Guest post: Join up internally – one team, one mission

This month I am delighted to welcome Adeela Warley, CEO of CharityComms, as my guest blogger. She shares her thoughts on charities that are responding to the global pandemic by communicating and collaborating internally in new ways. This joined up approach helps them work together as one team.

A view up through a spiral of a stained glass window apparently in a spire
From reaction to reflection
We’ve all dealt with the Covid-19 lockdown in our own ways. I’ve seen people and organisations move from crisis to coping to confidence and back again.

People have had to change their entire ways of working at the same time as caring for relatives and friends, learning how to do home schooling, and helping local good causes.

Organisations have also moved from early adrenaline-fuelled reactions to stepping back and reviewing what’s changed, what can be learned, retained, and left behind.

This feels like a good starting place to think about organisational ways of working and the kind of cultures which drive success.

Seizing opportunities
There are no certainties, but I’ve seen organisations that seized the opportunity to remain relevant and active. They found time to look hard at what they do, how they do it and who they are for. They found new ways to raise funds, to reinforce relationships and recruit new supporters. They were there for their beneficiaries in a time of urgent crisis and need and in doing so laid the foundations for the recovery.

The crisis drove a working culture which put audiences at the heart and fostered teamwork and collaboration over internal competition and conflict, united staff around shared ambition and the creative licence to test and learn fast.

  • Staff at London Air Ambulance collaborated across teams to create their contribution to the 2.6 challenge – “Helicopter Challenge” which went viral, raised vital funds, and secured national TV coverage – a low cost innovation with a big impact.

  • It was also brave of the Eve Appeal, the UK’s Gynaecological Cancer Charity, to take their “Get Lippy” appeal from the high street to online and shift the focus to an urgent appeal for their specialist nurse-led information service – a move their donors we were very happy to support.

  • Blood Cancer UK forged ahead with their rebrand and an urgent fundraising appeal, uniting staff, and supporters around the shared understanding that their brand had been confusing and their high-risk community needed access to information more than ever before.
    (Editor’s note: we were sad to hear last month that Blood Cancer UK is one of the charities having to take really tough decisions due to the devastating impact of the virus on their income.)

  • At CharityComms, we made our website content more relevant and accessible, tested an online community platform to help members link up and support each other, relaunched our podcast to share stories and joined forces with the Media Trust to survey our members‘, about their most urgent needs. The sense of urgency helped accelerate our plans and enabled us to test, learn and even take risks. In spite of the enforced remote working, we’ve probably got to know each other better and understand how to collaborate effectively to do great work.

  • Collaborating for success
    Charities are learning from the crisis and using it to reset the dial. Teams are putting aside functional differences and waiving clunky sign off processes, uniting around clear and compelling messages and putting their audiences centre stage. It’s this that will earn us a place in people’s hearts and minds.

    Charities have never been more needed, and we know that there are challenging times ahead, with many facing staff cuts or having to restructure their teams. It’s even more vital that we create working cultures which accelerate the journey towards our mission.

    This is the ambition which unites communicators, fundraisers, marketeers, and campaigners alike and our supporters should expect no less. I am hopeful that charities will find ways to navigate the challenges and carry forward the best of their emergency response into the future.

    Adeela Warley is CEO of CharityComms, the membership organisation for charity communications professionals. Championing best practice across the charity sector our peer-to-peer sharing network is like no other.

    She is also involved in the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign, which aims to make a powerful case for support for the vital work of the community and voluntary sector.

    Twitter: @adeelawarley

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