Covid-19 caused many challenges, including navigating how to provide continued services, support, raise vital funds, and reach those in need, as well as the adjustment to communicating in a new predominantly online world. It also forced us to think differently, innovate and come up with creative solutions. For some, the enforced time at home has reignited a sense of the ‘good life’, and a real appreciation for what matters most in our lives.
Now things are starting to settle. We’re seeing restrictions, gradually, being lifted and doors to once familiar places reopening. But it won’t be the same. We’ve changed. And we have the unique opportunity right now to reshape the future we want to see.
You can do this by telling your story. Where you’ve come from, your heritage and values. The milestones you’ve achieved. What you’re doing currently. Where you’re heading and the legacy you want to create.
Re-familiarise yourself with your story so far
People love stories. It is innate to our human characteristics. Stories take us on an adventure where we can see ourselves in a role within that story. We relate through our individual experiences and feelings to what’s happening within the story. Your brand story powerfully shapes how your organisation is perceived and understood, creating a strong emotional connection that moves and inspires your supporters.
Your brand story will continually evolve with each page, especially as you charter the stormy waters, like those we are experiencing at the moment. However, you will always have a constant, guiding factor. Your purpose. The very reason your organisation exists and the values it holds. This should remain at the core of all you say and do.
So revisit and re-familiarise yourself and your team with your purpose and heritage. This will lay the right foundations ready to plot and shape the next evolving chapter. Consider how life has changed for those you help; supporters, volunteers, investors and team.
Where are you heading?
What are the positive innovations, changes and digital capabilities that you want to take forward out of the pandemic? You can share achievements and discoveries as part of your storytelling through infographics, illustrations featuring top tips, processes or activities, as well as sharing testimonials written, audio, or video.
Identify what needs to be present internally within your organisational culture to attract the talent you need. Consider what makes team members feel valued, supported and fulfilled in their role at work and personal life. The lockdown dramatically blurred the transition and barriers in between these, so it will be important to compassionately review what matters most to people now so that you can support wellbeing and flexible working options.
For example, think about:
- If you had members on furlough, what aspects did they miss the most about working with your organisation?
- What did your team do to boost morale and maintain wellbeing?
- Are there any skill gaps?
Who are the hero characters within your story?
What experiences and actions are you celebrating? People love good news stories and personal experiences they can relate to. During the pandemic, these types of stories provide relief from the statistics and restrictions. We’ve seen collaboration and choice go hand-in-hand to rally support, empower individuals to become heroes, make a difference and to be a part of something bigger.
The London Marathon’s annual long-distance running event was transformed for lockdown, into The 2.6 Challenge, which raised over £10 million. “In total, 3961 charities got behind the event making it the biggest collective charity fundraising effort ever in the UK, and it is believed in the world” Funraisin+Studio Republic report. It was a group collaboration and fundraising initiative, partnering with the already established London Marathon social media channels to achieve maximum reach.
The campaign engaged with the entire nation. Inspiring people of all ages, demographics and abilities; individuals, families, charities, celebrities and corporate virtual teams to raise money for charities while keeping active, safe, and at-home. They could set their own challenge in relation to the numbers 2.6 or 26, and support their own chosen cause. Creating supporter generated content and new heroes for each of the charities.
The way forward for charities in a post-coronavirus world is one of collaboration
Build meaningful collaborations and partnerships that align with your organisational purpose and values.
Working with a network of other charity and corporate organisations is a way to increase public knowledge and improve audience reach. Solve skill gaps by working with specialists in creative and digital fields to help your charity inspire innovation, internally and externally to create new approaches, and supply effective solutions.
Every brand touch point for your charity provides an opportunity to strengthen alignment with your vision, tell your story, build relationships, and create new connections.
Think about what matters most to your team and audience. Identify links with the most important issues that are at the top of your mind. Ones that are aligned with your purpose. Some core issues, which have been categorically highlighted by lockdown are sustainability and regeneration in terms of our planet, as well as, our wellbeing.
Take for example the National Trust – a conservation charity that have successfully evolved their brand throughout the years and this year are celebrating their 125th Anniversary. They consistently maintain relevance and poignancy on their mission to preserve ‘nature, beauty and history for the nation to enjoy’ for generations to come.
In the words of Octavia Hill, National Trust Co-founder: “Our lives are overcrowded, over-excited, over-strained. We all want quiet. We all want beauty. We all need space. Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently”.
As we’re approaching coming out from lockdown, these desires for a sense of simply being and a time for reflection are essential. And the very first step needed to shape the future you want to see.
The National Trust achieve sustainability through their brand storytelling, focusing on audience needs and their organisational purpose. ‘We protect and care for places so people and nature can thrive.’
There are a variety of different ways people can support or participate whatever their age and ability, to make a difference whether actively or passively, on a personal level, locally or nationally. Including campaigns to inspire youngsters and families to explore and reconnect with nature, through to photo challenges encouraging visitors to share their stories and experiences.
The conservation charity are actively tackling causes of climate change, rethinking how they do things internally and externally to make a difference. Projects include phasing out single-use plastic by 2022; for example, replacing membership cards and magazine packaging with recyclable and compostable versions. In 2013, The National Trust in partnership with Ashden, created ‘Fit for the Future,’ a sustainability network collaborating to inspire and empower ‘more than 80 of the UK’s largest charities and land owning organisations to tackle the impacts of climate change and rising energy costs’.
Shape the future you want to see
Take inspiration to communicate your own ever-evolving story. How you as a charity interact with, and as a part of, everyday life, the changing seasons and the different challenging circumstances, and your vision for the future in a personal authentic way.
Your brand story has the power to deepen relationships, build trust and loyalty, set you apart, and keep your charity relevant.
Image: Karolina Grabowska on Pexels