The charity sector at its best can be truly collaborative in bringing together people’s rich expertise, varied experience and shared passion for making a positive difference.
At the Ramblers, we wanted to increase awareness about how walking can improve mental health and wellbeing and can help combat social isolation.
We compiled a communications strategy for sharing our messaging and working with select key partners proved a great way of us doing this. Here’s what we learnt…
Choose partners that align with your mission
Focus on organisations that have similar values and aims as you. Our first partnership was kicked off by the release of the powerful documentary Evelyn about a family who walk across the UK to talk about the suicide of their son and brother. We approached CALM and the Violet Films team to support the film, which highlights the power of walking.
We also partnered with Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign, run by Rethink Mental Illness and Mind. As we spotted an opportunity in their annual awareness day, Time to Talk Day, which starts thousands of conversations about mental health. We saw walking and talking about mental health as a clear fit.
Then we reached out to the Jo Cox Foundation, which was founded after the murder of Jo Cox, MP, and brings communities together across Britain. We decided to collaborate on their Great Get Together weekend that encourages people to create new connections. Many who join our group walks say they feel less isolated as a result, so this felt like a natural synergy.
Tip: Look for synergies with potential partners
Provide tangible ways for people to get involved
Enable your supporters to run their own activities. We offered all our groups a chance to get involved on the ground. Twenty-five groups volunteered to host themed led walks locally for Time to Talk Day, the Great Get Together and after film screenings of Evelyn.
We produced resources for anyone to join in through dedicated pages on our website, including a walking and talking guide which had over 600 downloads. We also created jointly branded social media graphics such as this post which gained 29k impressions.
Going on a walk with a friend can be a great time to have a conversation about mental health.
— Time to Change (@TimetoChange) January 31, 2019
It doesn’t have to be costly. We usually split costs of materials between both organisations or adapted what was already produced. Time to Change and the Jo Cox Foundation provided free resource packs that we posted to our groups.
Tip: Share assets in the build up to a campaign launch to prime your audiences.
Put personal stories at the heart of the partnership
The best way to tell the story of your partnerships is through your people. We asked our e-newsletter subscribers about the impact of walking with the Ramblers. These stories articulated exactly what we wanted to say.
If you are feeling down, getting out for a walk with a group of other walkers, and having a chat whilst enjoying the outdoors is a great way to relax, and at least for a while forget your troubles. And who knows you may find a solution to your problems by chatting to other people, and become a valued member of a very friendly social group of Ramblers.
For Time to Talk Day, writer Robert MacFarlane showed support by sharing member Cat’s story on Twitter, gaining 554 likes and 315 click-throughs to our website. A small social media spend behind member David’s story for a Facebook post resulted in 38K impressions and 2,037 reactions.
Tip: Case studies will help with media coverage and will inspire others to join your cause.
Use partners to highlight different angles on an issue
When sharing messages on a new topic, your partners can give you credibility. Issues such as loneliness and mental health are hugely complex, so we drew on our partners’ expertise to illustrate this nuance.
By working with Time to Change and CALM, we could highlight the importance of tackling mental health stigma, encouraging more people to seek help. We showed that going for a stroll with a friend or family member can enable life changing conversations and improve well-being whilst walking.
Through poignant messaging from the Jo Cox Foundation, we were able to demonstrate how communities coming together through walking can change society for the better.
Together, we showed why people explore the outdoors together and benefit so much from the experience.
Tip: Choose partners that will elevate your messages.
Believe in what you’re doing together
Trust your partnerships and don’t be put off by negative feedback. Take supporters, volunteers, members, staff and trustees on a journey with you. With regular updates, explaining why you are joining forces and what activities are planned.
Make sure to run any new messages by key internal stakeholders, so they know the ethos of your charity is not being diluted. We knew the aims of our partnerships were right and overall received a surprising amount of positive feedback throughout.
Tip: If you’re generating healthy debate on a new issue, it will benefit you in the long-term by increasing engagement – and you might even change a few minds along the way!
Working together has amplified our voice and increased our reach and we’re continuing to share these themes through our campaigns and collaborations with partners in the future.
I would urge others to consider partnerships to enhance their communications too as we’re all working for the greater good and so will always find commonality.
As Jo Cox so wisely said “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us.”