The right to play

Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Three weeks ago we were at Unicef. It was a day after Open had trialled working from home. It seems like a year ago. We talked about whether schools would close and whether there would be a lockdown. What this would mean for children?
 
We talked about what life would be like in ‘lockdown’ Britain and what Unicef could do to help children and their families. 
 
Over the next couple of days our teams talked and came up with some great ideas. Many of them were linked to offering free screen time content, because that is what we thought would be needed…
 
At this time a very good decision was made. WaitDon’t React. Respond.
 
Then the UK went into lockdown and life changed for us all. 
 
Attention turned to our families, neighbours and friends. Those close to us who need our care and support, those who we have never met ‘locked in’ – frightened and alone, and those who are putting their lives at risk everyday keeping the NHS, emergency services and our infrastructure going.
 
At Open we got busy developing emergency appeals for charities and the NHS whose frontline services were struggling to keep up with demand, and Unicef moved swiftly into their rapid response protocols. 
 
Meanwhile a very small team of Unicef and Open staff continued to think about an offer for young children and their families. Unicef sent out a short survey asking parents about their first few days of lockdown.  
 
And this is what they told us. 
 
“We don’t need more screen content. We certainly don’t need more educational resources and activities. We don’t all have screens, we don’t all have bandwidth that can handle everyone on line. We need ideas that kids can do away from screens, that are fun and quick to organise. That gives them time to relax and play and us time to get on with life and work.” 
 
And Unicef responded.
 
“Don’t worry, this is on us. Everyday, all round the world we help children in crisis, often without screens or internet. This is what we do. We make sure that children have the space, the resources and the right to play. We have great activities that we will send to you. We are here for children in crisis”.
 
 
Yesterday they were joined by friends at The Kite Factory to do a very rapid sprint that brought that idea to life. And today it goes live.
 
Not bad for a couple of weeks in lockdown…. 

When the dust settles

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

My spirits have been lifted as I’ve watched the outpouring of advice, information and support on how to fundraise during these unprecedented times. We are all going to learn a lot about how to adapt and continue to do good in these times. 

This isn’t a blog with more advice though, this is a blog about what happens when the dust settles on this crisis and we hopefully all emerge safe and well on the other side. So much that we did last week or the week before suddenly feels distant, unimportant or even irrelevant. 

This applies particularly to planning work I’ve been doing around Open’s partnership with Allan Freeman, Charity Benchmarks

We created Charity Benchmarks to give fundraisers the information they need to make better decisions and, in doing so, raise more money and maximise the impact of the cause they fundraise for. Only two years in and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and fascinating debate that it has caused. 

For the last few months we’ve been busy planning this year’s study, as well as welcoming new participants. However, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of conversations about how to move forward in these uncertain times. 

At times we wobbled, but we concluded that we must push on with Benchmarks. 

Given the inevitable and already reported hit to everyone’s fundraising, it strikes me that having an understanding of your fundraising programme in relation to those of other charities will be vitally important when planning, reporting on performance and making sense of what is happening. 

Charity Benchmarks is unique in that it combines detailed analysis of the hard data behind your fundraising, but also incorporates perspectives on current and future performance through surveys and qualitative interviews with fundraising leaders. This means that you can benchmark and plan against not only performance, but reflect levels of optimism and focus for the future.So whilst it doesn’t feel important today, it will certainly be relevant as we return to our offices and another ’new normal’ sets in and we have to make sense of it all. 

That all said, we have certainly seen a slow down in new charities signing up in the last couple of weeks. To be pragmatic, we are extending the deadline for joining Charity Benchmarks until the end of April. We do this as hope it means it will give teams time to adapt to all the change, but then begin to consider what the world looks like in a few months time. 

If you’d like more information about Charity Benchmarks then please drop me an email. I can share a sample report to give you a flavour of what your charity would receive for participating. 

 

Mark

Strategic Partnerships Director


How to Fundraise in an Emergency

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

When we think of emergency appeals, we generally think of overseas. But whether it’s due to an increased demand on services, cancelled events or an economic squeeze, UK charities are quickly going to find themselves in a position where they need to take a leaf out of the humanitarian sector’s book. 

Our hypothesis is that right now in the UK there are a lot of people who have a powerful feeling that they want to do something to help. And it’s evident that there are a lot of people who need help. 

Our job is therefore to connect the two.

To assist you in that process, we’ve put together a quick guide to effective emergency fundraising that we hope you find useful. It’s based on over a decade’s experience as lead agency with clients including the DEC, Unicef, Concern Worldwide, ActionAid, Christian Aid and others. 

You’ll probably have more ideas and we’d love to hear them. And if you need any help, please get in touch. We’ve got a whole bunch of smart, skilled people who do this stuff for a living and are ready to get cracking.

Stay safe everyone.