Tweets as images of text

In March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic Tallie Proud and I noticed a new protocol on social media. Key messages and important information from companies, organisations and government about the pandemic were being shared as images of text. Think back to the guides about how to wash your hands, rules about what you could do, who should shield, opening hours and availablity of supermarket slots. As things were changing so fast, this was a way to fit as much information in one place as possible, branded and clear.

But it wasn’t clear for everyone. It resulted in these channels being inaccessible for people who couldn’t access images. It resulted in them being excluded from independently accessing this information. Not just people using screen readers but those with low bandwidth, small screens and data limits. This is what a tweet looks like with the image turned off:

Sample tweet with the image turned off. Says: Important information from us about covid.

As the days went by, we saw more and more of these messages. We got cross and decided to do something about it. We set up a Twitter account – @CovidAccessInfo – to remind people that their content should be accessible to all.

We sent a lot of messages to supermarkets and high profile companies, publicly and privately. The ones which made us really angry were the official ones – government, health bodies, councils all sharing vitally important information using graphics and who should have known better.

10 Downing Street sharing an image of the letter sent to all households. No alt text. No description.

We also saw lots of videos with no voiceover or text alternative (though this one did have an 8-thread tweet sharing the tips, just not linked to the original tweet).

Some listened, apologised and responded by offering accessible content. Some dismissed and some ignored our requests. We often ended up trying to add the accessibility ourselves that the tweet should have included. We replied to lots of tweets, just sharing the text on the image so there was an alternative available somewhere. Later-on charities like RNIB took up the mantle and worked with government to sort out their comms.  

2021 and we’re still here

Now a year on, the issue of inaccessible information in text graphics continues. Over the last few days, we’ve again seen organisations choosing to respond to issues with a statement in a graphic with no other way of reading it. 

We can’t let this be the norm and let it go unchallenged. Social media needs to be a place which is accessible to everyone. We all need to do our bit. Being busy or not thinking about it is not an excuse.

How to make your tweets accessible

  • If your message is under 280 characters, post it to Twitter as a standard tweet, particularly if it’s a reply to someone.  
  • Turn it into a thread if it’s longer than 280 characters.
  • If you have to use a text graphic, include the text in the tweet. Either (1) add a link to a webpage where the statement is in html (not graphic or PDF), (2) add the text as a thread underneath or (3) add the text in the image description.
  • Text graphics shouldn’t be posted on their own with no accompanying text. 
  • Text videos with no voiceover shouldn’t be posted on their own without accompanying text. (Also don’t make videos with no voiceover).


  • If sharing non-informational images (ie photographs / illustrations), use the alt-text option describing what’s in the image. 
  • Use a strong contrast between text and a background on a graphic.
  • Choose a large font.
  • Keep the text short and simple. Complicated language can also exclude people. 
  • Include subtitles on videos.


Do your bit

Want to learn more about accessibility on social media? Helpful Digital have written a useful guide. 

If you see a business posting text graphics without any consideration for accessibility, let them know. Here’s a @covidaccessinfo tweet calling out bad practice in case you spot one and want to say something. Also, point them to this post or the Helpful blog post linked above.

>>With thanks to Tallie whose post this is based on.

Digital advent calendars 2020

Here are some highlights from this year’s digital advent calendars shared by charities, museums and other not-for-profits. It’s been a grim year, so here is some festive cheer for you to view and share with others.

Yarn-bombed santa on a bollard. Photographed on a rainy street last year

Christmas cheer

Roundabout drama - a child drawing a character from the story

Roundabout Drama have a story behind each door of their advent calendar. Day 1 is illustrated by Maxmillian and Sebastian.

Each day Streetwise Opera are sharing contributions from artists who have joined in with A Gallery For All.

Manchester Museum are sharing a caring Christmas calendar.

Jane Austen’s House are sharing a 12 days of Christmas traditions which Jane might have enjoyed. Includes audio recorded by Emma Thompson and material from their archive.

See also:

Stories and successes

screenshot from Cats Protection. Lovely tabby cat

Cats Protection are sharing their annual #CatventCalendar with heart-warming moggy stories every day by email and social media.

Throughout December Stroke Assocation will be celebrating #HopeAfterStroke – sharing stroke survivors’ and carers first glimmers of hope and celebrating the way the charity and supporters have helped to provide hope.

See Me Scotland are sharing nuggets from their year and resources about mental health. Follow #AntiStigmaAdvent.

Gateshead People’s Assembly are sharing photos to remind their community what pre-pandemic life looked like. “It won’t be long until we are all back together.”

Sharing learning

Dr Jenner’s House is running a #VaccineAdventCalendar. The Preventable Disease Advent Calendar will share 24 different infectious diseases, all of which can be prevented by vaccination.

CIPR Not-for-Profit are once again sharing learning through their Twitter calendar.

NAVCA are doing the same.

Liverpool John Moore University’s Student Advice and Wellbeing team are sharing content each day including a live cookalong and DIY gift making on Instagram.

Love Food Hate Waste are sharing tips about reducing food waste over Christmas.

Sharing collections

Museums, galleries and heritage sites are sharing items from their collections. Expore #MuseumAdvent and take a look at:


BBC Bitesize kindness advant calendar. Day 1 is a nice hot drink, day 2, a bear hug, day 3, a compliment

The best of the rest

Seen any others? Let me know and I’ll add them here.

** Follow some of these calendars using this handy Twitter list. **

Join in

It’s not too late to run a calendar. Last year many organisations ran 12 days of Christmas reveals in the quiet time after Christmas. If you have some content to make your community smile this time of year, why not package it as a calendar?

See digital advent calendars – tips and examples.

Festive fundraising

I should also give a special mention to Richard Sved whose Festive Fundraising Jukebox is raising money for Youth Talk and Alcohol Change UK. Here’s The Holly and the Ivy. He’s taking requests. Get yours in early!

Good gifts 2020

Times are tough. Lockdown 2, darker nights, grim Covid predictions and more uncertainty means we all need a boost. Last week (mid-October) I talked so someone who had already put up her Christmas tree. Mince pies have already been in the shops for a while. This year Christmas will be different but there are lots of ways it can still be special.

Now is a good time to find interesting, fun and ethical gifts for your loved ones. Here are some suggestions about how you can use your Christmas budget to support local businesses, social enterprises, museums and charities. They need your support more than ever.

Christmas tree

Buy good gifts

Sign up to sites like Easy Fundraising and The Giving Machine to generate donations to your favourite charities while you shop online. If you are running a Secret Santa, use the Giving Machine’s Secret Santa generator to make it easy.

Buy a gift for someone else

Support a seasonal gift charity campaign (more to come as they launch).

  • Donate £10 to support Book Trust’s annual campaign. “Christmas won’t be magical for every child.”
  • Be Secret Santa for a child in need via Stipey Stork, a Surrey based babybank.
  • Help a child deprived of an education with a school bag and its contents for £20 via charity School in a Bag. You can track the bag to see exactly where it’s gone.  
  • NEW! Choose Love. Buy gifts for refugees from £5. Includes emergency blankets, hot food parcels and language and skills support. Here’s the Choose Love this Christmas social campaign.  
  • Help Little Village find the perfect gift for 1000 children in London this year. Buy a gift voucher from £5.
  • Does your local charity have a wishlist? Support them by buying items they need. For example, the Crisis Skylight in Newcastle has biscuits, face masks and gloves on their Amazon wishlist.
  • This year there are 17 Xmas Dinner projects around the country, supporting care leavers. Each is fundraising and many have wishlists for gifts. Find one near you.
  • Oxfam Unwrapped – gifts from £5. 
  • NEW! Adopt a word from the Ministry of Stories to support the next generation of storytellers. Flummery and moonglade are still available….

Spread Christmas cheer

Why not pool your funds and do something bigger as a team or family?

There are also countless fundraising appeals, virtual Christmas jumper days and Reverse Advent Calendar campaigns which you could get involved with.

What are you doing?

Are you planning a Zoom Secret Santa or a lockdown Christmas kitchen party? How are you planning to boost morale and spread some festive cheer this year? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

See also…

Charity digital advent calendars – tips and examples if you are running a digital calendar for your charity or community.

Disclaimer: all links included in this post are examples and intended for guidance only. Inclusion does not constitute an endorsement. Please do your own research before making purchases.

Digital round-up – September 2020

Highlights this month: charity content showing the impact of the pandemic, comms fatigue, anti-racism within the sector.

Now that the kids are back at school and I have a bit more time, I thought I’d reinstate a round-up. Here are some of the highlights I spotted last month. With so much going on at the moment, it is impossible to keep up with everything. I hope this helps fill some of the gaps. Until next month…. (fingers crossed).

Handwritten sign points one way to campsite and beach, and the other to 'nowhere'!

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.


NSPCC graph showing that during the pandemic and resulting increase in impact on children's health, NSPCC was still there to support them

Charities have sadly been announcing cost-cutting and redundancies. Here are a few examples of messages direct from CEOs sharing the news with their supporters and users. This is difficult content to write. Sharing the news like this rather than as a press release or news story is much more personal and powerful.

See also: Martin Houghton-Brown: ‘St John Ambulance saw its income dry up, and we went to the NHS and offered to help’ – Civil Society.


Meryl Streep gif of her standing up at the Oscar, pointing and saying YES YES YES!

Planning ahead for your Christmas content? It may be a good year to be creative and share some joy. Take a look at this from the archive for some ideas – Nonprofit digital advent calendars – tips and examples.

Digital – strategy, design, culture


People and organisations

I was very sad to hear the news that John Popham had died. He was a real trail blazer for digital in the sector and beyond. It was lovely to see such a huge response to the news with so many people sharing stories of how John had inspired them. #BeMoreJohn

<Feel the cold? Get a heatpad. Heat yourself, not your room / home. It’s cheaper and greener and warmer. Sorry if you have heard this a hundred times! Have been banging on about this for ages.>

And finally….

Screenshot from video showing David Attenborough answering a young boy's question

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.


#GlobalClimateStrike 2020

Last year I asked why more charities weren’t joining in with the global day of action about the climate. Today is the annual strike day and it is very quiet. Obviously, there’s lots else going on but the climate crisis is not going away. What’s moved on in a year?

Chalk board at the farmer's market - actions for a climate emergency

After the global day last year, there seemed to be a flurry of organisations writing and sharing their green pledges which was encouraging. Here’s a set of pledges, useful links and resources which I have shared in the last 12 months (NB I stopped doing round-ups during lockdown so there is a big gap when I will have missed things).

January 2020

November 2019

October 2019

What’s moved on?

The need for urgent and drastic action seems more obvious now as there have been so many reports of extreme weather. The world hasn’t waited while we have been dealing with covid.

So, what has moved on in the sector? Has covid stopped or been a catalyst for change? For example, will lockdown lead to long-term changes in policy to do with travel or wastefulness? Are funders investing in projects which tackle inequalities in relation to access to food, shelter and healthcare? Are organisations now actively sharing tips for staff about WFH during the winter and especially the implications on energy use? [NB Buy a heatpad and heat yourself not your room / home – it’s cheaper and greener!]

What’s happening in your organisation? Are conversations about internal polices and external campaigns still going? What has moved on in a year? I’d love to know.

See also

Digital experiences of nature

It goes without saying that it has been a tough year for so many of us. Getting out into nature seems to have been a common stress-buster for lots of people. It certainly has been for me.

Thames Estuary on a sunny day

The connection between mental health and nature have been around a long time. This year when our usual methods of avoiding or managing stress have been unavailable, more people have been walking round their local areas (#WalkYourWay) and spending time in local parks and green spaces.

This week Ramblers and Friends of the Earth launched reports and campaigns about the importance of access to nature. Both found that access to green spaces isn’t available to everyone and are calling on this to change.

Charities like Wildlife Trust have whole sections on their website dedicated to nature for wellbeing. And charities like GoodGym and TCV help facilitate tasks which boost physical and mental health through conservation / community clean-up tasks.

But what if you can’t get out? If you are shielding or recovering or looking after someone? If you are in hospital? Or at work during the day? There are ways to experience nature digitally.

During lockdown I co-founded Radio Lento (@RadioLento), a slow radio podcast of nature soundscapes. No talking, no music, just authentic soundscapes between 15-60 minutes long. People have been using them to help block out distracting noise in order to concentrate / focus. But they’ve also been using them as a dose of ‘green space’ or ‘blue health’, and to help with relaxation. This episode from the Forest of Dean is one of my favourite ones to work to. With headphones on, it is just enough sound not to be distracting.

I’ve also started to see charities sharing longform, slow film content. National Trust’s #EveryoneNeedsNature section has a YouTube channel of slow TV. You can watch 1 hour, 13 minutes of cherry blossom, just the blackbird singing and the branch bobbing in the wind.

Canal and River Trust have shared some virtual walks like this one from Caughall, Chester. And Forestry England have a series of short virtual forest bathing videos.

Dorset Mind have produced an interactive nature-scape. Choose from diferent locations (Corfe Castle, Weymouth Harbour, Fontmell Hill and more), then add music or none. Watch loops of 20seconds with on-screen instructions (breathe in / breathe out) and mindful messages.

Dorset Mind's nature-scape. Screenshot of pier with 'breathe in' caption in centre.

As we move into darker and colder days and possible lockdowns / periods of individual isolation, these virtual ways to access nature will be even more important. I’d love to see and hear more of them.

See also

Have you seen or created digital content which aims to help with wellbeing or mindfulness? Please share in the comments and I’ll add them here.

Get in touch

If you’d like to talk about possible Radio Lento collaborations, please email us at We have 30 episodes from across England and Wales featuring different times of the year and different types of locations.

Digital legacy fundraising – where are we now?

It’s Remember a Charity Week. This year The Wombles are the stars, encouraging people to ‘pass on something wonderful, leave a gift to charity in your will.’ Partner charities have been sharing their own bespoke Womble videos like this one for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

screenshot from The Wombles' video

Ambassador Len Goodman appeared on GMB to talk about legacies and reduced the ask to this simple message: “If there’s a little bit left over, just leave a little bit of money to a charity in your will.” Beautifully simple!

In 2013 I wrote a post about digital legacy fundraising (legacy fundraising – tips for engaging and persuasive web content) following a piece of benchmarking research for a large charity. Back then, digital legacy fundraising appeared to be a tricky task. There were some examples of content which was engaging and persuasive but otherwise it was pretty functional, if mentioned at all.

Fast-forward to 2017 and things had moved on. 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising found strong examples where charities were using emotive text as well as engaging images and photos. However, in a sample of over 50 large, medium and small charities, most had pages which were pretty dull especially smaller charities. The ones that stood out had confidence and a clear sense of themselves and what they meant to their supporters.

Three years later, where are we? Reports show that legacy gifts and awareness of leaving a legacy are rising. This year has presented some additional challenges for legacy fundraising, not just the practicalities of processing estates during lockdown, but the sensitivities of messaging around death and dying.

Rob Cope, director of Remember a Charity spoke to Howard Lake about this. He said that was, however, an uplift, especially where charities were confident about their storytelling and did this in a positive and uplifting way. He said ‘charities who are loud about legacies will do well in a competitive market. You have to ask and ask in the right way.’ He talked about the impact of covid on fundraising and said: ‘legacies have to be at the heart of your financial resilience of your organisation.’

How does your digital legacy fundraising match up? Is it loud and confident? Is it engaging and positive? Or is it functional and hidden away – if mentioned at all online? Do you have digital assets produced specifically for channels or are they digitised versions of paper brochures? Do you promote legacies on social media – either during Remember a Charity Week or as part of your portfolio of digital fundraising?

As a charity, it can be hard to know where to start and difficult to assess whether your digital legacy fundraising is effective. Which is why I am really excited to be part of a new project at Legacy Foresight.

Legacy Foresight say that digital and social media is growing as a means of acquiring and stewarding legacy donors. GDPR rules have meant that previous routes of contact are gone and target generations are now increasingly active online. But that there is not “an agreed view of what makes for good online legacy communications. For example, how can we best use digital and social media to inspire, inform and impel legacy donors into making a gift? Can we develop KPIs and metrics to help measure and track each charity’s performance relative to its peers?”

This programme is currently looking for charities to join a new learning circle looking at the future of legacy fundraising. Please do find out more if you would like to join the programme. It’s going to be really interesting!

New project at Legacy Foresight – Legacy Fundraising 2.0: digital and social marketing

More on Remember a Charity week

Digital round-up – April 2020

Highlights this month: covid content, covid comms, covid language battles, covid fundraising, covid-driven digital services, covid burnout.

Well, March was intense. April was the same, but different. Now we are in May, it feels like a good time to review and reflect on the month just gone. This round-up, like most of the comms this month, is 98% coronavirus. Here are some gems you might have missed. Stay safe everyone.

Street art - Triangle with man in a hat walking across a zebra crossing. Says 'Virus' underneath. Looks like a warning sign.

How to use: Pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox.

Content and digital fundraising

At the start of the pandemic in March, comms was focussed around hand washing and protecting vulnerable groups. As we moved into April, fundraising appeals, digital fundraising and lockdown coping strategy content emerged. It has been really inspiring to see so many creative campaigns turned round so quickly and made from home.

Most charities have built covid information hubs on their websites, very quickly writing lots of new content to meet the needs of their audience. These hubs are generally prominently linked from homepages and in some cases appear as a new item on top-level navigation. Here’s a selection:


Illustration of a Tank from Yasmeen Serhan's article

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Inaccessible tweet from 10 Downing Street. Uses image of a letter with no text description

It has been really worrying to see the rise of so much inaccessible information during this time from official sources, businesses and some charities. The accessibility of official information provided by No10, DHSC, PHE and even the NHS has been especially poor at a time when it matters most. This was covered on Channel 4 News.

It has been particularly noticeable that so many organic and promoted tweets used images or gifs of text to share statements and complicated information. These generally appear with no alt text or link to an html version of the information, or text version in a thread. The information is therefore inaccessible to anyone who can’t view images. There have also been lots of videos without subtitles and without voice overs.

Clearly this has been a pressured time to release information as quickly as possible. But accessibility matters.


2.6 challenge image. boy in a superhero costume

People and organisations

We’ve all had to rapidly adjust to this new way of working. It has been tough. Not least because of the technological learning curve and the loss of face-to-face contact, but also because we are all dealing with big additional mental loads as we come to terms with the situation we are living and working in. The home schooling, the loneliness, the worries about food and health and the future and our loved ones. There’s lots to deal with.

There was a flood of ‘top tips for working at home’ type-articles at the start. And now, there are more about recognising that wall-to-wall Zoom calls and WFH (especially when your home isn’t set up for this) is very draining. If you are finding it hard, or your team’s motivation is draining, this is normal. Here are some articles which it might be worth sharing internally. You are doing great. It’s ok to have off-days. Working life is likely to be like this for a while.

The current situation has lots of implications for long-term outputs. Organisational strategies have been parked and business as usual pivoted. It’s a challenging time for senior leaders and trustees.


And finally….

Lavender field in Kent

I am missing train trips and walks in open countryside. I have been sharing some virtual walks and adventures including Cornwall, a sleeper train to Spain (and back) plus the lavender fields of Kent.

If you want to transport yourself to other places at a deeper level, take a look at Radio Lento podcasts. Get some headphones and listen to 30-minute soundscapes of woods, rivers and birds. Perfect for meditation, some quiet before sleep or just switching off during the day. Subscribe via your podcast provider or get updates via @RadioLento.

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch? Please share in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.


Did you miss the last round-up? Catch up with more good reads from a time before lockdown.

#WalkWithTom – raising money ‘for the NHS’

You’ll have seen that 99 year old, Captain Tom Moore (@captaintommoore) has been raising money by walking the length of his garden. Initially he set out to raise £1000 to mark his 100th birthday.

Today (17 April) the total on JustGiving stands at a staggering £17m. JustGiving have done an amazing job to process hundreds of donations per second. The story has been all over the media and donations have come from 52 different countries.

Captain Tom Moore's JustGiving page - total is on £16m

People want to support Tom and give something to the NHS at this impossible time when we need them most. But as the story has grown, the messaging about how and where the money will be used has been lost. As with any windfall fundraising on this scale, transparency is needed about who gets the money and how it will be spent.

Tom’s story

The public is heavily invested in Captain Tom and most will know that this money is going to the NHS in some way. It gives us a good news story, a heroic person to connect with and reassurance that the NHS has much-needed extra funds. All good.

But as with other huge windfalls the sector has seen, there comes a responsibility by the recipient charity to be transparent about where the money is going. Most of the coverage has focussed on Captain Tom, the total he has raised and the progress of his garden challenge.

There is little mention that the funds are going to NHS Charities Together for them to distribute to their NHS charity members – not ‘the NHS’.

Windfall fundraising

Think back to the Claire Squires Fund in 2012 which raised £1m for The Samaritans, #ThumbsUpForStephen in 2014 which raised £5m for Teenage Cancer Trust (until a few days ago holding the record for the most raised by an individual through JustGiving), or #FinishForMatt in 2018 which raised £380k for small charity Brathay Trust).

Each of these was a high-profile news story which prompted a wave of love and action by thousands of donors. Each charity had to respond to this event happening outside their control and quickly communicate their plans about how they would use these large unexpected funds.

For most, donors were responding to the story of Claire, Stephen and Matt, wanting to do something. The cause was secondary. The charities had to get the right balance of letting the story drive donations but at the same time making sure it featured prominently in all their comms (such as website homepage, social media, email marketing). They had to connect with and educate a new audience about their work, and as the size of windfall became clear, make and share plans about how the money would be used.

#WalkWithTom has additional complications as we are all connected to the cause. But in this case, there is also complexity around the messaging of who is holding the money and how we think about the NHS and how it is funded.

About NHS Charities Together

NHS Charities Together is an umbrella organisation for the NHS charities. There are more than 250 across the UK, although only 140 are members. Most hospitals and Trusts have one (see list of NHS Charities Together members). They operate a bit like a school PTA which raises money for ‘extras’ not covered by council budgets.

Most people don’t know or need to know about NHS charities, why they exist and what they pay for which is different from the government funded frontline NHS. But actually this matters. In recent days I have seen lots of people talking about this story, confused (and sometimes very angry) about how and why this money is ‘going to the NHS’ which we pay for through our taxes. Some have raised concerns about the precedent it is setting for people thinking they are donating to the NHS.

Lots of the media coverage simply says that Tom is ‘raising money for the NHS’. Even the Chancellor said it in this message! Most reports don’t mention specifically that the money is going to NHS charities and how it will be used. Maybe people may assume the money will go on PPE and ventilators? Maybe it is too technical to explain or gets in the way of a good story?

But we are once again left in a situation where the technicalities of how charities operate are a mystery to most and the lines are blurred between charity and public sector services and who pays for them.

Hopefully as the story moves away from Tom’s garden, it will focus on the difference this money will make. And explain where it is and where it isn’t going. If the media, simply said that the money is going to NHS charities, rather than ‘to the NHS’, it would be a good start.

How the money will be used

Unfortunately, not much has been said about how the money Tom has raised will be used yet. NHS Charities has been celebrating Tom’s achievements and the ever growing total. They probably haven’t got time to do more. They are only a small organisation and they are running several other campaigns and fundraising efforts of their own.

NHS Charities’ own appeal on Virgin Money Giving has raised £27m (including £26m raised offline from major donors). This appeal gives examples of some of the ways the money could be used including:

  • wellbeing packs for NHS staff and volunteers
  • covering staff / volunteer expenses such as car parking, travel and accommodation
  • communication devices for isolated patients
  • mental health support for staff, volunteers and patients
  • helping patients leave and remain out of hospital.

These sound like very valuable ways to use the funds but what does this look like with £44m+ behind it? Will only member charities get support or all of the NHS charities? How will this be allocated? Is this more than enough to cover these activities or is more needed?

It must be a complicated challenge to allocate this amount of money quickly across hundreds of partners in a crisis of this scale and under such pressure. But donors and the press need their ‘what now’ story about the impact of these generous donations.

Good comms is key

As with any massively successful fundraising appeal, attention will turn from the event to how the money has will be used. Here, questions will be asked about the speed of getting the funds to where they are needed.

Hopefully NHS Charities Together will be able to give clarity through their own comms and press outreach about their intentions for this unexpectedly large amount of money. As well as the numbers, it would be good to see stories about impact to give a human context. We need more good news stories.

There have been some comms on this including a slot by the Chief Executive on Heart FM and a few of the NHS charities tweeting themselves such as Awyr Las Charity in North Wales.

The hashtag #ThankYouTom is already being used by people. Maybe the NHS charities could share their stories of how the money has been used in their hospital using this?


This Civil Society article (NHS Charities Together appeal raises £55m for members (17 April)) gives some detail about how the money is being spent.

Some of the same information is also in the mainstream press. See How will Captain Tom Moore’s £14m be spent to help NHS workers? (Huffington Post – 16 April) and Covid-19 appeal to benefit NHS staff through array of charities (The Guardian, 16 April).

Captain Tom’s fundraising was closed after his 100th birthday. The final total was over £32m.

NHS Charities Together raises £100m through Covid-19 appeal – UK Fundraising.

Read more

For more coronavirus-related fundraising and comms, see April’s Digital round-up.

Coronavirus comms – planning ahead

As we move into a more widespread experience of the virus, our comms will change. So far, we have been in a full-on crisis planning stage. We have been mobilising to work from home, digitising our services, getting ready to do the work which is needed, fundraising and campaigning under #EveryDayCounts.

Now, the situation will change as we hit the peak with more cases. More of us will get ill, know someone who is ill or who has died. At the same time, we will be feeling the impact of increased financial and practical pressures individually and on our organisations.

How and what we communicate on behalf of our organisations and between ourselves will change. The leadership team should be setting the tone and framework for this. Work with them to plan now what this might look like for your organisation.

Graphic of brightly coloured houses

Here are some resources and thoughts which might help you to plan for this stage. Effectively we are all working through a constant crisis situation.

External comms about your work

What you say about your organisation at this time, clearly depends on the work you are doing. But your comms need to be agile. The situation is changing rapidly. The priorities for your organisation and your audience have completely changed and will continue to do so. What are you able to predict with confidence and what scenarios are likely to be ahead?

Is your comms process working in the current situation? If not, what needs to change to streamline publishing? For example, who is deciding on and approving messaging? Where are the bottlenecks and can these be removed? Who is identifying new content you need to create to cover subjects people need to know about? Are you able to turn this round quickly but to the same quality standards?

Your audience is likely to be flat-out and also needing to switch off. So, the volume of your comms, the range of topics you are covering and the channels you may use, will be different. Streamline what you are doing as much as possible so you are sharing the same messages across the channels you are using.

Do you have time to respond to people’s comments and questions via social media? People may be lonely / bored / frightened and more likely to reach out this way, than before. Are you set up to deal with this type of ‘customer service’? Who do you priorise if you have limited time? It can be helpful to have a playlist of common responses and links which you edit as needed.

Keep one place updated as your primary information source. Many organisations now have a coronavirus section on their websites where they share resources and information about their services. Create a go-to place if you haven’t already.

What does your content mix look like? Is it appropriate to share good news, fun stories or reassuring content? People will need cheering up. Think about your tone of voice. Make sure what you are sharing is appropriate for the general mood / news.

Think about your language. How you talk about the virus and its impact on your beneficiaries and organisation will change. Write and share a mini styleguide to include standard phrases which you use, as well as ones to avoid. This post by Ella Saltmarshe about how language changes through a crisis and how to frame your comms is useful. 8 tips for framing covid19. And the NHS styleguide now has a coronavirus entry.

Beware of sharing misinformation or yesterday’s news. Things are changing rapidly. Only share current and official sources of information.

Don’t forget about accessibility during this time. Everyone needs to be able to access important information. For example, don’t share images of text, gifs of videos without text descriptions and / or links to an html version. Use subtitles on videos.

Scheduling messages may be risky at the moment. We just don’t know what is ahead.

Comms about your people

How is your comms set up to deal with bad news about colleagues, volunteers or the people you work?

For individual cases

  • How will you receive the news? Are you checking in with each other? Do you have contact details for next of kin?
  • How will you tell people the news internally? Who will do this?
  • Are there some people you might need to share the news about publicly, such as patrons, founders or trustees? If so, do you have a template for biographies or tributes? Do you have appropriate photos you can use?
  • Do you have ways that people can come together online to share their stories and memories of that person? For example, through a hashtag or in-memory board? How will you curate or share these with the person’s loved ones?
  • In the absence of funerals and with so many people working from home, not seeing each other, the usual ways of coming together to grieve are not possible. What can you do to help people mourn within your organisation?

For multiple cases

  • How will you keep track of people within your network who have died? Will you manage a list? Who will look after this? How might you need to use this now and later?

Tone of voice

What is your internal and external tone of voice talking about death? Do you use euphemisms like ‘passed away’? Or talk in a more matter of fact way? It is a good time now to work this out if you haven’t already. The NHS health writing style guide has just added an entry to clarify how they write about death and dying. They use direct language.

Internal comms

What systems do you need to put in place to help people process bad news? This can be really hard especially when everyone is working remotely. Good internal comms is key.

Regularly review whether your internal channels are working well. Is everyone engaged? Are your systems making things easier or adding more stress?

How can you add some light relief? I have seen people starting their team conference calls with a quiz or tours round their homes or with a fancy dress theme (such as a hat). Other people bring their children or pets on the calls to say hi.

Useful resources about mental health

Look after yourself and your colleagues. This thread from Matthew Sherrington about managing your team through a crisis – organising, communicating, taking care of yourself and others, is full of useful tips.

Here are some other useful links.

Useful resources about grief and bereavement

Other resources

Have you read anything else useful I should add here? Or seen examples? Or got tips. Please add in the comments or let me know.

See also: Coronavirus comms for charities.

Look after yourselves please. And wash you hands.