NHS Charities Together
Advancing one of the biggest fundraising campaigns in history
When COVID-19 hit the UK in early March 2020, there was a groundswell of love and support for the NHS. From Clap for Carers to Captain Tom, people everywhere wanted to express their solidarity with those doctors and nurses on the frontline. At the heart of this was NHS Charities Together (NHSCT), the national charity for the NHS. Up to this moment, it had been a small, highly-valued membership body for some of the 240+ NHS charities across the UK. Suddenly, it found itself as the national voice for NHS fundraising.
“We quickly set up an appeal, launching on the day lockdown began,” says Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHSCT. “But we were not a fundraising organisation, and we were inundated with 100,000s of enquiries from people wanting to do things for us, at all levels. Our website was overwhelmed.” Even with six volunteers working through emails all day, they still had more at the end of every day than at the beginning. And, with a full-time staff of just three and a half, they needed support and expertise to follow-up on the big opportunities.
Putting the team together
Ellie picked up the phone to More, initially through Tim Johnson, who she knew from his time as chief executive managing a massive expansion of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Charity. “I knew he and More understood NHS charities, and would tell us what we needed to be told,” Ellie says. “As things started to get bigger and bigger, and the challenges and opportunities were so varied, Tim said: ‘Would you like us to put a team together?’ It was a bit like the Avengers.”
This was a team of experts. “I really felt like I had the best people in their fields,” says Ellie. “Each person took charge of their own element so it all moved forward together. It also meant that I never had to worry or deal with lots of different consultants.”
Amit Aggarwal built on his experience of leading corporate partnerships at both GOSH and the British Heart Foundation to help Ellie maximise offers of support from companies.
Adrian Beney helped set up the new database, ensuring they had the right processes to manage millions of donations from JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and multiple other sources, and that NHSCT's huge new dataset complied with GDPR.
Rosie Dale made sure they had donor journeys in place to thank and steward this influx of new supporters for the long term.
Rachel Hall acted as mentor, sounding board and conductor, breaking down the tasks, triaging the opportunities and helping find solutions when they were needed.
Ken Hoffman enabled US donors to make tax-efficient gifts – a need that none of us had anticipated.
Tim Johnson advised on fundraising governance, helping to develop and create policies and guidelines to ensure Trustees have proper oversight, staff have clear guidance, and donors can give with confidence.
Jonathan May developed technological solutions to manage the deluge of incoming queries and helped set up critical security measures.
Simon Pennington followed-up on conversations with high net-worth individuals and foundations, helping to turn enquiries into major gifts.
With the public profile bringing increased scrutiny, and decisions needing to be made at breakneck speed, “our first priority was to help Ellie and the team cope with the enormity of what was happening,” says Rachel. “The pressure was intense – I’ve never experienced anything like it in 30 years of fundraising.” A daily check-in maintained momentum and meant that everyone could stay focused on their piece of the puzzle.
Transformational moments were many. Jonathan helped the team to develop a knowledge base on the website that answered the most frequently asked questions and signposted next steps. At the same time, Tim Wells helped to develop community fundraising packs for individuals and companies. When the new system went live, almost overnight the team were able to take a breath for the first time in weeks.
Amit was able to follow-up on the most important opportunities with companies, while protecting the value of the NHS brand. He helped to develop MOUs and create complex partnership agreements and licences with a whole range of companies. The biggest of these was with M&S, who partnered with NHSCT on their largest ever sales promotion, raising more than £8m. All the time Amit was building relationships, so they could continue to support the NHS in the future. As Ellie says: “The likes of M&S would never have come off as we didn’t have the experience inhouse. Amit was able to work with our legal team, and had the expertise to talk with M&S, Starbucks and others to build those relationships.”
As the work progressed, Tim and Rachel focused on enabling Ellie to get on with the job of leading at such a critical time for the charity. They were able to help reassure Trustees that the charity now had the systems, data processes, infrastructure and governance to navigate this moment and thrive.
It can be lonely as a chief executive, but having Tim and Rachel advising me at a high level made the experience less daunting, the stress more bearable. There was a lot of emotion in the outside world and a lot of people who wanted to help. Rachel and Tim provided the reassurance and confidence to deal with some potentially tricky situations. I trusted them. It gave me a sounding board for fundraising questions but also beyond that to the team, the brand and data. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Chief Executive, NHS Charities Together
Looking to the long-term
Everyone at More is proud to have been part of the biggest spontaneous fundraising campaign in history. Ellie and her team raised £140m in six months, and transformed a membership organisation into a major focal point for national NHS fundraising. “It’s been an incredible experience for us all,” says Rachel. “The passion and commitment of the NHSCT team was inspiring. We were honoured to feel part of that team, working together to make sure opportunities were seized and as much money as possible raised to support frontline NHS workers.”
Through it all, the focus has been on empowering the team to develop skills, confidence and capability, so they can continue to respond to the support of the UK public and the needs of the NHS. We’ve provided training, advice and new templates, and helped Ellie to recruit the people she needs, including a new fundraising director. As she puts it: “More have always said to us: ‘this is what you need to do now, but also what you need to do next’. They have helped ensure these achievements can be ongoing, not a flash in the pan.”
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