Putting the ‘F’ word in Pandemic

Once in a lifetime, unprecedented, strange days! Just some of the phrases used to describe the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

But for many the option of shutting up shop, going home and trying to break ‘Netflix’ was not an option! One such sector was and is those organisations serving the many thousands of homeless people on the streets in the UK.

In the Welsh capital Cardiff Huggard the leading charity for homeless in Wales found itself a part of a major operation to get people off the streets and in to safety. Working alongside other agencies all but three hard core rough sleepers were housed and fed, keeping them as far as possible out of harms way. 

‘But that was not the only challenge’ says Tony Feasey ‘Head of Making Friends’ at Huggard Overnight the business sector set their ‘Out of Office’, Community Groups cancelled events and foundations went in to Pandemic Priority mode’. 

‘The first few weeks were all about emergency measures both on the ground and in fundraising’ Tony continues, ‘Everyone was trying to deal with their own new reality of lockdown in whatever way it effected them. As a charity we had to find ways to reflect both the national mood and to continue to create income’.

The first action was to touch base with the charities significant donors by both email and short video messages from the CEO to reassure them that Huggard was playing its part in the lockdown. ‘Everyone was a bit dazed and confused by events so we kept it simple and short, just enough information to give the picture from that moment and then we left it for comment and response, we knew people were coping with many new practicalities so we were not going full throttle in pushing our need for funds’ However this approach has meant that supporters are still engaged and supporting in the ways they can.

Online was the new rock n roll of fundraising so we needed to change the digital output quickly by designing a number of ‘at home’ or ‘online’ challenges to show the charity was still in business and pushing forward. Oddly enough many supporters engaged but with their own ideas tweaking the projects to their own situation.

All around the Huggard buildings the office blocks remain to the most part empty, no longer the business hub of Wales, its a strange atmosphere and with more local lock downs happening every day the challenge of engaging with the business community is going to be a long path as they find their own way forward. This is where strong personal relationships with key staff members is playing well for Huggard we have always taken the approach that its about people within the business not the business itself and we want long term friends not short term funders.

‘Concerts, fun days, table sales, coffee mornings and the like seem like things from a different age right now, but again keeping in contact with the lead friends of these community organisations is key to supporting them out of lockdown when that day comes. Having been a fundraiser for several decades its easy to become jaded about attending the local group, giving the five minute update and crunching on a sandwich, but right now what would we all give for a slice of home made Victoria sponge in a dusty church hall’

The road back to ‘normality’ in fundraising is a long one and will be governed by the fundraising ‘F’ word! Flexibility is the key to relationships, applications and plans for the future. No one can be certain of how the sector as a whole will emerge from the pandemic? Probably smaller, maybe wiser and hopefully still delivering on changing peoples lives. All we can do is to stay close to our donors, understand that they have just as much uncertainty as we do and work together. Good luck everybody!

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Written by the GoodCloud Team. Published Oct 22, 2020