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Keep the Joy Alive, As easy as A B C …

A guest blog by Iain McAndrew.

Last week I met Ian Scott for lunch and a catch up in Edinburgh. Ian had recently supported us in a project testing a new look and way of communicating for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS).

I was pleased, proud and even a little over-eager to share copies of our new strategic plan and our new campaign, Keep the Joy Alive with its central CHAS alphabet which was created by the best designers in Scotland – the children we care for. The campaign aims to take CHAS fundraising to a new level. ‘It looks great’ he commented asking ‘when is it being launched given the board only signed off on the new organisational direction on 29th March?’

‘This week,’ I retorted ‘Buy the Daily Record tomorrow!’

His next question was a simple one;

“You joined Children’s Hospice Association Scotland in August 2016. You did the creative masterclass with Alan Clayton Associates in November. We did the focus group work in January. Your creative agency Different Kettle presented for approval your new look (and name) in March just before the board met to agree that new organisational direction on 29th March. And, here we are 31st May 2017 and you are now Children’s Hospices Across Scotland … you are a very different CHAS and you’ve launched a major fundraising drive … How did you manage that level of transformation in the time?

Ian’s question made me stop and consider the level of transformation that has been achieved in a short space of time.

It’s fundamentally down to having a great team of people working across CHAS that have one aim in common – providing the very best care and support for the children and families we work with. However the journey really began in 2015 when CHAS published the ChiSP report. It revealed that there were many more children with life-shortening conditions in Scotland than anyone had ever thought and we were sadly not reaching many of them. Our ambition was quickly, starkly and exceptionally clear. We needed to reach every one of those children.

This, I feel, nails the first of three key factors which took us to the launch of the Keep the Joy Alive campaign.

Focus. From the board, senior leadership team and right through to the front line there was clarity of purpose and a focus on bringing about the changes CHAS needed to make in order to make our ambition to reach every child and family that needs us a reality.

Ambition. We set an aggressive timeline – ambitious yet achievable. No major milestone was missed. Not hitting a deadline was never an option and any movement of dates was never ever actually discussed. To paraphrase the words of one of our founders ‘we understood what needed to be done, accepted that challenge and simply got on with it’. The pace simply accelerated when it needed to. We pushed hard, paused, reflected, regrouped took decisions and then pushed on again with implementation. With a clear articulation of our purpose – our ‘why’, the ‘what we must do’ had never ever been clearer. Although I’ll not deny in this process there were many very unclear moments, but we gained clarity through focusing on our purpose and simply pushing through.

Momentum. The approach we took to define our core purpose – our ‘why’, was quickly followed through by working in partnership with the children and families that we exist to help. We built our strategy as an organisation and the fundraising drive which will make all that possible on talking, sharing and hearing stories – the stories of how CHAS makes a difference as expressed by the children and families we care for. That level of grass-roots engagement not only guided our understanding of why we make a difference, it helped inform how we reach the many others that we are not currently reaching. It created interest in and excitement around the strategy and campaign. Why? Because we involved, we listened to our supporters, our staff, volunteers and families and they saw, in what was created, a charity that had captured the very essence of what they felt about and expected from CHAS.

We were nervous at unveiling a major change. So to hear comments such as ‘that’s CHAS’ and ‘no less than I’d have expected from CHAS – 100% effort’ from our supporters and to hear staff from the care team with new  materials proudly saying ‘I’m a part of that’ is a relief and an awesome outcome.

We got to this point by listening to stories, the stories of our staff, our volunteers and absolutely the stories of the children and families. There is a unique story behind each and every one of the beautifully created letters in the new CHAS Alphabet. It will be the powerful stories of the children and families we support that will inspire people to donate the funds that CHAS requires to make a difference to each and every family across Scotland that needs us.

We launched last week and already we are seeing an uplift in income, our daily post-bag has been replaced by a post crate! We have also seen a very significant increase in levels of engagement across social media channels as our new campaign is embraced.

Keep the Joy Alive isn’t a quick and clever marketing strapline …it’s the very essence of what makes and will always make CHAS … CHAS. That will never change.

Iain McAndrew is the Director of Development and Communications for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.

If you’d like some of the focus, ambition and momentum that Iain outlines, attend a Great Fundraising Masterclass or just get in touch at lucy@lucidity.org.uk for a chat.

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