of us realise. Commercial Storytelling Many companies are brilliant at exploiting this. Frequently the story dominates to such an extent that the product is barely mentioned. The John Lewis Christmas advert feels like the official opening ceremony for the festive period these days – who can forget last year’s man on the moon? This love story about milk bottles is actually about something completely different, but you wouldn’t know it until the very end.   Charities are learning fast Charities are increasingly harnessing the power of storytelling to stand out in a world where there are thousands of good causes competing for our donations and attention. As charities, we enjoy the natural advantage of having powerful and inspiring stories to tell. We support people who battle against personal challenges, often showing huge courage in the face of adversity. Our heroic supporters dedicate their time, energy and creativity to volunteering and quirky fundraising efforts. Telling a story is a great way of explaining your vision of a better world and what needs to change. Stories are memorable and easy for your supporters to share with others, and they motivate staff and volunteers. In a world where we are more interconnected than ever, this is really powerful. A great example is the remarkable story of Stephen Sutton, who turned his battle with cancer into a £4million fundraising effort for Teenage Cancer Trust. Stephen’s personal story inspired millions of people to take action in a way that no statistic or charity newsletter could have done. Stories are a great ‘leveller’ for smaller charities You may not have the budget for that expensive marketing campaign or fundraising app, but your stories cost nothing to find and little to share. However, in my experience, many charities don’t capitalise on this, perhaps because they don’t take the time to look within themselves for a great story, or don’t realise quite how inspirational that story could be. Here are my six top tips for telling your own powerful stories: 1. Delve deep into your organisation – trustees and senior management don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. The best stories are unlikely to emerge from your boardroom. You need to engage project staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and fundraisers. This is a great way to find authentic content and engage everybody from top to bottom in the task of finding the story that best represents your cause. 2. Keep it positive – evidence shows that people are tired of ‘traditional’ charity appeals about suffering and pain. Increasingly we must deal in hope, change and happy endings. If you’re looking for inspiration then I’m proud to be an ambassador for Good News Shared, a website which shares brilliant stories that showcase the positive and inspiring work done by charities and social enterprises. Check out www.goodnewsshared.com for some storytelling inspiration 3. Faces not figures – a personal story is always more memorable than even a powerful statistic. Make your story about one inspiring individual and include photos and background information to make it feel more authentic. 4. Mix your media – no matter how good the story, too much text will always put people off. We live in a world full of videos, audio books and infographics, and organisations are finding ever more creative ways to share their content. So keep the text to a minimum, use plenty of vivid images and try creating a video of your story – it doesn't have to be professionally produced to be engaging. 5. Make it easy to share – why do all the hard work yourself? Every person has the potential to spread the word to others. You never know who may mention you to a company, trust or high value donor. Encourage supporters to share your stories by making them clear, memorable, short and bursting with pride. 6. What next? Don’t leave your supporters wondering what they can do to help. Finish with a clear call to action – this could be a request to donate a certain amount, sign up to an event or share the story on social media. Why not mark this year’s World Storytelling Day by spending a few minutes thinking about how your charity can be better at storytelling? Here’s some further inspiration to help you: The NCVO has published a piece by Rowan Boase on how to ‘storify’ the information that you share about your outcomes and impact This great blog by Nisha Kotecha, the Founder of Good News Shared, provides some practical tools for sharing your story Check out Localgiving’s Local Hero campaign which celebrates all the brilliant stories being created by fantastic fundraisers as they accomplish great feats in the name of raising money for local causes For further advice on supporter communication and fundraising, please visit www.limegreenconsulting.co.uk or download our free fundraising helpsheets.   Found this blog post useful? You may also like:   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack 5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar  
    5561 Posted by Mike Zywina
  • Mike Zywina is an experienced fundraiser and the founder of Lime Green Consulting, providing affordable consultancy to smaller charities specialising in fundraising strategy, events management and individual giving. He is also a trustee for AbleChildAfrica and an ambassador for Good News Shared.  Sunday 20 March is World Storytelling Day, an annual celebration of the art of storytelling. Given that charities typically have a wealth of inspirational material at their fingertips, this is a timely reminder of what we could achieve if we used stories more to inspire our supporters and share our key messages. There’s no doubt about it, the humble story is still holding its own. In a world full of data, statistics and spreadsheets, there are loads of ways that charities can demonstrate their impressive impact and the hard-hitting reality of the problem they’re trying to solve. Yet studies have repeatedly proved that most people are more inspired by a great story, a compelling case study, and the impact their donation can have on a single beneficiary. Stories captivate us on an emotional level in a way that rational facts rarely can – and many of us trust our heart over our head when making decisions such as donating to a charity or buying a product. Stories can burn an image onto our brain and help us to make sense of the world and our experiences. They’re a bigger driver of our behaviour than many of us realise. Commercial Storytelling Many companies are brilliant at exploiting this. Frequently the story dominates to such an extent that the product is barely mentioned. The John Lewis Christmas advert feels like the official opening ceremony for the festive period these days – who can forget last year’s man on the moon? This love story about milk bottles is actually about something completely different, but you wouldn’t know it until the very end.   Charities are learning fast Charities are increasingly harnessing the power of storytelling to stand out in a world where there are thousands of good causes competing for our donations and attention. As charities, we enjoy the natural advantage of having powerful and inspiring stories to tell. We support people who battle against personal challenges, often showing huge courage in the face of adversity. Our heroic supporters dedicate their time, energy and creativity to volunteering and quirky fundraising efforts. Telling a story is a great way of explaining your vision of a better world and what needs to change. Stories are memorable and easy for your supporters to share with others, and they motivate staff and volunteers. In a world where we are more interconnected than ever, this is really powerful. A great example is the remarkable story of Stephen Sutton, who turned his battle with cancer into a £4million fundraising effort for Teenage Cancer Trust. Stephen’s personal story inspired millions of people to take action in a way that no statistic or charity newsletter could have done. Stories are a great ‘leveller’ for smaller charities You may not have the budget for that expensive marketing campaign or fundraising app, but your stories cost nothing to find and little to share. However, in my experience, many charities don’t capitalise on this, perhaps because they don’t take the time to look within themselves for a great story, or don’t realise quite how inspirational that story could be. Here are my six top tips for telling your own powerful stories: 1. Delve deep into your organisation – trustees and senior management don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. The best stories are unlikely to emerge from your boardroom. You need to engage project staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and fundraisers. This is a great way to find authentic content and engage everybody from top to bottom in the task of finding the story that best represents your cause. 2. Keep it positive – evidence shows that people are tired of ‘traditional’ charity appeals about suffering and pain. Increasingly we must deal in hope, change and happy endings. If you’re looking for inspiration then I’m proud to be an ambassador for Good News Shared, a website which shares brilliant stories that showcase the positive and inspiring work done by charities and social enterprises. Check out www.goodnewsshared.com for some storytelling inspiration 3. Faces not figures – a personal story is always more memorable than even a powerful statistic. Make your story about one inspiring individual and include photos and background information to make it feel more authentic. 4. Mix your media – no matter how good the story, too much text will always put people off. We live in a world full of videos, audio books and infographics, and organisations are finding ever more creative ways to share their content. So keep the text to a minimum, use plenty of vivid images and try creating a video of your story – it doesn't have to be professionally produced to be engaging. 5. Make it easy to share – why do all the hard work yourself? Every person has the potential to spread the word to others. You never know who may mention you to a company, trust or high value donor. Encourage supporters to share your stories by making them clear, memorable, short and bursting with pride. 6. What next? Don’t leave your supporters wondering what they can do to help. Finish with a clear call to action – this could be a request to donate a certain amount, sign up to an event or share the story on social media. Why not mark this year’s World Storytelling Day by spending a few minutes thinking about how your charity can be better at storytelling? Here’s some further inspiration to help you: The NCVO has published a piece by Rowan Boase on how to ‘storify’ the information that you share about your outcomes and impact This great blog by Nisha Kotecha, the Founder of Good News Shared, provides some practical tools for sharing your story Check out Localgiving’s Local Hero campaign which celebrates all the brilliant stories being created by fantastic fundraisers as they accomplish great feats in the name of raising money for local causes For further advice on supporter communication and fundraising, please visit www.limegreenconsulting.co.uk or download our free fundraising helpsheets.   Found this blog post useful? You may also like:   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack 5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar  
    Mar 16, 2016 5561
  • 07 Mar 2016
     Duncan is communications officer at CharityComms. He runs the Digital Benchmark and AskCharity service. A philosophy and politics graduate of Manchester University, Duncan spent three months after university in Burkina Faso volunteering with International Service. AskCharity is a free service, run by CharityComms, which connects charities with journalists. Over 3,000 charities currently use the service to get their stories in the press, with hundreds of active journalists sending out thousands of emails every week. Its premise is simple: journalists send out requests for stories to a database of charity representatives, who then respond to any requests they think they can help with. The service sees over 20 requests go out a week and leads to stories across the media, from ITV to The Sun to The Guardian to Fabulous on topics ranging from surrogate mothers to firework phobias. And best of all, it’s free and easy to sign up. Through AskCharity, just a few emails can secure your charity some positive press – just look at how Rethink and Mind got positive coverage of mental illness.   Now you've signed your charity up, how can you make the most of it? These five tips are a good place to start: Understand what journalists are looking for – read the publications you want to be featured in to get a feel for the type of stories they like. Reflect this in your response to the journalist’s request. Know their target audience and include key details to reflect it – age and occupation of case studies, their story (or a synopsis of it) and how it fits the request. There's more on what journalists look for in this interview with freelance journalist Jill Foster. Be clear in your responses – you don’t necessarily have to reveal your case study or story immediately, particularly if it’s sensitive, but do make it clear what you need to know first. So ask for their angle, if copy approval will be given (most journalists are happy to allow read backs) and anything else you need to know. Don’t just say ‘feel free to call me’ – requests are going out to thousands of charities so don’t expect to be the only person the journalist’s dealing with. Likewise, make sure to meet deadlines – this all helps to build up a good relationship with a journalist. Size isn’t everything – journalists are looking for new angles and new ideas, so small charities, who people haven’t heard from before, may be exactly what they’re looking for.Take it from Kate Hilpern, who's written for everyone from the Daily Express to Good Housekeeping: “How I would love to see some of the smaller ones getting their amazing and stirring stories out there.” You can see her wish list for how charities can help journalists here. Don’t be downhearted if you don’t get a response, but always be prepared – the requests go out to thousands of people, so it may be that the journalist was overwhelmed with responses and yours wasn't quite the best match. Rest assured, when it is, you’ll hear back. Try to have in mind a few people who might make for interesting stories so you can respond quickly and effortlessly to requests. Remember the Answer Service isn’t the only avenue to secure coverage - there’s also the search function, where journalists with a specific interest can find the charity allied to that cause. Make sure to set up a clear page for your charity with all the basic info on what your charity does (so a journalist can easily search for you) and up to date contact details (including name and job title so journalists know who they’re contacting), so if your charity happens to match a story, you’ll be the first to know.   Here’s what charities using AskCharity think of it: “AskCharity has become one of the most useful PR resources for me in my role at DEBRA. It not only helps us pitch for slots we may not have previously known about, it’s also helped me build up a great media contact list.” Sara McIlroy, marketing and PR officer, DEBRA “Through AskCharity we've secured direct media coverage and worked with journalists to expand ideas for articles and features. It's also helped us make new contacts and build on-going relationships with the media.” Kellie Stewart, communications manager, Bliss Connect with journalists who want to tell your stories: sign up for free here. Or to find out more, read our AskCharity FAQs here.   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina   A-Z of Fundraising Ideas by Localgiving 5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha       Image courtesy of Jon S/6277209256
    2820 Posted by Duncan Hatfield
  •  Duncan is communications officer at CharityComms. He runs the Digital Benchmark and AskCharity service. A philosophy and politics graduate of Manchester University, Duncan spent three months after university in Burkina Faso volunteering with International Service. AskCharity is a free service, run by CharityComms, which connects charities with journalists. Over 3,000 charities currently use the service to get their stories in the press, with hundreds of active journalists sending out thousands of emails every week. Its premise is simple: journalists send out requests for stories to a database of charity representatives, who then respond to any requests they think they can help with. The service sees over 20 requests go out a week and leads to stories across the media, from ITV to The Sun to The Guardian to Fabulous on topics ranging from surrogate mothers to firework phobias. And best of all, it’s free and easy to sign up. Through AskCharity, just a few emails can secure your charity some positive press – just look at how Rethink and Mind got positive coverage of mental illness.   Now you've signed your charity up, how can you make the most of it? These five tips are a good place to start: Understand what journalists are looking for – read the publications you want to be featured in to get a feel for the type of stories they like. Reflect this in your response to the journalist’s request. Know their target audience and include key details to reflect it – age and occupation of case studies, their story (or a synopsis of it) and how it fits the request. There's more on what journalists look for in this interview with freelance journalist Jill Foster. Be clear in your responses – you don’t necessarily have to reveal your case study or story immediately, particularly if it’s sensitive, but do make it clear what you need to know first. So ask for their angle, if copy approval will be given (most journalists are happy to allow read backs) and anything else you need to know. Don’t just say ‘feel free to call me’ – requests are going out to thousands of charities so don’t expect to be the only person the journalist’s dealing with. Likewise, make sure to meet deadlines – this all helps to build up a good relationship with a journalist. Size isn’t everything – journalists are looking for new angles and new ideas, so small charities, who people haven’t heard from before, may be exactly what they’re looking for.Take it from Kate Hilpern, who's written for everyone from the Daily Express to Good Housekeeping: “How I would love to see some of the smaller ones getting their amazing and stirring stories out there.” You can see her wish list for how charities can help journalists here. Don’t be downhearted if you don’t get a response, but always be prepared – the requests go out to thousands of people, so it may be that the journalist was overwhelmed with responses and yours wasn't quite the best match. Rest assured, when it is, you’ll hear back. Try to have in mind a few people who might make for interesting stories so you can respond quickly and effortlessly to requests. Remember the Answer Service isn’t the only avenue to secure coverage - there’s also the search function, where journalists with a specific interest can find the charity allied to that cause. Make sure to set up a clear page for your charity with all the basic info on what your charity does (so a journalist can easily search for you) and up to date contact details (including name and job title so journalists know who they’re contacting), so if your charity happens to match a story, you’ll be the first to know.   Here’s what charities using AskCharity think of it: “AskCharity has become one of the most useful PR resources for me in my role at DEBRA. It not only helps us pitch for slots we may not have previously known about, it’s also helped me build up a great media contact list.” Sara McIlroy, marketing and PR officer, DEBRA “Through AskCharity we've secured direct media coverage and worked with journalists to expand ideas for articles and features. It's also helped us make new contacts and build on-going relationships with the media.” Kellie Stewart, communications manager, Bliss Connect with journalists who want to tell your stories: sign up for free here. Or to find out more, read our AskCharity FAQs here.   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina   A-Z of Fundraising Ideas by Localgiving 5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha       Image courtesy of Jon S/6277209256
    Mar 07, 2016 2820
  • 02 Mar 2016
    ...and why your premises should mean as much to you as your colleagues   So what is the state of your organisation’s bricks and mortar? Possibly not a question to fire the imagination of the average volunteer or community group for it is, of course, your communities which inspire you to deliver those small miracles every day.  Yet this is a vital question. After staff costs, property is always the second biggest budget item for any voluntary organisation, and as the Charity Commission will tell you, is one of the biggest areas of concern for charities seeking help. My own organisation the Ethical Property Foundation was set up in 2004 with the mission to support charities and voluntary groups with expert property advice, free at the point of access. We have advised 3000+ clients to date and last February became lead referral partners to the Charity Commission for land and property advice. These are tough times for our sector, and it has never been more important to understand the how vital property is. It is the second biggest item out of our sector’s £39bn general annual expenditure and the sector owns operating premises worth £22bn - unsurprisingly statistics for a sector comprising 160,000 organisations and employing 820,000 people. (NCVO Civil Society Almanac 2015) Yes, we are a sector worth listening to about property. However,  as we know, we are too often written off as cheap and cheerful and, by implication, unimportant. This has to stop. What we need is a clear picture of the sector’s property challenges and opportunities so we can talk to policy makers, local authorities and the property. Hence why I am now asking for your help. Charity Property Matters Survey 2016 This month the third Charity Property Matters Survey 2016 is launched by the Ethical Property Foundation 2016 in partnership with Charity Commission. This is the only one of its kind which asks voluntary groups about property. It just takes five minutes so please help us help the sector – Click here to complete survey Every week in our office we talk to voluntary and community groups about their property issues. Below are our top 10 property tips to consider for a confident property future: Review your budget. Has your organisation fully factored in the costs of running your premises: maintenance, utilities, security, service charges, etc? Are the calculations based on figures from a reliable source - the owner / landlord / a survey or guesswork? Check what repairs and maintenance obligations your organisation has with regard to the building. Have you planned how to meet these costs? Have you taken professional advice on the terms of your lease to ensure you are getting the best possible deal? If your organisation is taking on a building, ensure it has commissioned a condition survey to highlight potential problems and advise on the correct planned maintenance. Does your organisation have a planned maintenance schedule? When was the last condition survey? Has your organisation set aside money in the budget as a ‘sinking fund’? – a pot for unplanned premises expenditure should an emergency arise. How would you meet any unplanned costs?  How do you plan to / currently raise income from your building? Is the asset being used effectively? Are there other potential uses that are being missed? Re-read your business plan. Are premises needs included? Has could these needs may change over time? Check who on your team is responsible for looking after the premises in their job description? Check they have the proper training, knowledge and support. If your board decides that the organisation should rent space to other charities, are there proper tenant agreements in place? How is this managed? Is there space? Who are the tenants? As you can see property is quite a business! Do contact the Ethical Property Foundation if ever you need property support – and please Click here to complete survey   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan HatfieldDon’t save you Pitch for the Elevator by Emma Beeston    
    1193 Posted by Antonia Swinson
  • ...and why your premises should mean as much to you as your colleagues   So what is the state of your organisation’s bricks and mortar? Possibly not a question to fire the imagination of the average volunteer or community group for it is, of course, your communities which inspire you to deliver those small miracles every day.  Yet this is a vital question. After staff costs, property is always the second biggest budget item for any voluntary organisation, and as the Charity Commission will tell you, is one of the biggest areas of concern for charities seeking help. My own organisation the Ethical Property Foundation was set up in 2004 with the mission to support charities and voluntary groups with expert property advice, free at the point of access. We have advised 3000+ clients to date and last February became lead referral partners to the Charity Commission for land and property advice. These are tough times for our sector, and it has never been more important to understand the how vital property is. It is the second biggest item out of our sector’s £39bn general annual expenditure and the sector owns operating premises worth £22bn - unsurprisingly statistics for a sector comprising 160,000 organisations and employing 820,000 people. (NCVO Civil Society Almanac 2015) Yes, we are a sector worth listening to about property. However,  as we know, we are too often written off as cheap and cheerful and, by implication, unimportant. This has to stop. What we need is a clear picture of the sector’s property challenges and opportunities so we can talk to policy makers, local authorities and the property. Hence why I am now asking for your help. Charity Property Matters Survey 2016 This month the third Charity Property Matters Survey 2016 is launched by the Ethical Property Foundation 2016 in partnership with Charity Commission. This is the only one of its kind which asks voluntary groups about property. It just takes five minutes so please help us help the sector – Click here to complete survey Every week in our office we talk to voluntary and community groups about their property issues. Below are our top 10 property tips to consider for a confident property future: Review your budget. Has your organisation fully factored in the costs of running your premises: maintenance, utilities, security, service charges, etc? Are the calculations based on figures from a reliable source - the owner / landlord / a survey or guesswork? Check what repairs and maintenance obligations your organisation has with regard to the building. Have you planned how to meet these costs? Have you taken professional advice on the terms of your lease to ensure you are getting the best possible deal? If your organisation is taking on a building, ensure it has commissioned a condition survey to highlight potential problems and advise on the correct planned maintenance. Does your organisation have a planned maintenance schedule? When was the last condition survey? Has your organisation set aside money in the budget as a ‘sinking fund’? – a pot for unplanned premises expenditure should an emergency arise. How would you meet any unplanned costs?  How do you plan to / currently raise income from your building? Is the asset being used effectively? Are there other potential uses that are being missed? Re-read your business plan. Are premises needs included? Has could these needs may change over time? Check who on your team is responsible for looking after the premises in their job description? Check they have the proper training, knowledge and support. If your board decides that the organisation should rent space to other charities, are there proper tenant agreements in place? How is this managed? Is there space? Who are the tenants? As you can see property is quite a business! Do contact the Ethical Property Foundation if ever you need property support – and please Click here to complete survey   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:    Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan HatfieldDon’t save you Pitch for the Elevator by Emma Beeston    
    Mar 02, 2016 1193
  • 01 Mar 2016
    Mike Bright is the founder of Help From Home, an initiative that promotes and encourages people to participate in easy, no-commitment, microvolunteering opportunities. Mike has been involved in the microvolunteering arena since 2005, initially as a participant and then more fully from December 2008 with his 'Help From Home' initiative. He is considered one of the pioneers of the microvolunteering concept, as well as the organiser behind Microvolunteering Day that occurs every April 15th. In 2011, the United Nations published a report in which it highlighted three of the fastest growing trends in volunteering around the world, one of them being microvolunteering. Five years on, and the concept still shows no sign of abating. To borrow a definition from the Institute of Volunteering Research, 'microvolunteering is bite-size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete'. The vast majority of microvolunteering tasks can be conducted online, on-demand, and on-the-go, whilst sporting a completion time of between 1 – 120 minutes, but more usually a maximum 30.   For Volunteers If you’re a volunteer looking to squeeze in a bit of bite-sized benevolence within your busy lifestyle, then microvolunteering may be the answer.  You could be helping to cure cancer, researching penguins in the Arctic, or describing pictures for the blind, all from the comfort of your own home, during your work lunchbreak, or in the supermarket check-out queue. Basically, the actions come to you, and not the other way round – a far cry then from traditional volunteering activities. Useful websites to seek out these microvolunteering opportunities are Help From Home, SkillsForChange, and CrowdCrafting. For Nonprofits Creating a microvolunteering action that perhaps only lasts 10 minutes might seem a bit daunting, especially when most volunteer managers' question the time taken to create an action is worth the impact generated from it. Well, it all depends on what type of action you're creating. Typically there are three different types: One-off, non-repeatable skilled actions. Examples include logo design, a small bit of translation, proofreading a document etc. Such tasks could be described and uploaded to the very pro-active SkillsForChange microvolunteering platform in about 10 minutes Repeatable skilled actions. Check out PhotoFoundation for an example of this type of task. Invite your supporters to use their photography skills to submit images to their platform, which in turn then have the potential to earn a royalties income for your nonprofit Repeatable unskilled actions. These actions can range from being as simple as tapping in to your supporters' social reach using Justcoz, or conversely being as complex and costly to create like Fraxinus, a pattern recognition Facebook game to save UK Ash trees Help From Home probably has the most definitive resource on creating micro-actions in cyberland, that includes 'How To' Guides, micro-task suggestions, photos of microvolunteering events, as well as ideas on how to generate discussions on the concept amongst your supporters. Growing Trends The microvolunteering arena seems to be constantly challenging the pre-conceived ideas of how volunteering can be conducted. With the internet's reach becoming all pervasive, it's been suggested that people could potentially participate in micro-actions in-flight on airplanes, on cruise ships during activity sessions, as well as by hotel overnighters in their rooms – all places where traditional volunteering simply cannot reach. But what of the current and growing trends within the microvolunteering arena? Students and volunteer centres are using their laptops to entice visitors to their pop-up stalls at volunteering fairs and the like to take part in on-demand tasks like FreeRice Some nonprofits have been renaming their more traditional bite-sized roles and calling them microvolunteering ones, eg Mariner Management More microvolunteering smartphone apps are being created which focus on a single volunteering action rather than as a gateway into a directory of volunteering opportunities Roughly 70% of microvolunteers are aged under 29, and approximately 75% of microvolunteers are female, according to this stats source Disabled people are tapping into the convenience of the microvolunteering concept The annual Microvolunteering Day on April 15th is going from strength to strength, and is now in its third year The term microvolunteering gained its’ first blip on the voluntary radar back in 2008, and over the years has been seen as either an evolution or a revolution in volunteering. With its huge potential to transform the way in which nonprofits and volunteers can crowdsource impact, a little effort really can go a long way!   Image courtesy of winnond, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:  How to make friend with the media by Kay Parris How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar  The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina     
    2129 Posted by Mike Bright
  • Mike Bright is the founder of Help From Home, an initiative that promotes and encourages people to participate in easy, no-commitment, microvolunteering opportunities. Mike has been involved in the microvolunteering arena since 2005, initially as a participant and then more fully from December 2008 with his 'Help From Home' initiative. He is considered one of the pioneers of the microvolunteering concept, as well as the organiser behind Microvolunteering Day that occurs every April 15th. In 2011, the United Nations published a report in which it highlighted three of the fastest growing trends in volunteering around the world, one of them being microvolunteering. Five years on, and the concept still shows no sign of abating. To borrow a definition from the Institute of Volunteering Research, 'microvolunteering is bite-size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete'. The vast majority of microvolunteering tasks can be conducted online, on-demand, and on-the-go, whilst sporting a completion time of between 1 – 120 minutes, but more usually a maximum 30.   For Volunteers If you’re a volunteer looking to squeeze in a bit of bite-sized benevolence within your busy lifestyle, then microvolunteering may be the answer.  You could be helping to cure cancer, researching penguins in the Arctic, or describing pictures for the blind, all from the comfort of your own home, during your work lunchbreak, or in the supermarket check-out queue. Basically, the actions come to you, and not the other way round – a far cry then from traditional volunteering activities. Useful websites to seek out these microvolunteering opportunities are Help From Home, SkillsForChange, and CrowdCrafting. For Nonprofits Creating a microvolunteering action that perhaps only lasts 10 minutes might seem a bit daunting, especially when most volunteer managers' question the time taken to create an action is worth the impact generated from it. Well, it all depends on what type of action you're creating. Typically there are three different types: One-off, non-repeatable skilled actions. Examples include logo design, a small bit of translation, proofreading a document etc. Such tasks could be described and uploaded to the very pro-active SkillsForChange microvolunteering platform in about 10 minutes Repeatable skilled actions. Check out PhotoFoundation for an example of this type of task. Invite your supporters to use their photography skills to submit images to their platform, which in turn then have the potential to earn a royalties income for your nonprofit Repeatable unskilled actions. These actions can range from being as simple as tapping in to your supporters' social reach using Justcoz, or conversely being as complex and costly to create like Fraxinus, a pattern recognition Facebook game to save UK Ash trees Help From Home probably has the most definitive resource on creating micro-actions in cyberland, that includes 'How To' Guides, micro-task suggestions, photos of microvolunteering events, as well as ideas on how to generate discussions on the concept amongst your supporters. Growing Trends The microvolunteering arena seems to be constantly challenging the pre-conceived ideas of how volunteering can be conducted. With the internet's reach becoming all pervasive, it's been suggested that people could potentially participate in micro-actions in-flight on airplanes, on cruise ships during activity sessions, as well as by hotel overnighters in their rooms – all places where traditional volunteering simply cannot reach. But what of the current and growing trends within the microvolunteering arena? Students and volunteer centres are using their laptops to entice visitors to their pop-up stalls at volunteering fairs and the like to take part in on-demand tasks like FreeRice Some nonprofits have been renaming their more traditional bite-sized roles and calling them microvolunteering ones, eg Mariner Management More microvolunteering smartphone apps are being created which focus on a single volunteering action rather than as a gateway into a directory of volunteering opportunities Roughly 70% of microvolunteers are aged under 29, and approximately 75% of microvolunteers are female, according to this stats source Disabled people are tapping into the convenience of the microvolunteering concept The annual Microvolunteering Day on April 15th is going from strength to strength, and is now in its third year The term microvolunteering gained its’ first blip on the voluntary radar back in 2008, and over the years has been seen as either an evolution or a revolution in volunteering. With its huge potential to transform the way in which nonprofits and volunteers can crowdsource impact, a little effort really can go a long way!   Image courtesy of winnond, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:  How to make friend with the media by Kay Parris How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar  The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina     
    Mar 01, 2016 2129
  • 25 Feb 2016
    Kay Parris is a freelance journalist and editor with substantial experience of the voluntary sector.  Strategic planning can seem like a daunting task, but it is simply a means to setting your charity’s goals and figuring out how to progress them. Just like a strategy for any other area of work, a communications strategy begins with the overall vision and purpose of the organisation. Specific goals about your messages and media channels then spring from that central purpose. Here’s a basic template: 1. Vision and mission There is no point planning any projects that won’t help your charity to achieve its purpose. Before you do anything else, ensure you fully understand what that purpose is. Get hold of your organisation’s vision and mission statements and reproduce them. The vision is how your charity sees the future. Oxfam’s vision, for example, is: “A just world without poverty”. The mission is your core purpose, your reason for existing. Oxfam’s mission is: “To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice”. Not every charity articulates a vision or a mission statement. Yet these brief statements are extremely valuable in helping an organisation to find its voice, focus clearly on its objectives and measure its own success. If you don’t have a vision or mission already, this could be the right moment to suggest or brainstorm one into being. It goes without saying – get any text agreed by the relevant people. 2. Set goals What are the key things your charity wants to achieve? Oxfam has six key goals arising out of its vision and mission, which include the following: • Champion equal rights for women • Safeguard global food supplies • Increase money for basic services You can agree goals to suit your charity’s context even if you do not have a mission statement. But it is easier to keep the goals focused and clear if you do. 3. Key messages What are the essential messages and values your charity wants to convey, in view of its mission and goals? In other words, what do you want people to know about you and the issues you are dealing with? Once the key messages are enshrined in your strategy document, you will have a reference point for the stories you choose to tell about your charity: do they reinforce your core messages, or could they risk undermining them?   4. Name your audiences The people who encounter, or could encounter, your messages will include internal and external audiences, those you already communicate with, and those you would like or may need to reach, for whatever reason. For example: -          members/supporters of the charity   -          volunteers – both current and former -          staff -          trustees -          press contacts -          funding agencies -          government bodies -          supporters of similar causes -          members of groups you have worked with -          members of the general public 5. Market assessment Present the results of any market research you have done (even if only a straw poll or a bit of googling) to show how your target audiences currently view your charity or its issues. What kind of information are these people likely to favour and in what format? 6. SWOT analysis Explain the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you are working with from a communications point of view. You need to know about any constraints, and also about any potentially useful situations. The SWOT might reveal that you have a budget too tight for printing, for example, or a supporter base that lives in a dodgy wi-fi area. On the other hand, it might flag an annual event that presents a perfect awareness-raising opportunity. 7. Resources Indicate how much time and money, and how many people, can be allocated to driving your communications plan forward. Resist wishful thinking! 8. Communications tools Based on everything you have analysed so far, set out which communications channels you are planning to use. Newsletter, website, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, press/broadcast coverage, public meetings, leaflets, noticeboards – the options are endless but your resources and goals are not. Indicate the purposes intended for each channel. They could include: awareness-raising, attracting new members, raising funds, briefing volunteers. But how will these things happen? What kind of newsletter will it be? What kind of material will you be posting on YouTube, how often and why?  9. Timescales and targets: Include a list of key targets that you hope to meet through the communications strategy by a given date – often three years into the future. Perhaps you are anticipating an increase in web traffic, or a target number of social media followers, new supporters or members. Be sensible about this. It’s great to be ambitious, but there is nothing like falling short of unrealistic targets to demotivate hardworking staff or volunteers. 10. Review and adapt Return to the strategy periodically (say once a year) to review your tools, activities and messages. Consider how well they are reaching their audiences and serving their purposes. Adapt if necessary.    Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   Don't save you pitch for the elevator by Emma Beeston  The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  Lessons for charities from Knee surgery by Richard Sved     
    4560 Posted by Kay Parris
  • Kay Parris is a freelance journalist and editor with substantial experience of the voluntary sector.  Strategic planning can seem like a daunting task, but it is simply a means to setting your charity’s goals and figuring out how to progress them. Just like a strategy for any other area of work, a communications strategy begins with the overall vision and purpose of the organisation. Specific goals about your messages and media channels then spring from that central purpose. Here’s a basic template: 1. Vision and mission There is no point planning any projects that won’t help your charity to achieve its purpose. Before you do anything else, ensure you fully understand what that purpose is. Get hold of your organisation’s vision and mission statements and reproduce them. The vision is how your charity sees the future. Oxfam’s vision, for example, is: “A just world without poverty”. The mission is your core purpose, your reason for existing. Oxfam’s mission is: “To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice”. Not every charity articulates a vision or a mission statement. Yet these brief statements are extremely valuable in helping an organisation to find its voice, focus clearly on its objectives and measure its own success. If you don’t have a vision or mission already, this could be the right moment to suggest or brainstorm one into being. It goes without saying – get any text agreed by the relevant people. 2. Set goals What are the key things your charity wants to achieve? Oxfam has six key goals arising out of its vision and mission, which include the following: • Champion equal rights for women • Safeguard global food supplies • Increase money for basic services You can agree goals to suit your charity’s context even if you do not have a mission statement. But it is easier to keep the goals focused and clear if you do. 3. Key messages What are the essential messages and values your charity wants to convey, in view of its mission and goals? In other words, what do you want people to know about you and the issues you are dealing with? Once the key messages are enshrined in your strategy document, you will have a reference point for the stories you choose to tell about your charity: do they reinforce your core messages, or could they risk undermining them?   4. Name your audiences The people who encounter, or could encounter, your messages will include internal and external audiences, those you already communicate with, and those you would like or may need to reach, for whatever reason. For example: -          members/supporters of the charity   -          volunteers – both current and former -          staff -          trustees -          press contacts -          funding agencies -          government bodies -          supporters of similar causes -          members of groups you have worked with -          members of the general public 5. Market assessment Present the results of any market research you have done (even if only a straw poll or a bit of googling) to show how your target audiences currently view your charity or its issues. What kind of information are these people likely to favour and in what format? 6. SWOT analysis Explain the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you are working with from a communications point of view. You need to know about any constraints, and also about any potentially useful situations. The SWOT might reveal that you have a budget too tight for printing, for example, or a supporter base that lives in a dodgy wi-fi area. On the other hand, it might flag an annual event that presents a perfect awareness-raising opportunity. 7. Resources Indicate how much time and money, and how many people, can be allocated to driving your communications plan forward. Resist wishful thinking! 8. Communications tools Based on everything you have analysed so far, set out which communications channels you are planning to use. Newsletter, website, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, press/broadcast coverage, public meetings, leaflets, noticeboards – the options are endless but your resources and goals are not. Indicate the purposes intended for each channel. They could include: awareness-raising, attracting new members, raising funds, briefing volunteers. But how will these things happen? What kind of newsletter will it be? What kind of material will you be posting on YouTube, how often and why?  9. Timescales and targets: Include a list of key targets that you hope to meet through the communications strategy by a given date – often three years into the future. Perhaps you are anticipating an increase in web traffic, or a target number of social media followers, new supporters or members. Be sensible about this. It’s great to be ambitious, but there is nothing like falling short of unrealistic targets to demotivate hardworking staff or volunteers. 10. Review and adapt Return to the strategy periodically (say once a year) to review your tools, activities and messages. Consider how well they are reaching their audiences and serving their purposes. Adapt if necessary.    Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   Don't save you pitch for the elevator by Emma Beeston  The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  Lessons for charities from Knee surgery by Richard Sved     
    Feb 25, 2016 4560
  • 23 Feb 2016
    There is a scientific difference between training well for physical challenges and training really well for physical challenges. Luckily, you also don’t need to be on an elite athlete training programme to make the jump. In this guide I’ll share my 3 best tips for approaching any physical charity challenge, taken from my own training as an Ultra-Marathon Cyclist. 1. Know your heart   People who run marathons for charity, don’t just have a big heart metaphorically, they are also likely to have a big heart literally. Generally your body pumps blood round your body efficiently in one of two ways. Distance athletes like marathon runners develop a larger heart through training, so the amount of blood pumped with one beat will be slightly more. Athletes who have a strength focus will have a physically smaller heart, but the walls of the heart will be more muscular, so they pump blood with more force. Of course the ideal scenario is to have both size and muscle, so balance out your training with some strengthening exercises, or endurance exercise depending on your challenge. The only thing to be wary of for endurance athletes is not to carry excess muscle weight. For runners, planking is great because it works your core without adding too much muscle weight onto your legs. 2. Don’t get injured The majority of muscle injuries are entirely preventable and the more you look after your muscles and joints, the better condition you’ll be in for your challenge. The first tip here is obvious, make sure you warm up. It can be difficult if you lead a busy life, but it’s worth every minute. Secondly, stretching will help to prevent muscle tears. Make sure you stretch before you train and after, as each has its own purpose. Stretching prior to training makes your muscles more malleable. Think about the idea of stretching an elastic band to its limit when it’s cold – your muscles work in a very similar way.  Stretching after training has a warming effect on your muscles. This helps with circulation and takes away toxins like lactic acid that will have built up during your training. This makes you less likely to cramp after exercise. Drinking plenty water also helps with this. 3. Remember why you’re doing your challenge While physical strength is all well and good, remembering why you’re doing your challenge in the first place can really help - not only with training, but also during the toughest parts of your challenge. When you’re almost at breaking point, a bit of inspiration can really help you get through the most painful moments. Keeping your goal in mind will give you will power on those cold mornings when you need to go out and train. It’s not easy to get up and train, when you’re curled up warm in your bed. But thinking of the end result and why you’re raising the money in the first place always helps. Just think mind over matter!   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   The Sky is the limit for daring Granny WendyDawn rises over Mount KilimanjaroHow to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield                 
    2086 Posted by Katie Ford
  • There is a scientific difference between training well for physical challenges and training really well for physical challenges. Luckily, you also don’t need to be on an elite athlete training programme to make the jump. In this guide I’ll share my 3 best tips for approaching any physical charity challenge, taken from my own training as an Ultra-Marathon Cyclist. 1. Know your heart   People who run marathons for charity, don’t just have a big heart metaphorically, they are also likely to have a big heart literally. Generally your body pumps blood round your body efficiently in one of two ways. Distance athletes like marathon runners develop a larger heart through training, so the amount of blood pumped with one beat will be slightly more. Athletes who have a strength focus will have a physically smaller heart, but the walls of the heart will be more muscular, so they pump blood with more force. Of course the ideal scenario is to have both size and muscle, so balance out your training with some strengthening exercises, or endurance exercise depending on your challenge. The only thing to be wary of for endurance athletes is not to carry excess muscle weight. For runners, planking is great because it works your core without adding too much muscle weight onto your legs. 2. Don’t get injured The majority of muscle injuries are entirely preventable and the more you look after your muscles and joints, the better condition you’ll be in for your challenge. The first tip here is obvious, make sure you warm up. It can be difficult if you lead a busy life, but it’s worth every minute. Secondly, stretching will help to prevent muscle tears. Make sure you stretch before you train and after, as each has its own purpose. Stretching prior to training makes your muscles more malleable. Think about the idea of stretching an elastic band to its limit when it’s cold – your muscles work in a very similar way.  Stretching after training has a warming effect on your muscles. This helps with circulation and takes away toxins like lactic acid that will have built up during your training. This makes you less likely to cramp after exercise. Drinking plenty water also helps with this. 3. Remember why you’re doing your challenge While physical strength is all well and good, remembering why you’re doing your challenge in the first place can really help - not only with training, but also during the toughest parts of your challenge. When you’re almost at breaking point, a bit of inspiration can really help you get through the most painful moments. Keeping your goal in mind will give you will power on those cold mornings when you need to go out and train. It’s not easy to get up and train, when you’re curled up warm in your bed. But thinking of the end result and why you’re raising the money in the first place always helps. Just think mind over matter!   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   The Sky is the limit for daring Granny WendyDawn rises over Mount KilimanjaroHow to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan Hatfield                 
    Feb 23, 2016 2086
  • 19 Feb 2016
    Spice work with local communities and services to unlock time and skills from the local community and to support people to give their time. We believe everyone has something to give and everyone’s time is equal. Elly Townsend, Senior Project Manager: Business Development, Evaluation and Learning, talks about how Spice do this using their innovative Time Credit currency to enable great levels of giving, how they develop local networks to reach many more people, and the impact this is having across the country. What are Time Credits? People can earn Time Credits by giving their time to local services e.g. youth clubs, sheltered housing schemes and community groups. One Time Credit is earned for each hour of time given and acts as a thank you for the contribution of time. People earn Time Credits in a wide range of ways, such as supporting or running community activities, sharing their skills, peer support and advocacy. People then spend Time Credits to access events, training and leisure activities provided by public, community and private organisations, or to thank others in turn. Spending activities are contributed by local attractions and businesses, or put on by organisations using Time Credits or individuals who earn them.They include physical activity such as swimming, gym use or walking groups, theatre shows, sports events, training courses and social activities such as community coffee mornings or trips/outings. Our network includes fantastic places like the Tower of London, Blackpool Tower, Fusion Leisure Centres as well as lots of smaller businesses. Spending Time Credits enables people to access this wide range of activities they may not be able to otherwise. Building local Time Credit networks Spice are commissioned by organisations who want to build Time Credits into their work and unlock local community assets. We work with all sorts of organisations from local authorities, housing associations and social care service providers, through to community development organisations and schools. We work with each lead partner organisation to set local priorities for every programme. Asking, how do they want to use Time Credits? What do they want to achieve? Who are they trying to involve and where? Once we are clear on this we can then start to build a local network of people using the Time Credits currency. With the lead partner we sign up local groups and organisations and we support them to change the way they work with people and communities. Many of our network partners are small charities and community groups who use Time Credits to attract new volunteers or to develop new projects. In 2014, we surveyed organisations to find out what the impact of Time Credits had been on their organisation. 75% reported seeing benefits within the first 12 months of being involved, 62% reported being able to make better use of skills and resources in communities and 48% said they were able to deliver improved services. One community group responsible for managing a community centre for the last few years described how Time Credits has re-invigorated this asset, changing the focus from being a ‘letting out’ of the community centre space to engaging the community in the centre, with smaller groups using the centre and Time Credits being used to increase awareness and reward people for getting involved. Spice recently completed a further evaluation of our programmes of work in England and Wales with independent evaluators Apteligen. It showed that Time Credits are also having a profound impact for individuals earning Time Credits: We’d always like to do more, so if you’ve got a great idea for Time Credits or you’d like to talk more about how they might work in your organisation and enable people to give time locally do get in touch with elly@justaddspice.org. We always interested in having a chat!   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack 5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha Get your charity’s voice heard by Duncan HatfieldDon’t save you Pitch for the Elevator by Emma Beeston    
    1348 Posted by Elly Townsend
  • Spice work with local communities and services to unlock time and skills from the local community and to support people to give their time. We believe everyone has something to give and everyone’s time is equal. Elly Townsend, Senior Project Manager: Business Development, Evaluation and Learning, talks about how Spice do this using their innovative Time Credit currency to enable great levels of giving, how they develop local networks to reach many more people, and the impact this is having across the country. What are Time Credits? People can earn Time Credits by giving their time to local services e.g. youth clubs, sheltered housing schemes and community groups. One Time Credit is earned for each hour of time given and acts as a thank you for the contribution of time. People earn Time Credits in a wide range of ways, such as supporting or running community activities, sharing their skills, peer support and advocacy. People then spend Time Credits to access events, training and leisure activities provided by public, community and private organisations, or to thank others in turn. Spending activities are contributed by local attractions and businesses, or put on by organisations using Time Credits or individuals who earn them.They include physical activity such as swimming, gym use or walking groups, theatre shows, sports events, training courses and social activities such as community coffee mornings or trips/outings. Our network includes fantastic places like the Tower of London, Blackpool Tower, Fusion Leisure Centres as well as lots of smaller businesses. Spending Time Credits enables people to access this wide range of activities they may not be able to otherwise. Building local Time Credit networks Spice are commissioned by organisations who want to build Time Credits into their work and unlock local community assets. We work with all sorts of organisations from local authorities, housing associations and social care service providers, through to community development organisations and schools. We work with each lead partner organisation to set local priorities for every programme. Asking, how do they want to use Time Credits? What do they want to achieve? Who are they trying to involve and where? Once we are clear on this we can then start to build a local network of people using the Time Credits currency. With the lead partner we sign up local groups and organisations and we support them to change the way they work with people and communities. Many of our network partners are small charities and community groups who use Time Credits to attract new volunteers or to develop new projects. In 2014, we surveyed organisations to find out what the impact of Time Credits had been on their organisation. 75% reported seeing benefits within the first 12 months of being involved, 62% reported being able to make better use of skills and resources in communities and 48% said they were able to deliver improved services. One community group responsible for managing a community centre for the last few years described how Time Credits has re-invigorated this asset, changing the focus from being a ‘letting out’ of the community centre space to engaging the community in the centre, with smaller groups using the centre and Time Credits being used to increase awareness and reward people for getting involved. Spice recently completed a further evaluation of our programmes of work in England and Wales with independent evaluators Apteligen. It showed that Time Credits are also having a profound impact for individuals earning Time Credits: We’d always like to do more, so if you’ve got a great idea for Time Credits or you’d like to talk more about how they might work in your organisation and enable people to give time locally do get in touch with elly@justaddspice.org. We always interested in having a chat!   Found this Blog useful? You may also like:   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack 5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha Get your charity’s voice heard by Duncan HatfieldDon’t save you Pitch for the Elevator by Emma Beeston    
    Feb 19, 2016 1348
  • 16 Feb 2016
    Felicity Christensen is the Communications & Events Manager at Small Charities Coalition - a national membership charity who help small charities access the skills, tools & information they need to get going and do what they do best. Whether you are a paid employee or volunteer in the charity sector, undoubtedly one of the key skills to crack is professional networking. Networking provides the opportunity to build up your professional contacts, share ideas and feel part of a wider working community outside the office. Here are the top 5 tips for getting the most out of networking events:   Find the good ones to go to – Eventbrite is a great place to find new networking events within the charity sector, as is Twitter, and they don’t even have to cost anything. (We regularly promote personally recommended small charity focussed networking events via the Small Charities Coalition E-bulletin.) Know how to introduce yourself – nobody needs reminding that first impressions count, so knowing how to introduce yourself well is a must. Keep it brief, to the point, and remember to smile! If you are representing a business be sure to have your elevator pitch ready. Be curious – asking questions not only helps to build connections with others but peer learning is a fun and informal way of sharing tips, sounding out ideas and potentially building useful relationships for the future. It gets better – like many new things the first time might be scary, but the more networking events you go to the more you will begin to see some familiar faces and begin to look forward to events as you see your network grow. It can be helpful to have personal goals set ahead of an event such as handing out a certain number of business cards or meeting a set number of new people. Be prepared - have business cards ready to share for follow-up conversations, and ask the organiser to share a list of attendees so you can get in contact afterwards. Social media is the fastest and least formal way to connect, so if you don’t have a Twitter or LinkedIn profile – make one   To see networking events that Eventbrite have to offer click here. The Charity Meetup events are popular and well-structured with fun ice-breakers.     Found this Blog useful? You may also like:  How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina     
    2586 Posted by Felicity Christensen
  • Felicity Christensen is the Communications & Events Manager at Small Charities Coalition - a national membership charity who help small charities access the skills, tools & information they need to get going and do what they do best. Whether you are a paid employee or volunteer in the charity sector, undoubtedly one of the key skills to crack is professional networking. Networking provides the opportunity to build up your professional contacts, share ideas and feel part of a wider working community outside the office. Here are the top 5 tips for getting the most out of networking events:   Find the good ones to go to – Eventbrite is a great place to find new networking events within the charity sector, as is Twitter, and they don’t even have to cost anything. (We regularly promote personally recommended small charity focussed networking events via the Small Charities Coalition E-bulletin.) Know how to introduce yourself – nobody needs reminding that first impressions count, so knowing how to introduce yourself well is a must. Keep it brief, to the point, and remember to smile! If you are representing a business be sure to have your elevator pitch ready. Be curious – asking questions not only helps to build connections with others but peer learning is a fun and informal way of sharing tips, sounding out ideas and potentially building useful relationships for the future. It gets better – like many new things the first time might be scary, but the more networking events you go to the more you will begin to see some familiar faces and begin to look forward to events as you see your network grow. It can be helpful to have personal goals set ahead of an event such as handing out a certain number of business cards or meeting a set number of new people. Be prepared - have business cards ready to share for follow-up conversations, and ask the organiser to share a list of attendees so you can get in contact afterwards. Social media is the fastest and least formal way to connect, so if you don’t have a Twitter or LinkedIn profile – make one   To see networking events that Eventbrite have to offer click here. The Charity Meetup events are popular and well-structured with fun ice-breakers.     Found this Blog useful? You may also like:  How Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe Amar The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina     
    Feb 16, 2016 2586