Top five tips for #GivingTuesday in the UK

14 Nov

This is a guest blog by Holly Mitchell, the #GivingTuesday Campaign Manager at CAF.  I’ll be chairing their webinar on how charities can use Facebook for #GivingTuesday on 19 November.

#GivingTuesday in the UK, now less than a month away, has been a long time in the making. Here at the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)  we have been planning since the beginning of the year. It has been fascinating to see it grow from four of us sat planning round a table to the mass movement it is now with nearly 500 partners on board.

Over the course of this year we have witnessed lots of different approaches and ways of engaging with #GivingTuesday and I would like to share our top five tips with you. Hopefully they will help enhance your own #GivingTuesday campaigns or inspire you to get involved!

Set a specific goal

The best examples from partners I have seen are those with a very specific goal in mind and a concrete plan on how to achieve it. The Lothian Autistic Society want to use #GivingTuesday to raise awareness of autism and the services they run in Edinburgh. They have planned a treasure hunt with clues being displayed in 10 local businesses windows. Alongside the clue they will display information about their work and encourage people to support them via social media.

They will also have a text to donate number on display but fundraising is secondary to their primary aim of raising awareness.

Be creative

Lots of charities have mentioned to me that they are worried their message will get lost in a day when the whole world will be focusing on charity. My advice is to make your campaign stand out. This is the first year we are running it in the UK so I understand people wanting to ‘test’ the waters but those who are planning something a little different will definitely benefit.

Azuko, an architectural charity, have set up their ‘charity for ebay’ challenge where they are asking people to sell unwanted items on ebay and gift the proceeds to Azuko. Plans which stand out have the added bonus of being used as case studies by me in meetings, presentations and events!

Remember it’s not just about fundraising

One of the things we love most about #GivingTuesday is that is that it isn’t just about fundraising. Doing something charitable covers a wide range of activity and this means that you can really tailor it to your own needs. Perhaps you want to grow your online presence or increase engagement with your volunteers.

The Scouts have a shortage of scout leaders so will be using the day for a volunteer drive to get more people to sign up.

Use as much visual content as possible

I can guarantee that any pictures, videos or infographics I tweet or use on Facebook will get the most retweets or likes. It seems obvious but adding visual content to your own material really will help reach a wider audience through greater engagement.

This doesn’t have to be something that you pay a design agency to create. We have provided you with our branding and I encourage you to play around with it and see how it can work for you. Rosie’s Rainbow Fund have been brilliant at this and have created some really cool graphics!

rosie's rainbow

Don’t forget to have fun!

#GivingTuesday comes at a great time of the year. People are in a festive, generous mood as the nation gears up for Christmas. It really is a great opportunity to engage with new people, thank your existing supporters and celebrate all you have achieved this year.

Make sure that you love your campaign as your enthusiasm will shine through and attract more people to your cause. It has certainly worked with me and #GivingTuesday!

Giving tuesday infographic (2)

The top 30 charity #socialceos 2014 – revealed!

7 Nov

They are finally here! I am so excited to share this year’s top 30 charity CEOs on social media with you.

We announced the winners at our awards event last night hosted by Girlguiding. A big thank you to them for hosting us, as well as Grant Thornton, who the awards were in association with, and our other lovely sponsors TPP Not for Profit and the Access Group.

As you may know, Matt Collins of Platypus Digital and I co-founded the awards to celebrate the great work done by charity CEOs who use social media as a central tool of their job. We hope it will encourage even more CEOs to take the plunge and go digital. There is a huge range of charities of all shapes, sizes and causes in this year’s 30.

Here’s my blog about the awards from The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network this morning.

Take a look at our infographic of the 2014 winners below. We’ve also published a briefing to help CEOs get the most out of social media, which includes case studies from Relate, Parkinson’s UK and Beating Bowel Cancer. It’s packed with lots of other advice, including insights from Grant Thornton on social media and governance and tips on the latest digital trends for CEOs, such as thought leadership. Get the briefing here.

If you want to help your CEO improve their social media presence, or need to boost your own, I’m also running a course on that very topic on 22 January at Just Giving’s offices.

Do let me know what you think of this year’s top charity #socialceos.


infographic final 7 nov jpeg


Can we talk about transparency?

23 Sep

In the wake of Dispatches, #knitgate and Panorama I recently blogged about how the sector has entered a new era of transparency for Just Giving.

So it was very timely to see ActionAid UK’s new crowdsourced report on transparency and to read what Judith Davey, their Director of People, Performance and Accountability says about it.

ActionAid UK are one of my clients and earlier this year I ran a workshop for them on thought leadership, transparency and social media. We talked about the concept for the report then and they went away to work on it. I was excited to see the finished product last week which includes fantastic contributions from the BBC, Charity Comms and the Big Lottery Fund. There is plenty of food for thought for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.

I’m hoping the report will kickstart a conversation in the sector about transparency. In my view, there are some worrying misconceptions about transparency out there still, including: it’s something which is done to us by politicians; just putting all our data out there is enough; and it’s a ‘thing,’ a bolt on to all of our other activities. The cutting edge thinking showcased in the report is a refreshing antidote to all that.

Whilst greater scrutiny can be an unnerving thing for many organisations, I think that the best way forward is to embrace it and put it at the heart of your strategy. By being open and honest you can strengthen relationships with stakeholders, build new partnerships and reinvigorate your communications.

The point is, transparency isn’t a one size fits all process, and should really be the start of a conversation about your work and the difference it makes with your audience.

Isn’t it time the charity sector talked about this more? Do join the debate by tweeting ActionAid UK.


The 2014 Charity #SocialCEOs Awards are coming!

17 Sep
Last year's awards in full swing

Last year’s awards in full swing


Huge thanks to everyone who nominated CEOs earlier this summer. We’ve been spoilt for choice with 100 amazing entries. Here’s a quick update on next steps and sponsors.

What happens next?

This year’s top 30 will be announced at a special event on Thursday 6 November hosted by Girlguiding.

Who’s in this year’s top 30?

Our judges have been burning the midnight oil this summer deciding who is in this year’s top 30. As I said, we had 100 brilliant nominations and narrowing them down to 30 when the standard has been so high has been no easy task. We’d like to thank Simon Blake, CEO of Brook and Chair of our judging panel, Dalton Leong, CEO of The Children’s Trust, and Lucy Caldicott, Director of Fundraising at CLIC Sargent, for all their hard work.

Naturally, the names of those in this year’s top 30 are under lock and key until November. They will be announced officially in the press the morning after the awards i.e. Friday 7 November.

Who else is involved?

We are thrilled to announce that this year’s awards will be run in association with Grant Thornton (you may have seen their recent report Growing Communities on charity leadership and social media). We’ve got some other great sponsors on board including TPP and Access. If you’re a corporate who would like to get involved please contact me on

How can I help my CEO/ board/ leadership team use social media?

We’ll be producing some content to help you do just that which will be launched at the same time as the awards. In the meantime, check out the guide we produced last year.

I’ll also be running a workshop to help trustees use social media at the NCVO conference on 10 November, and am planning some workshops on how you or your leadership team can develop good personal online presences early in the new year. If you’d like to know more about these drop me a line on And for tip top digital campaigns advice and resources do check out Matt’s agency, Platypus Digital.

6 tips to beat the holiday email blues

19 Aug

This is a guest blog from Dr Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consultancy and an international expert on best email practice.  Monica has written several books and many articles on email use. Her latest book is ‘Brilliant Email’.

email image

August time always sparks the age old debate about whether or not to stay connected whilst on leave.  Those firmly in the wellbeing camp say disconnect and give yourself time to recharge the batteries properly.  Others feel they must stay connected no matter what and that doing so makes no difference to the quality of their holiday.  In effect they are saying ‘I am indispensable and super human’.  Most of my clients when asked why they stay connected whilst on leave say it is because they feel it is expected of them.

Last week Daimler introduced an email programme which self-destructs employees’ emails whilst they are on leave. In effect they have levelled the playing field for all employees regardless of seniority.

However, the Daimler system is sophisticated and not everyone can afford such technology.

For many, dealing with the holiday email back-log is one of the most stressful aspects of taking a break .  More stressful, some say, than losing your luggage and having to look after aging parents.  If you are not in a position to implement a Daimler-type system what are the other options?  Take heart because technology alone will not cure email overload despite the claims of some software providers.

The real cure for email overload lies in changing our email behaviour.  It is about rethinking how we use email and curing what has become the hidden disease of 21st century working life – email addiction.

Whilst these are long terms action in the short term, for those either going on holiday or returning to work from vacation, there are some simple things you can do.

Before going on leave do some basic and simple email housekeeping to clean up the inbox. Here are my three top tips:

  1. Clear out all the old emails – either move them to folders or delete them and especially old newsletters.
  2. Set some rules (filters) to move automatically any new less important emails to folders, or maybe even the trash can (eg all user emails, newsletters, social media alerts etc). This way when you return you will see only the high priority emails in your inbox.
  3. Set an appropriate Out of Office message. Keep it short and simple giving the dates you are away from the office. Most email software allows you to set two different Out of Office messages. For internal emails, set a message similar to the Daimler one asking people to resend any important emails after your return. Many senior executives already practice this principle to reduce the level of holiday email overload. Done carefully you can even filter out the ones from the CEO and let them slip though. For external emails you may wish to craft a different less blunt message.

On your return from leave here are my three top tips to reduce the dreaded holiday email overload.

  1. Talk, talk and talk again to colleagues before even touching your inbox. This will give you an overview of what really needs your attention. Then and only then tackle the inbox.
  2. Triage the inbox based on what your colleagues have told you and deal just with the really vital emails. If you have followed the three steps above then this should just be important emails from clients and the senior management team.
  3. Declare email bankruptcy. Once you have dealt with the really key emails, if your inbox is still full of unnecessary emails, delete the rest. If anything is that important you can be sure the sender will re-contact you.

The result? No more email holiday overload.  Longer term you can start to implement an email management change programme to better educate your colleagues about how to reduce email overload.


How to break the rules in charities -and make things happen

25 Jul

This is a guest blog from Sarah Sinnott of Catch22.  Sarah builds partnerships to create social impact at Catch22 – a social business that has been thinking differently about delivering services to vulnerable people for over 200 years.

Innovation is no longer a nice to have, as Lucy Gower says, it’s “urgent and important”.  At Catch22 we’re interested in innovation in all aspects of our work from frontline delivery, data capture, social finance / investment and models of sustainability.  So how do we make it happen?

  1. Take risks

Innovation and risk go hand in hand and therefore as a sector we need to be better at embracing it. Innovation needs investments of time, resource, support (to succeed and fail) and some structure for it to focus on. This kind of investment isn’t often available and hence the leadership from funders (like Nominet Trust, Google and Nesta) in terms of legitimising and embracing innovation is essential.  Be open and ready for opportunities where funders will let you take risks, they are increasingly there as long as you’re looking.

We did this with Nominet Trust who enabled us to embark on our first digital project, The Social Action App. With no track record of digital development, but a clear vision of improving chances for young people by digitalising social action, they offered us the freedom and the resources to try something risky and new…

  1. Try something new

Catch22 has just launched a Fellowship to scale good ideas, support social entrepreneurialism and embrace innovative approaches. It’s early days and the first of its kind in the sector but we hope it will demonstrate how bigger organisations can better embrace innovation.

  1. Don’t fail too fast

Ideas are easy, delivery is tough so despite the current zeitgeist of ‘fail fast’, remember that implementation is not always easy but that’s the point, and that’s why you’re doing it.  Get senior level buy in and make sure you hold your nerve for as long as possible.  The Social Action App has been quietly building momentum for 18 months now and just this week the recognition of Google  proves it’s been worth it. Catch22 is now a finalist in the 2014 Google Impact Challenge and in the running to win a £0.5million grant for the app.

catch22 app pic

Catch22’s The Social Action app


  1. Don’t bother about trying to be innovative

One sure way to kill innovation is to focus too much on it. The interesting things happen in your rear view mirror, in your peripheral vision. So don’t try to search for the next big innovative thing and then build the structures to tie it all down. Rather build your organisation and your staff’s abilities to spot opportunity and be flexible about introducing it into your existing work. You’ll need to be good at connecting ideas and networking people and eeking out scarce resource to do this rather than managing and counting and measuring.

Find out more about Catch22’s social action app.

5 questions every charity should ask about their future

2 Jul


Last week I ran a workshop for a small charity. They had bucked the trend during the last few years, growing despite the cuts. The mood in the room was confident, (but not complacent), ebullient and hungry.

They’re not unusual. The sector seems to be on the up. According to Third Sector this week  half of charities say that their income is rising and they reported a sharp increase in charity professionals’ morale in April, no doubt buoyed by the economic recovery.

Realistically, the sector is at something of a crossroads. We may be optimistic, but we’re still battling misconceptions about charities and their role. This week we had Mark Astarita calling for government minister Brandon Lewis to apologise for his ‘outrageous slur’ against fundraisers. Last month MPs professed themselves to be ‘shocked’ at Oxfam’s campaigning. And let’s not forget all the other negative press coverage the sector has had over the last year, from the Charity Commission  to CEO pay to Panorama. I can’t be the only one who’s thinking that charities, their role and transparency will feature in all of the party manifestos come the election next year.

I don’t want charities to be forced into the role of the victim, waxing and waning according to circumstances. I think we should be proud of the resilience, innovation and the impact the sector has shown amid the cuts. We cannot and should not rely on politicians to define us. As charities we need to decide what we want the sector to be, and we need to communicate it assertively and clearly.

With that in mind, here are two upcoming events to kickstart the conversation about the future of the sector. Turning the Corner 2014 on 12 September at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge will ask what the best way forward is for charities and social enterprises, including what the election may hold in store and how to deal with the pressure on organisations to merge. More details here. I’ll be running a social media workshop, so hope to see you there. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for fundraising inspiration, the lovely people at Open Fundraising are involved in championing young fundraisers by asking them to pitch the idea which they wish they’d thought of at this year’s ‘I Wish I’d Thought of That.’ You can find out how to enter here (the deadline is 7 July). We should be very proud of some of the amazing young people coming into the sector.

So here are the 5 key questions that I think every charity leadership team should ask about its future:

  1. What inspires you? What do you admire- whether it’s a project or an idea, and what could you learn from it that is useful for your organisation?
  2. Are you making the most of all the current fundraising opportunities, including digital and mobile?
  3. How is your organisation positioned for the election? What are the opportunities and threats for the different scenarios?
  4. Should you merge? What could you gain from it?
  5. How can you attract the right people, whether it’s for your leadership team or young talent?

What questions do you think charities should be asking at the moment?


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