Best charity social media campaigns of 2014

I feel that 2014 was the year that social media really took off for charities. Hardly a week went by without people jumping on the latest bandwagon campaign. Wherever I looked friends and family seemed to be all joining in various stunts and activities. Not all of them I agreed with (#nomakeupselfie anyone?) but they certainly captured the general public’s imagination.

So how many of these did you get involved with or were aware of? With thanks to Civil Society for the pinched summary of each campaign:

  1. #nomakeupselfie
    In the spring cancer charities received an unexpected bonus as people rushed to take snapshot of themselves without make up, donate to charity and nominate three of their friends to do the same.   Cancer Research UK was the biggest winner, raising a staggering £8m in the first week, but cancer charities across the board benefited as the craze swept the nation.
  2. Icebucket challenge
    Over the summer challenging friends to take a selfie to raise awareness was replaced with asking them to have someone else pour a bucket of ice over their head.  The challenge saw people pour a bucket of iced water over their head and make a £5 donation to charity. Anyone who completed the challenge can nominate three more people to take part.  The origin may have been in New Zealand, raising money for cancer charities, but it took off in the US where various celebrities took part for ALS Association, which supports those with motor neurone disease.   In the UK the Motor Neurone Disease Association raised £7.1m.  Macmillan Cancer Support raised almost £5m, but the charity was forced against criticism that it had hijacked MNDA’s campaign.
  3. Find Mike
    Right at the start of the year Jonny Benjamin set out to find the stranger who prevented his suicide with a social media campaign and support from Rethink Mental Illness. The campaign captured the imagination of the public and in the first day the charity’s website received more than 10,000 visitors and the story got over 2,500 social media shares.  ‘Mike’ turned out to be called Neil Laybourn, whose fiancé saw the campaign on Facebook and recognised the story. He then contacted Rethink.   Benjamin documented the process of finding Mike, which was released in the spring and Rethink has been using the the film to raise awareness of mental illness and collect donations via text.
  4. Stephen’s Story
    You couldn’t help but be moved by Stephen Sutton whose JustGiving page reached £5m raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the months following his death in May this year from bowel cancer.  His fundraising campaign and blog attracted the attention and support of the national media, celebrities and politicians.
  5. Charities hijack the #Tubestrike hashtag
    When London Underground workers went on strike in the spring  Save the Children, Macmillan Cancer Support and Leonard Cheshire Disability hijacked the Twitter hashtag to put commuters’ frustrations into perspective. Frustrated communters looking at the #tubestrike feed on Twitter also saw mocked up line status boards from the three charities reminding them that there are worse things than having to catch a crowded London bus. Save the Children’s image listed basic essentials such as food and medicine with statuses like ‘suspended’ or ‘under siege’. In one day it was retweeted almost 1,000 times.

And a cheeky final one, not so much of a campaign but I was pleased to see the ‘Scrooge Award’ has been ditched after retailers find their Christmas spirit. The annual award was for retailers that give the least amount to charity from charity Christmas cards, but this year was ditched after the vast majority of retailers responded to the campaign and boosted their contributions.

Wonder what next year will bring?

Christmas comes early for North East charities

VONNE are pleased that last week, the Chancellor announced £4m of Government funding for the Virgin Money Foundation to support charitable projects in the North East. As VONNE regulars will know we have been lobbying the Chancellor to step in following the expected closure of Northern Rock Foundation, the cuts in public sector funding and the impact that this is having on the sector in the North East.

In his letter to VONNE, George Osborne makes an explicit pledge that this money is for charitable activity in the North East of England.

VONNE is hopeful that the announcement will create a sustainable charitable commitment to the region. This would of course mean a commitment from Virgin Money to pledge at least 1% of all future pre tax profits in order to secure a lasting future. We would also urge the Treasury to make a similar pledge when the surplus assets of Northern Rock Asset Management return to the Treasury.

This is a good day for the Charity sector in the NE. We hope that the money will be used to provide a much needed lifeline to organisations that support some of the most vulnerable and deprived people in the country, and we look forward to supporting the newly established Virgin Money Foundation in this.

Guest post: 2D carrying on in a different way

In the new year 2D will be absorbed by Groundwork NE & Cumbria, following the decision of directors and trustees of 2D (read their press release).  

Michele Armstrong, Chief Executive of 2D has written a guest blog for us to explain the thinking behind the decision and why she is proud of the pro-active approach taken.


Kate Culverhouse and Michelle Armstrong

I am very proud of the Directors/Trustees of 2D.  A managed exit is being achieved and positive results as a consequence of a decision that a lot of charities find hard to take.

Since its inception in 2001 operating as a CVS and Volunteer Centre across Teesdale and Wear Valley, we made a difference, we championed the voluntary and community sector of the Durham Dales and we helped thousands of individuals meet their volunteering aspirations.  We employed at times an extensive workforce, and propped up the local economy by buying lots of milk, tea and coffee and of course those Friday bacon sandwiches!

In 2009 Durham went Unitary and we were vital in helping establish local area action partnerships, sitting on the four in our area, chairing them and generally helping them tick. But the climate was changing we always knew that 7 infrastructure organisations in the county was not sustainable.

We have helped develop a new County Structure and have supported the process of streamlining and creating a less confusing environment for our beneficiaries.   We have invested in development and gained National recognition through a number of projects that enhanced the work of the Volunteer Centre function of the business.  We have always adopted a businesslike approach and the director/trustees carried on this approach when it came to looking at the future.

2D or not 2D was a very valid question to ask, despite having a reserves level that could have seen us through to 2017, we just felt that by removing ourselves from the infrastructure market place, would help the new County Wide Mechanism for the Voluntary and Community sector of Co Durham develop.

Over the years we listened to our members most of whom are real grass roots small organisations, they always said that small amounts of funding can make a massive difference to them. With this is mind we worked with Co Durham Community Foundation to establish a Community First endowment fund for the Durham Dales Area. We put in £100k it was matched with £50K no brainer really, and we have a mechanism whereby the 2D name can live on, this a legacy to the area that is an emotional one for me and the director/trustees, some of whom will go on to sit on the funding panel.

So having looked to leaving a tangible legacy, we then had discussions on how the ethos, knowledge and expertise of 2D might carry on. That’s when the unique relationship we had with Groundwork North East and Cumbria came to the fore.   So, Groundwork NE & Cumbria is expanding and strengthening its expertise by absorbing 2D.

Groundwork believes that 2D’s skills and knowledge will complement its focus on improving the lives of people across the region. All of 2D’s staff have been offered the option of transferring to Groundwork under the same terms and conditions, Support is also available for Volunteers working within 2D to move to Groundwork or other organisations.

Kate Culverhouse Chief Executive of Groundwork Northeast and Cumbria says

“2D’s areas of expertise dovetail perfectly with Groundwork’s values and principles and will enhance what we are able to offer communities throughout the North East and Cumbria.”

I will  become Groundwork Partnership Manager,  and I am looking forward to using the knowledge and experience from my time leading 2D to grow Groundwork’s Corporate Social Responsibility agenda and help it engage even more with the private sector. Moving to Groundwork offers me the fantastic opportunity to help improve communities across a much wider geographical area.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work for 2D and to be part of something that was dynamic, inspirational and aspirational, but times change, horizons change and adapting in business is a must, and taking the step to invest wisely is always difficult, but the Directors/Trustees have invested wisely and are leaving a legacy, now that’s not always easy to do.

So after 16 years at the helm I will hand in the keys to our offices on the 19th December 2014, and not have to worry about the building during the Christmas shutdown, Over Christmas I am going to look back fondly on my memories of 2D , but on the 5th January, put that behind me and make my way to an office that overlooks a duck pond and start an exciting New Year.

Michele Armstrong
Chief Executive Office, 2D

Prisons are secure, but are they safe?

Last night I attended NEPACS AGM in Durham; following an amazing performance from Durham Recovery Choir during which several members were brave enough to share their stories. Frances Crook, Chief Executive of The Howard League for Penal Reform, delivered a speech addressing the question ‘Our prisons may be secure, but are they safe?’

Frances feels that prisons in England and Wales are secure; people do not escape (two in the past year) and out of the thousands of prisoners on day release or ROTL (released on temporary licence) there is rarely anyone that absconds. However, Frances went on to say that the same cannot be said about prisons being safe.

The Howard League have carried out Freedom of Information requests which shows there has been an overall cut of 41% in prison staff across England and Wales between 2010 and 2014. In the North East prison officer numbers have been cut by up to 49%;

  • HMP Durham staff reduced from 311 to 160 (49%)
  • HMP Frankland staff reduced from 604 to 420 (31%)
  • HMP Low Newton staff reduced from 141 to 100 (29%)

In London and the South it is difficult to recruit prison officers, so staff from the North East are being sent, on detached duty, to cover in prisons that they are unfamiliar with at a cost of £500 per officer per week.

Frances reported that violence in prison has increased. As the prison population continues to rise, attacks on prison staff, as well as prisoner on prisoner violence also increase. Sexual violence in prison is much higher than anticipated and those who become victims are highly likely to continue to be abused. Sadly, reporting of these crimes is very low (see Howard League’s coercive sex in prisons publication). Frances believes it is time to introduce something similar to the American Prison Rape Elimination Act 2003.

Frances did end her speech on a more positive note, stating that the number of young people in custody has reduced from over 3,000 to 1,000 in the past four years. There are currently only 44 girls under the age of 14 in custody, and 38 children aged 10-14 years old. There is no clear reason as to why this reduction has happened, but it is likely to be changes in the arrests system and how the police deal with young offenders. Frances believes that if you reduce entry into the Criminal Justice System then offending and reoffending in young people will be reduced. “The more we do, the worse we make it” she said. If their needs are addressed by health, housing, education etc then they are likely to move towards a crime free life. But once they become part of the cycle it is difficult to break.

During the question and answer session a father of a prisoner asked how moving his son 120 miles way from his family, from Durham to Preston, could be beneficial to anyone? The 120 mile trip is too much for the father to make with his grandchildren in winter and therefore the prisoner will not receive the visits he is entitled to during his sentence. Frances suggested visiting his MP to ask for their support in writing to the Justice Secretary, as families are so important in the rehabilitation of offenders.

It was a very emotional evening hearing stories from those with lived experience and it certainly gave me a lot of food for thought.

Question time for Ross

Ross Cowan

October seems to have been the month for regional health related events. I went to three and whilst I heard and learnt a lot I was left with several questions I thought I would share with you.

The first event was about Parity of esteem. Making sure that we are just as focused on improving mental as physical health and that patients with mental health problems don’t suffer inequalities, either because of the mental health problem itself or because they then don’t then get the best care for their physical health.

If mental and physical health services were fully combined would we have so readily prescribed medication that made patients more susceptible to Parkinson’s and obesity? And continue to do so when less harmful alternatives are available?

Is it really beyond the NHS to run a combined community health service up-skilling both it’s CPNs and psychiatrists on physical health and it’s district nurses on mental health?

Why aren’t NICE recommendations on therapeutic treatments given the same MUST DO standing as those for drugs?

Should a medical professional ever call someone obese, even if they (the professional) were once obese themselves?

Whose normal is it? Are we sure ‘the cure’ is what someone actually wants? How much control are we removing?

Should we supporting e-cigarettes, as a safer way of taking nicotine than via tobacco? Is any addiction bad?

Alisdair Cameron from Launchpad asked us to consider ‘what might mental health services look like if local authorities still ran the asylums?’, reminding us that they were originally built by councils in Victorian times, when asylum was taken more literally to mean a place of safety.

The second event was organised by FUSE, the North East virtual centre for academic research in Public Health. It was looking at the role and effectiveness of Patient and Public Involvement in public health research.

Who decides what public health research is done. Is it invariably, or inevitably, funding led? Should research topics be guided by relevance and demand, preferably from local communities?

We were told that in no other country do patients and public show such a willingness to take part in research. Or at least they did till care.data came along. Richard Titmuss in his seminal work The Gift Relationship, argued that people freely donated blood because they saw it being used for public good, not private profit. Is the problem that the public no longer believe their health records will be used solely for public good?

Top question for the final Panel discussion, How do we get access to public health researchers in Universities? Or maybe, how do we get them out of the Universities? Could they be seconded to local authorities, or work directly with local communities and voluntary organisations? At low, affordable, cost?

And last week, the Association of North East Councils held an event at the Durham Centre looking at ways of improving health and wellbeing in the region.

I started my working life on as a Community Development worker on Sherburn Road estate, just up the road from this event. In those days Public Health workers seemed like natural allies, working in, and directly with, local communities. Why has that changed? When did Public Health, to paraphrase Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council, become so medically?

Why was public health originally taken away from local authorities, which seems to be its natural home? If only I’d paid more attention in my Social Policy degree, something I never thought I’d say.

Would we really have enough money if only we spent it wisely and more efficiently on fully integrated services? Would a National Care Service fit the bill? How would it be done without more organisational change?

Should we have a North East Health Commission, like London and Greater Manchester, an independent inquiry examining and recommending how health and wellbeing can be improved? Would we need a Boris or a Cheryl as Mayor to force through, or possibly hinder, change?

Andy Burnham, Shadow Minister of Health, ended the event by reminding us that Aneurin Bevan, who established the NHS, was both Minister of Health and responsible for Housing. So why were Parker Morris minimum standards for space, sanitation and heating in social housing and the new towns of the North East scrapped? Clue, it happened in 1980 and the reason seems to have been cost.

Of course, his main point was that we could only achieve real health and wellbeing by tackling the wider, social, determinants of health. And that we all need to work together, across our respective sectors and agendas.

The heartening thing across all three events was a strong view that we in the North East are best placed to make all this work. And (sometimes with a little prompting) the VCSE is generally seen as an important and valued partner in shaping the way forward.

Chancellor – now is the time to play fair with North East Charities

Following the news that Virgin Money is to float and the so called “bad bank” part of Northern Rock is returning a profit, VONNE wrote to the new Minister for Civil Society and to the Treasury setting out why it is right and fair that the VCSE in the North East should reap some of the benefit from the surpluses. I will provide you with some background to this:

Northern Rock Foundation held 15% of the shares in Northern Rock bank and was entitled to 5% of the pre tax profits. In January 2012, Virgin Money bought the Northern Rock business and branch network (the so called “good bank”) for £747m. With subsequent payments this has risen to £1.02bn. Virgin money made profits of £60m in the first half of this year and are set to float, which will raise a further £150m.
Meanwhile NRAM – (the so called “bad bank”) which was hived off under the UK Asset Resolution Scheme made over £1bn in the 15 months prior to March 2014 and £876m in 2012. According to financial experts, if you add the money raised by the Treasury from the sale to Virgin, the Government has made more than £3bn from the business in the past 3 years. 15% of that should arguably be enjoyed by the VCSE in the North East and Cumbria.

The outright losers here are Charities, Social Enterprises and Community groups in the North East and Cumbria. The Northern Rock Foundation is set to close at a time when Charities are reporting increased demands for their services and income streams are drying up. Northern Rock Foundation was an intelligent grant maker that made grants worth around £220m to Charities in the North East and Cumbria over the past 17 years. The loss is hard to convey – given that almost everyone in the North East will be associated with a charity that at one time or another was touched by the Northern Rock foundation.

Whilst we are grateful to Virgin money for their commitment of £1m to youth projects, clearly the gap between what Northern Rock Foundation previously granted to Charities in the region is enormous.

There is a real opportunity for the new Minister to make a difference by urging the Treasury to place a value on the asset that existed for the benefit of Charities in the North East. If the Treasury were to make a gift to the foundation of just 1% of the money that it has raised through the sale of the business this would create a £30m investment in Charities in the North East.  This would provide a much needed lifeline to organisations that support some of the most vulnerable and deprived people in the country.

I am as always interested in your views and would be delighted if you would join VONNE in urging the Treasury to play fair on this. Email me at jo.curry@vonne.org.uk

Paying people to pick daisies

Ross CowanMy mind started to wander when I was reading about Integrated Personal Commissioning (which promises to blend health and social care funding for individuals in one pot and allow them, with support, to direct and control how it is used).  I find I do that a lot lately, it’s either a sign of ageing or an odd feeling that I’ve been here before, maybe one naturally follows the other.

Back in 1992 I was the Manager of the Gateshead Disability Information Project. We were one of 12 Projects making up the National Disability Information Project, funded by and reporting to the Department of Health (it was still DoH then, before the Health Minister became upset at the comparisons with Homer Simpson). We were firmly grounded in the Social Model of Disability, believing that Disability was compounded by a lack of accessible information. If only Disabled people had an accessible Guide(s) (or these days, a Navigator) to what was out there and how to get it, then their lives would be radically improved.

The problem came once we all looked for what to put in our Directories. We discovered that actually there weren’t many services out there that Disabled people could use. Most were physically inaccessible, couldn’t provide suitable support or were just too expensive. These were the days when most local authorities offered Disabled people a trip to a Day Centre or a place in a sheltered workshop folding cardboard boxes. There was little incentive to provide anything different.

Having tried and learned, we responded by setting up the Gateshead Personal Assistance Pilot Project (I don’t know why we didn’t notice the unfortunate acronym). This was a training and advocacy project supporting Disabled people to set up their own packages of funded care to employ their own Personal Assistants in order to live the lives they wanted to live (using benefits, Independent Living Fund and, when they were introduced in 1997, Direct Payments). In a couple of cases we were able to persuade the NHS to use some arcane regulation that allowed them to make payments to Gateshead Council to produce a joint fund covering both health and social care needs. Where there’s a will ……

It wasn’t all plain sailing, obviously. A manager in Social Services told us firmly he wasn’t going to pay for people to go out and pick daisies and that it wasn’t the job of Social Services to make people happy.  It was only later that social services became more relaxed about Disabled people buying football season tickets, going to the pictures, buying and caring for a pet, knitting or making love and having children.

I still have a print copy of our training course, if anyone wants to update it I’m sure I could find it on floppy disc. Whilst I obviously welcome IPC, we could and should all have been doing it for at least the last 20 years.

But anyway, that wasn’t my main point. The unusual thing about the National Disability Information Project in those days was that you could only apply to run a local project if you were a partnership between a local authority, some bit of the NHS and a voluntary organisation. Same as the current IPC process.

Even more unusual, and possibly uniquely, the voluntary organisation was given the whole budget to manage and distribute to the other partners.  I had the bank account and the cheque book and the NHS and Gateshead Council had to invoice me to pay for their work.

It had an interesting effect on the power balance, ensuring that we were always involved at the right point in the decision making and that Disabled and Deaf people had real control over what the Project was doing.

So my not so new idea is, why don’t we give the Integrated Personal Commissioning budgets to the voluntary organisation in each local partnership to manage and distribute? We’ve got experience going back over many years, we know how to navigate the systems and we have the trust of the people who matter.  Simple.

5 tips for charities on viral campaigns like #icebucketchallenge

A while back I wrote a blog post on the current viral campaign of the time #nomakeupselfie which ended up being one of this blog’s most popular posts of the year.

Time moves fast in social media so here I am re-visting my top 5 tips for charities on what they can learn from previous viral campaigns.  This is in light of the latest one to go global, the biggest yet in #icebucketchallenge

The campaign is rumoured to have began earlier this year in New Zealand with a range of charities benefitting from it.  It was then picked up by the ALS Association in America where it really caught the public’s attention and became a huge success, raising over $100 million to date, compared to $2m the previous year. For those living under a stone this past month, it involves being filmed tipping a bucket of ice water over one’s head, nominating others to do the same and donating to a charity, mainly the ALS.

Research last week in the UK showed 56% of those completing the challenge didn’t go on to donate.  But with over 145 individual charities reported to have benefited from donations thats still 44% who do donate.

When a cause goes viral it invariably morphs along the way.  Many people in the UK nominated Motor Neurone Disease Association, arguably being the equivalent to ALS in this country.  Pre-ice bucket, the MND Association would receive on average £200,000 a week in donations. From 22 to 29 August, it received £2.7m.  However many chose to nominate their own favourite charity instead.  This is where it gets interesting in how other charities reacted to this.

Macmillan Cancer faced accusations of ‘hijacking’ the cause for its decision to attach itself to the #icebucketchallenge which it denies.   It has a paid advert appearing at the top of Google search results when someone looks up ice bucket challenge.

So my tips again, this time revised to show the importance of clarification.

My top 5 tips to charities on viral campaigns:

1. Be prepared to use social media outside of hours – have a designated person at least who is set up to receive alerts when your name or cause is mentioned.

2. Update your website to provide reassurance to potential donors that you are aware of campaigns, even if you didn’t start them, don’t hijack others but do be clear on how to donate if supporters choose to.

3. Be prepared to respond quickly to exisitng supporters who might not feel happy about the campaign, perhaps its not right for your organisation, and if so put up some FAQs explaining your stance.

4. If you are accidentally receiving donations on behalf of another charity (like WWF was, many ended up adopting polar bears instead !) be open, honest and work with the right charities to re-direct the funds appropriately. You don’t want to start a backlash against you.

5. You can’t really prepare for something like this over and above what I’ve suggested, but if you have a flexible responsive team in place then that’s a great place to start.

What a difference a year makes…

It is almost a year since VONNE and Clinks joined forces to support the voluntary sector working in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in the North East. I spent a great deal of time reflecting upon our achievements last week in order to write a progress report for our funder Northern Rock Foundation.

This partnership has enabled me to gather intelligence on the voluntary sector in the North East; utilising VONNE’s presence in the North East and Clinks’ policy function at a national level. Strong links have been made with statutory sector organisations and commissioners to ensure the voluntary sector play a vital role in service delivery. The project has enabled the sector to get to grips with a rapidly changing criminal justice policy landscape, and understand how this will effect voluntary organisations working in North East. Intelligence from the North East has been fed into Clinks’ national policy work and the leadership of the charity, which is adding a valuable perspective that was previously missing.

Snapshot survey:

  1. Access to income needs to be prioritised
  2. Increased investment in effective partnerships and collaboration
  3. Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) in the North East need clear strategy and structure for engaging the voluntary sector
  4. Ensure effective communication and information sharing with the voluntary sector

 

The report has been distributed to key contacts at a local, regional and national level. On the back of this report one PCC has allocated an engagement budget and is in the process of developing a voluntary sector strategic forum. Another PCC has committed to engaging with the sector through our Safer Future Communities Network.

Other highlights include:

  • The Making Every Adult Matter pilots in Sunderland and North Tyneside have come such a long way; both partnerships now have coordinators in post to provide long term support and flexible services to a number of clients with high levels of multiple and complex needs.
  • The VONNE website has been refreshed to provide a guide to the Criminal Justice System in the North East, with key contacts, policy updates and briefing notes. The web pages have received 2190 visitors over the course of the year, with the Safer Future Communities Network Directory being by far the most popular.
  • We are working with Barefoot Research and Evaluation to produce case studies of good practice from the North East and sharing these across the Country. Four have been produced so far.
  • Over 230 people have attended our 5 regional events which have covered a range of topics; from multiple needs; Transforming Rehabilitation; to ‘The Role of Women’s Specialist Services in Tackling Health Inequalities in the North East’

 

The first year has been successful, both in terms of promoting the project and supporting the voluntary sector to develop strong links with the statutory sector. It has been a challenging year with the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms providing a rapidly changing, and often unclear, landscape. The project is at a critical point in terms of developing relationships with the statutory sector. Over the next 12 months we envisage that the engagement of the voluntary sector will become more fully embedded statutory sector activity.

Shhh, Im thinking about the website

If things have been a bit quiet around here don’t be fooled into thinking we’re all off on holiday. I for one am in deep thought and production as we plan our new website, hoping to launch for our AGM and Conference on 20th November.
When we put our tender out for a new website earlier this year, I was told by one that our website was well past retirement age, and he’s right, its on life-support. Its been trundling along now for over 8 years, with the odd facelift and corrective surgery now and again. But the cracks are starting to show. Thanks to some funding from Awards 4 All and Investment for Growth we can finally start over with a brand new site.
For those fans of our site (yes it does have some!) we won’t be changing things too radically. It will still have crucial things like jobs, events, resources, policy, but will hopefully be a bit tidier, easier to use and most importantly accessible on a range of mobile devices.
For now Im grappling with what to trim, what to keep and where to put it all. Our chosen web company says its never dealt with such a content heavy, sprawling site as ours. They’ll be taking the strict but fair teacher approach to us as they bring our sprawl back into a site that has the user foremost in mind. So, bear with us while I put my head back down and get back to that specification document.