Roger Swannell

Tag: charity (page 1 of 7)

Bucks Mind Awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Buckinghamshire Mind, the mental health charity, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

The award recognises the incredible contribution of the charity’s volunteers and the huge benefit they bring to the community. Buckinghamshire Mind has over 570 volunteers who are integral to the delivery of many of the charity’s mental health services. Over two thirds of these volunteers are children and young people who have trained to be Peer Supporters within their own schools. All the volunteers enable Buckinghamshire Mind to deliver services at a scale in the community that it simply could not do without them.

Buckinghamshire Mind’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, Tori Roddy, attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Her Majesty The Queen, on 29th May, to represent all the charity’s volunteers and celebrate the award to Buckinghamshire Mind of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. She was accompanied by Andrea McCubbin, Chief Executive of Buckinghamshire Mind.

“As a volunteer myself, I am absolutely delighted that Buckinghamshire Mind’s volunteers have been recognised with this most prestigious award. The contribution of our volunteers is invaluable, enabling us to better respond to demand and help so many more people. I was deeply honoured to be able represent all our wonderful volunteers at the Royal Garden Party and I’m looking forward to celebrating with my fellow volunteers when the award is officially presented to Buckinghamshire Mind.”
Tori Roddy, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Buckinghamshire Mind.

Overherd: Making digital work for the not for profit sector

Notes from talks about digital from Samaritans, Water:Charity UK, War Child, and Crowe UK.


Sometimes digital happens by accident.

Always ask ‘why’ before starting a new project.

Should be using digital to make people’s lives better.

Not everything has to be done the way it’s always been done.

Challenges of achieving brand consistency on website and across social channels.

Rebuilding the website was undertaken in two phases. Phase one got the technical base in place, and phase two was design and content.

Content strategy evolved by accident but involved auditing the current content, learning about the audience, identifying measures of success, and creating toolkits and workflows.

Creating ‘toolkits’ helped people learn as they understood what the phrase meant and how it matched their expectations.

When creating the Toolkits, be aware that:

  • You are not the expert
  • You are not the user
  • You need to connect the two
  • It’s going to require some work
  • But it’ll be worth it

Toolkits involved:

  • Audience research
  • Key messaging
  • Writing for users & analytics guidance
  • Social media guidelines
  • Photography and image guidelines
  • Training sessions
  • Workflows
  • And lots of support


Mission is to reinvent charity.

Use digital to tell stories and solve problems.

Not talking about the charity but about the people who are helped.

Aim to do everything with excellence, we owe it to our supporters.

100% of donations go towards front-line services. Overheads are funded by a small number of high-value individuals and families.

Work with influencers and provide downloadable assets for them to use.

Challenges for digital is how to take what Charity:Water does and do it online.

First to do Birthday Pledges to ask people to make donations rather than buy gifts.

Add all projects to Google Maps to increase transparency.

Received a grant from Google to add sensors to pumps to monitor flow to show when and how pumps are being used, and detect and predict faults.

Digital brings the supporter closer to the impact their money has, it connects them to ‘someone like you’.

Just keep trying new things.

War Child

Digital at Warchild is made up of a Digital and Content Team,  a dedicated Gaming Team, digital skills in other teams, and a cross-organisational digital maturity team.

Challenges around showing beneficiaries: Accessibility, Representation, Complexity.

Constraints force you to think creatively.

When you can’t talk to service users you have to think differently about how to show the impact, e.g. Graphic novel and #EscapeRobot video.

Use longform content to digitise large pdf reports.

Sometimes people think that because something is digital that it needs to be new and cool.

Explore new spaces and opportunities.

Crowe UK

Cyber Fraud accounts for 54% of all crimes.

Crime has transitioned to online.

43% of organisations have suffered a breach. The others either haven’t found it yet or it’s happening this year.

There’s a strong relationship between online fraud and the dark web.

Online fraud isn’t about ripping off individuals, it’s about using individuals details to rip of businesses.

Most online fraud isn’t investigated because police forces don’t know how to handle crime that doesn’t occur in a single geographic region.


5 digital trends charities should definitely not avoid in 2019

This JustGiving blog post includes five “trends” (it’s questionable whether these five things are actually trends; a trend is the direction a thing moves or changes not the thing itself, but moving on…) that charities should avoid in 2019. I’m not sure blanket statements about what charities should avoid is very helpful so I wanted to reconsider them.

I agree that charities probably do need more focus, but given that the charity industry is going through massive changes and challenges, not least of which is concerned with how to be more innovative, perhaps the ‘head in the sand’ approach of avoiding things just because they haven’t necessarily reached the plateau of productivity on the hype curve may be counterproductive. There are models for considering new things (such as McKinsey’s three horizons) that can foster discussion rather than shutting down the conversation and prepare charities with a healthy pipeline of innovative ways to achieve their objectives.

Viral campaigns

A bit like buying a lottery ticket instead of learning how to earn money from an actual job every day

That senior management in charities prioritise short term fundraising initiatives in the hope of making a quick buck suggests a misunderstanding either on the part of management or marketers, but I struggle to accept that all the very smart people that I know who run and market charities fall into such an obvious trap.

Virality has a scientific definition. It is an achievable thing with sufficient planning and resources. The ability to understand and utilise vitality in trends should be one of the tools in a fundraisers bag, not at the expense of longer term planning, but as a means of leveraging current events and temporary things that pop up in the consciousness of people.

#Firstfiver was a great example of a viral campaign that could of benefited far more charities than it did if more of them had already considered how to solve the logistical challenges of getting paper five pound notes in people’s pockets into a physical donation tins. A charity that has prepared ahead of time to respond to raising trends, not just by sending a few tweets with a hashtag, but by offering solutions for members of the public to support a charity they might not usually consider could leverage a trend into a significant financial contribution.

So if 99.99% of charities choose not to consider the potential for viral trends in their marketing and fundraising planning for 2019, then that leaves more space for the .01% who do decide to commit to building the capacity to responding quickly to events in a fast changing world in a way that amplifies the trend and achieves their objectives, be they awareness raising, income generation, or mass action.

Digital transformation

Transformation’ implies magical, overnight change

If digital transformation is being communicated as an overnight solution to all a charity’s ills then it is the communication that is at fault, not digital transformation. Just as the industrial revolution took hundreds of years to play out, so will the digital transformation of our society. It already and will continue to touch every part of our lives, from our health care records to traffic management to paying for a coffee. Digital transformation involves transforming technologies, cultures, mindsets, behaviours and thinking. It cannot be thought of as a quick fix.

Charities that don’t adopt the mindset and adapt to this changing world will find themselves irrelevent in the eyes of their staff, volunteers and supporters. Can anyone imagine engaging with a charity only through face-to-face contact because they don’t have a website or use email? No, of course not, because every charity has a website and uses email, so their digital transformation has already begun. To ignore ongoing transformation in 2019 and not embed digital into their strategy, not improve the reach, efficiency, and cost-reduction benefits of online fundraising, not support their staff and volunteers to improve their digital skills, will leave a charity even further behind. Charities should be accelerating their digital transformation in 2019 and beyond.


There are just three problems with Bitcoin

There are just three solutions with Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies of which bitcoin is one of many).

Mining bitcoins does take a lot of energy. Generating renewable energy from wind power had the same inefficiency issue when it was introduced. It cost more to produce the power than it was worth, but pioneers and early adopters used and developed the technology into a viable alternative and soon it will be more cost-efficient to use renewable energy sources than mine for fossil fuels. The more organisations looking at opportunities to leverage the benefits of cryptocurrencies, the more funding will be driven into development, and the more efficient and viable they will become.

Bitcoins are a currency used on the dark web, but far more criminals use cash. Does this mean charities shouldn’t accept cash? Of course not. Criminals using something does not mean a charity shouldn’t use it. There is no logical argument here for charities to not spend time understanding how cryptocurrencies might affect them or be utilised by them.

Third – and this is a big one – people who donate to charities just don’t use it… yet. No one used contactless cards to donate to charities.. until they did. But charities exploring options around cryptocurrencies should involve more than just taking donations, they should be looking at how cryptocurrencies will change their investment portfolio, how it may change banking practice and consequently their finance governance.

Charities might not be committing significant resources to building the systems and skills to take bitcoin donations in 2019, but cryptocurrencies should definitely be in their horizon three initiatives with people in Digital, Technology and Finance thinking about how to handle bitcoin and cryptocurrency in the near future.


Treat blockchain like I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! By all means, watch it and follow it, but don’t spend precious work time on it

In the early 70’s when the relational data model was invented lots of people thought it was useless. Why would you want to establish a relationship between two pieces of data? Nowadays relational databases power every charity’s CRM system.

Blockchains are decentralized, distributed, sometimes-public digital ledgers that are used to record transactions across many computers, which although not the answer to every data storage problem, do have some specific uses which can apply to and benefit charities. Where a charity is working with multiple organisations who all contribute data, and all parties want unshakeable assurance that the data is reliable, and those partnerships require that no single organisation is the owner and controller of the transactional record, then blockchain might be a solution.

Blockchain will increase in prevalence over the coming years and become the de facto solution where data needs to be decentralised and distributed across a network to ensure trust in the recorded transactions. So if charities aren’t giving serious thought to use cases for blockchain and would rather continue in the mindset of centralising data under their control and watch reality TV shows instead, then they will find themselves investing in the wrong solutions in the very near future.


But don’t spend precious time importing agile wholesale when it’s a square peg for a round hole.

Referring to the original manifesto for agile software development as the only source of thinking about Agile is very limited, as is only referring to Scrum when speaking about Agile. Being agile means (among other things depending on whose thinking you’re referencing) getting closer to customers, working in small batches, having short feedback loops, and responding to change. Navy SEAL teams use Scrum to improve ownership among team members. Marketers apply agile thinking when they involve customers by testing ideas ahead of launching a campaign. There are lots of examples of how Agile can be applied to more than just software development.

Charities should most definitely not be avoiding working towards achieving greater agility, “moving with quickness, ease and grace“, as Joshua Kerievsky puts it. Agility is a key competitive advantage that has been realised in almost every other industry. If charities don’t become far more agile than they currently are they run the very real risk of being left behind, not only as an organisation but as an industry. They will quickly be overtaken as more agile startups and businesses move into their markets. There is nothing that charities do that could not be usurped by a business, leaving the charity behind and irrelevant in the eyes of its supporters. Having agility is essential for charities to keep pace with the changing modern world and people’s changing expectations.



There are lots of other innovative developments in thinking and technology in addition to these five that I also think charities should also be considering in 2019, things like machine learning, 3D printing, co-creation, autonomous teams, digital twins, the quantified and augmented self, AR & VR, voice & virtual assistants., etc., etc. A charity that has all of its focus on the mainstream technologies and thinking of the past is being left further and further behind. Charities need to be exploring all the new ideas they can using a robust innovation model that allows them to extract value at the right point in time.

Digital Strategy by Clive Gardner at Overherd

Overherd Clive Gardner NSPCC Digital

Notes from Clive’s presentation:

  • The NSPCC has a child audience and an adult audience with very different needs
  • They have about a hundred campaigns a year.
  • The campaigns explain a need, and that the need needs help.
  • Only about 20% of the messages in a campaign ask for money.
  • Other messages build the NSPCC as a favourite brand.
  • Charities are not transforming digitally fast enough to reflect the world around us.
  • Charities shouldn’t be at the leading edge of marketing.
  • In order to innovate, big slow charities need to work with fast partners.
  • Learn from those who are doing it well
  • Digital is a way of doing things.
  • Digital has to help set the culture to be able to respond to needs faster.
  • Building a preference centre helped towards a single customer view but it’s still five years away.
  • Digital Risk Assessment needs a ‘Pace’ dimension to add to Severity and Likelihood

Turkey Dash – Innovative digital fundraising

The Turkey Dash, by PayPal, is a digital fundraising initiative in support of eight charities.

Turkey Dash

The campaign encourages members of the public to choose a charity to donate to, with the more donations a charity gets the faster their turkey will run in the race.

It’s a really innovative and interesting way to gamify and make fun donating to charity at Christmas time, especially with traditional campaigns relying on messages of suffering to motivate donors. 

A bot to help you choose the perfect Christmas card 

The British Heart Foundation has over a hundred Christmas cards in this year’s range. That’s a lot to choose from.

So, what people need, what they really really need, is a bot that can choose the perfect Christmas card for them. So, that’s what I did. I made my Interniser bot with a simple conversational flow that would select from the range of British Heart Foundation Christmas cards and suggest them to people chatting to the bot.

To make the bot do a bit more than just choose from a list of Christmas cards and to get a bit more engagement, the first few interactions are the bot asking some Christmas -related questions as a kind of personality test to help it determine the perfect Christmas card for the user. The bot then suggests a Christmas card and asks the human if they’d like to see another (just in case the suggestion wasn’t perfect).

From idea to implementation took less than three hours. One of my testers suggested that the questions could be used to select a persons choice of Christmas cards based upon useful questions that match the product filters on the website, such as “Do you want Christmas cards with glitter?”. Maybe that could be the next iteration.

To give the bot a try, just click Get started on Messenger or go to the Interniser Facebook page and start messaging from there.

Why you should buy your Christmas cards from a charity

According to the Institute of Fundraising, two billion Christmas cards are sent every year, and 30% of those cards are charity Christmas cards. That’s 600,000,000 cards. To make the maths easier let’s say that Christmas cards are sold in packs of ten, which means 60,000,000 packs are sold each year, and that a pack costs £3, which makes charity Christmas cards a £120 million a year business. Sounds like buying charity Christmas cards is a great way to support charities. But interestingly, of that £120m spent on charity Christmas cards only a small percentage of cards are actually bought from charities.

The majority of ‘charity’ Christmas cards are sold by commercial retailers, not charities. Retailers know that many people are predisposed to buy charity Christmas cards and want to leverage people’s feelings to sell their Christmas cards. Retailers form agreements with charities where a percentage of income from the sales of their Christmas cards are contributed to the charity. This percentage is often as low as 10% of the Ex VAT sale price, meaning that for every pack of Christmas cards you buy for £2.99, the charity receives just 25p.

If retailers really wanted to support a charity they could sell the charity’s Christmas cards on behalf of the charity, but of course they are a commercial operation that exists to make money so instead they sell their own range of cards and make a donation of a percentage of the sale to the charity. Of course the charity still benefits, and in some cases benefit quite a bit as even a small percentage from the large volume of Christmas cards that a retailer sells can generate considerable income. But of course, these kinds of agreements excludes any of the smaller charities as they don’t have the resources to work with retailers in this way. I don’t blame the retailers for this, it’s just business, but there is a better way for you to buy charity Christmas cards. Have you guessed what it is yet?

Charity Christmas Cards

Why do people buy charity Christmas cards?

People buy and send Christmas cards to their friends and family to wish them a happy Christmas and let them know that they are thinking of them at a time of year when being part of a family or social group is important. But charity Christmas cards add another layer to this, a deep and often emotional layer.

People buy charity Christmas cards to raise money for a charity, show support for the cause, show their friends and family that they care about the work of the charity, and for reasons far more emotionally complex than just wishing friends they haven’t spoken to for a while a merry Christmas. As many as they are personal reasons for people buying charity Christmas cards, one thing they’ll all have in common is the expectation that a charity will benefit from their purchase.

So, why do people buy charity Christmas cards from retailers instead of charities?

Probably because it’s convenient to add a pack to their weekly shop as they walk around the supermarket, and most likely because they don’t even know that the charity they want to support is even selling Christmas cards.

Christmas cards sales, for retailers and for charities, is a rush to get there first. They are all competing to be front of mind with potential customers because Christmas cards are the kind of product you only buy once a year, and once you’ve bought them you don’t buy again until next year. But charities don’t have the marketing budgets to compete with the retailers, so you may never know that your favourite charity sells Christmas cards that are just well made, and have equally beautiful/amusing/interesting designs, and contribute far more income to the charity.

Why you should buy your Christmas cards from a charity

Charities sell their Christmas in their shops and online, so before you buy your Christmas cards from your usual retailer, try googling the name of your favourite charity and ‘Christmas cards’. With a bit of persistence you’ll find some wonderful Christmas cards that your friends and family will appreciate. And if you don’t have a favourite charity, maybe now is the time to think about what causes are important to you and what charity you could support. The charity will get far more of the profits from the sale going directly to their cause and you’ll feel better about yourself knowing that at Christmas, you’ve done something good.

This is a better way for you to buy charity Christmas cards.


In case you didn’t know, I work for the British Heart Foundation where 100% of the profits from our Christmas cards fund life saving research. If you or someone you know has been affected by a heart condition you can show your support for the work of the British Heart Foundation by buying our Christmas cards and sending them to your friends and family.


Copyright © 2019 Roger Swannell

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