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How meaningful collaboration can transform a charity campaign

3 December 2021

When it comes to charity campaigns, impact is vital. Often it’s the noise and the reach that will make people pay attention to your crucial message. One way to achieve this is through collaboration.

At Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK), our mission is to improve low rates of cardiac arrest survival by encouraging people to learn CPR. We aren’t the only group with this mission. So, each year we come together with other charities, healthcare organisations and ambulance services on the Restart a Heart campaign.

We led on this campaign despite being the smallest charity involved. Along the way, we encountered many opportunities and challenges. Here are our tips on how to manage a collaboration:

Get organised

Early, efficient planning is essential if your campaign has lots of partners.
We work with many of our Restart a Heart collaborators throughout the year (including British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives), supporting each other’s campaigns in the CPR space. We hold our first planning meeting around six months before the campaign. Then we can begin to understand what our key messaging will be, and what each organisation can bring to the campaign.

These planning meetings have been especially important during the pandemic. In 2020, we ran the whole campaign online, a shift from its usual in-person training format. In 2021, it was a hybrid event, blending digital training resources with some in-person events. Our initial meetings help us quickly define the format we use each year, based on the challenges we are each facing.

At RCUK, there are only a few of us working on this project. We don’t have social teams, paid teams, or web teams – all of those enquiries come to me. It’s essential that I can put a clear time management plan together to avoid becoming overloaded.

Own your size

As a smaller charity, we don’t have as much brand recognition, reach or capacity as our partners. But that’s not a negative; we embrace our ability to bring health charities, ambulance services and smaller groups together for a large-scale campaign.

To prevent us from overcommitting to work, we ensure our partners are aware of our resource limitations from the outset. Don’t let pride get in the way of practicality. Be clear about what you need your partners to do and welcome the strengths and contributions of others.

We also keep this in mind when working with grassroots organisations and individual advocates who get involved on the day. We provide a Supporters Pack, so they can participate without needing to do lots of work.

Collaborate – don’t compete

When you measure the success of a collaborative campaign, it’s about the shared wins, not comparing who did it best.

After each campaign, we present a report, which every partner organisation feeds into. Previously, every organisation has contributed a separate update, but we’re hoping to collate this shared insight into core KPI themes. We’re doing this to better understand the impact of our shared efforts and where activity and resource was focused.

It’s important to keep the wider campaign perspective in mind when analysing. Your small charity might not have the biggest numbers to report, but there’s still value to contributing to the wider goal. While they always spike on campaign day, our Twitter impressions are tiny compared to the wider hashtag data. But that means we did our job right – everyone must have been talking about the campaign!

Keep the momentum

After the campaign ends, we use the networks we’ve built and the insight we’ve gathered to support each other’s campaigns throughout the year.

A week after Restart a Heart 2021, we supported the launch of a campaign encouraging defibrillator guardians to register their defibrillators on The Circuit – the national defibrillator network. The working group for that project, led by BHF, featured many people who also worked on Restart a Heart. This continued collaboration makes it clear that we’re on an ongoing mission to work together and save lives.

It won’t be long until we’re thinking about Restart a Heart 2022. We want to increase the diversity and accessibility of our campaign output. So we’re looking for more partners who can connect us to communities with diverse experiences and needs. We also want charities who are passionate about community and can help us expand our outreach in the years to come.

It’s hard work for a small charity to organise this type of campaign, but it’s more than possible. If you’re interested in embarking on a collaborative project, here’s how you can get started:

  • Have a simple key message in mind – and make sure the strategy always returns to it!
  • Listen to objections, policy differences and concerns. There will always be common ground, and that will make up your key messaging.
  • Gather people early. Reach out to your network, pitch your idea, and be upfront about the time and resource implications of joining the project.
  • Don’t ignore small partners. They might have a smaller reach, but their community connections could be invaluable.
  • Be clear about your capacity. You are taking on a huge job just by organising the project. Set boundaries about your team’s workload and make sure there is a genuine split among the partner group.
  • Stay in touch. If this is a shared year-round organisational objective, this is your opportunity to keep collaborating!

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Banner Image: Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Chloe Gynne

digital marketing and communications manager, Resuscitation Council UK

Chloe has worked on three Restart a Heart campaigns while with Resuscitation Council UK. She manages RCUK’s web, social and email output. She likes to focus on campaign planning, copywriting and tackling inequalities.