The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) recently confirmed that individual giving during the health crisis has increased unexpectedly and is estimated at around £800m. Charities usually anticipate this level of financial commitment around the Christmas season, but COVID-19 has changed the fundraising space. Charities are receiving greater support while also making cuts and making do financially. Another change in sector behaviour is, charities, especially those whose clients have age-related health challenges are maintaining near silence in traditional media. Other than fundraising, conversations are not being widely introduced.
This overly cautious stance may not be the best strategy to carry health and social care organisations into 2021. As social sector fortunes ebb and flow, charities can step up and direct conversations to reassure clients, donors, and partners that they are committed to their messaging standing out to communicate value and purpose.
Health and social care charities remain relevant through conversation
Charities tucked away in hamlets and towns, rather than cities, with a niche focus may now operate in a different space than just six months ago. Then, social media and regular non-socially distant events may have kept voluntary income at a sustainable level. There may have been little or no need for any investment in communications.
Communications in times of pandemic are challenging, and there may be a ‘fear factor’ involved in being the first to turn crisis messaging on its head. A strategic approach can make the difference. Charities can miss opportunities by focusing on too narrow a space; only engaging with whom and what they know well. Not wanting to venture further may result in charities cancelling out new opportunities for growth and advocacy.
Going much further with far less
Partnering with professional communicators at a grass roots level is an alternative to traditional agency and client relationships. A shared perspective on immediate actions offers a level of comfort in the agency-client relationship. A modular approach addresses what is needed, when. Creative solutions should be welcomed for their potential to reduce cost in the longer term. At the same time, creativity allows charities to rethink and reboot core narratives.
Audiences are looking to be informed and involved in reciprocal relationships. Social and traditional media are ‘no cost’ channels where charities can quickly take leading positions about what happens next in the sector. This transfer of knowledge lays the foundation to build effective communications campaigns across diverse platforms.
Health and social care charities are even more relevant amid the pandemic
Good charity communications need relevance. Compelling storytelling is a first step in leveraging relationships at a time when ethical social investment and purpose-driven business models are on the agenda for many commercial organisations. Health and social care service providers can inform these agendas by sharing unique insight. They are equipped to predict where the business focus will be next in terms of clinical trials, approved treatments and after care.
Communications collectives may be the shape of things to come
A month into lockdown, 66% of communications agencies were looking to furlough staff, according to industry news sources. When the six-month milestone was reached in September, redundancies were inevitable. As the future professional communications space is set to leave little room for smaller charities with modest resources, the sensible transition is for the sector to source independent communicators.
Micro agencies deliver via a co-operative model which draws on services from storytellers: journalists, documentarians, and podcasters. Creative strategists give charities ‘take aways’ that continually offer value. A piece of coverage or deliverables from a virtual event can be repurposed so that optimal returns can be realised.
As social sector messaging evolves to become sharper and more targeted, it is evident there is scope for independent professionals to work more closely with charity clients. The coronavirus health crisis is a time to listen, to assess challenges and to thoughtfully strategise a way forward. Most importantly, communicating value has never been more needed.
About the authors
Boca Media is an independent communications agency in central London. A collective of creative specialists, we support charities and social enterprises with impactful and practical communications to keep vital sector conversations relevant.