Garry Jones's Blog
Fri 14 Feb 2020
One of the perennial bug bears I hear from local members in the voluntary sector is how frustrating it is to see local businesses and employee groups raising funds for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan or the British Heart Foundation (to name a few), whilst they struggle to make it by to the end of the year. The amounts involved will often be a drop in the ocean for such national ‘corporate’ charities, but locally could literally save a charity or community group from closure. Even more frustrating, is that these big names probably don’t even work locally in Staffordshire or Stoke-on-Trent. And the stats back up this frustration, with a huge majority of both public donations and corporate giving, going to a short list of the top national charities, leaving the other hundred thousand or more in the shade.
The answers are not simple and this behaviour is deeply entrenched on all parts. The businesses may be deliberately seeking publicity alongside the donation, which those national brands are well placed to deliver upon. Local charities are not going to give them the kudos they seek. Locally we don’t have anything like the marketing budgets, if any at all and the more they earn, the more they must reinvest in marketing to earn even more! Locally we can't even get started.
Equally though, we aren’t making it easy for local businesses to get much out of a relationship – we don’t always market ourselves well, even locally. We often don’t tell the stories well enough, even when we have them. The employees themselves may drive the decision about what to support and its often the most emotive and personal experiences that direct such giving, where Cancer really hits home. The elderly relative supported via a luncheon club, week in and out for 20 years perhaps doesn’t tend to resonate quite so much with your colleagues… let alone the 2000 or more charitable groups in Staffordshire that you’ve probably never heard of, but are deeply intertwined in communities of place and need.
What can you do about it? Start small and try to build relationships with a small number of open ears – via your own employees, trustees or volunteers, businesses they work with, are employed by or used to be, your neighbouring businesses, and don’t forget your own suppliers, who may be so close you didn’t even think of them? Tell your own stories, use your frontline staff and volunteers and your service users or beneficiaries – video is great, photos if not, and it’s so much quicker and easier than a written case study. If it’s really all new to you, then book onto our Right Start Course covering Basic Marketing Principles, or talk it through with one of our Locality Officers near you – both are free to members.
Local businesses out there? Not sure where to start? One option is to get involved via Support Staffordshire. In June we hold a series of local Awards, recognising the great volunteers and organisations around Staffordshire. You can sponsor an award from as little as £150, which will bring you into direct contact with a room full of the brightest and best of local charities and community groups. Who knows where an introduction on that summer evening could lead? If you want to know more call Jennie on 01785 413162 or email email@example.com.
Lastly, don’t miss our AGM with guest speaker Karl Wilding, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations – our biggest and best voice at a national level. It’s on Thursday, but we still have some tickets left, so book here without delay. Looking forward to seeing many of you there.
Chief Executive, Support Staffordshire