Charity sector’s response to the Ukraine crisis

The situation in Ukraine is urgent and shocking and changing day-by-day. It can be difficult to know how to respond as an organisation. Do you launch an appeal? Use the news to campaign? Do you share your expertise of war situations or launch a new service? Do you manage people’s worries? Or not mention it at all, business as usual, not wanting to add to the noise? How might that change as the situation changes?

Here are some useful links and examples of the sector’s response to help you plan your own.

Advice for charities

NCVO’s blog post by Alex Farrow looks at how charities and civil society can support Ukraine. It also explores potential implications on charities such as increasing costs, cyber attacks and disaster recovery. Clare Mills of CFG also shared thoughts about the potential impact of the crisis to the sector.

CIoF’s Daniel Flusky has written advice about fundraising during an emergency with some excellent tips for charities. This includes being clear about how donations will be used. Here’s a nice example of this from Hope and Homes for Children.

The Charity Commission issued a statement about potential implications of the crisis on charities and a reminder about running effective appeals and managing funds.

Fundraising Everywhere have started a list of consultants offering their time for free to support organisations running emergency appeals.

Examples of appeals

The DEC launched its appeal on 2 March. (Update – It has raised £100m in four days.)

UK Fundraising have a list of fundraising appeals launched for Ukraine.

Refugee Action haven’t launched their own appeal but have shared advice about how to help including appeals and actions people can take.

London Plus have a google doc of London organisations offering and fundraising for help.

With so many different appeals, it can be hard for anyone to know where best to donate. The Charity Commission shared how to give safely. OSCR in Scotland issued something similar.

Deborah Meaden tweeted a plea for people to donate money rather than items due to the difficulty of transporting supplies overseas. See also this post about donations of ‘stuff’ and the problems it can cause – Ever sent clothes or toys in response to a disaster?

Emma Insley wrote about why donating to AirBnB hosts might not be the right thing to do either.

Services and support

Some stories from Ukraine are still getting out at this stage. For example, this dog shelter received funds from ifaw.

UK charities have started to offer services to people with connections with Ukraine. For example Relate are offering free telephone support for people with family in Ukraine.

St John Ambulance translated their first aid advice into Ukrainian and Russian.

Citizens Advice shared information about bringing family members from Ukraine to the UK.

Communicating about war

ICRC shared a thread about the rules of war.

Help for Heroes are calling for the media to be sensitive about the way they communicate about the war. Here’s their comms guide.

Greenpeace are raising concerns about the divisive language used by some of the reporting.

The Rory Peck Trust are running workshops for journalists about reporting during a war. They also have a crisis fund to support freelance journalists working in the conflict area.

Full Fact shared tips about how to check that information is correct before sharing it.

Cruse have shared information about bereavement through conflict and war.

Campaigns

Some organisations are using the situation to raise extra profile about legislation changes going through parliament. Like the treatment of refugees – see Freedom from Torture.

And the Policing Bill from Greenpeace.

Engaging Networks shared a thread of appeals and campaigns.

Greenpeace are asking the Government to Get Off Gas.

Managing mental health

Mind offer tips about managing stress and dealing with anxiety.

5 ways to help manage your mental health during a stressful newscycle, from Rethink.

There are useful resources from BBC Newsround on how to talk to children about the situation. Tips from Save the Children and British Red Cross too.

Crisis comms or business as usual?

What comms mode are you in? If you are a disaster relief or humanitarian charity, you are likely to be in crisis mode. If your work doesn’t touch these areas, it can be hard to know how to respond. Is it insensitive to broadcast your everyday news and events? You’ll have to decide on a day-by-day basis as the situation changes. People still need good news and other work doesn’t stop during this time. But it is worth reviewing scheduled messaging, stopping any campaigns if needed and being conscious of the language or images you are using.

Many organisations are sharing messages of unity with Ukraine. A few have changed the colours in their logos, eg Women in Journalism, and this BHF charity shop decorated its window in the Ukrainian colours. What is right for your organisation?

It’s a good time to review your crisis comms plan and think about possible future scenarios and how you would react. Look especially at the NCVO post above (how charities and civil society can support Ukraine) about the possible impact on charities such as increasing energy costs and cyber attacks.

I’ve seen a few examples of companies returning to sharing important information as images of text (see this example from MandS). This inaccessible comms method was widely used lockdowns, especially by supermarkets and Government. See why you shouldn’t tweet images of text.

More

What stand-out content or appeals have you seen from charities? Please do share in the comments.

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:

Comms

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.

Fundraising

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.

Sector

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.

Coronavirus comms for charities

Updated: 6 April (new: Charity So White report, write your own coronavirus style guide, how to communicate with furloughed staff).

Since I wrote this post on 3 March, everything has moved on. Coronavirus is dominating world news and the way we live and work has completely changed. I have been adding new useful resources as well as removing ones which are no longer relevant. I have kept the examples of charity comms for reference.

Whatever your size of organisation or purpose, you will be meeting to plan how you’ll respond internally and externally. There is lots of noise and misinformation about the spread of the virus with rumours and blame escalating. What are you doing to reassure your beneficiaries and keep your staff safe?

illustration of lots of people moving around a big space - maybe on escalators

Here are some useful links and good reads to help you manage your own charity’s response.

Writing about Covid19 for beneficiaries

Information about the virus is changing all the time. Keep an eye on official advice which is being updated on a daily basis and share / incorporate it into your comms:

Full Fact are working hard to fact-check lots of the information circulating. Are there any misleading memes or discussions circulating related to your audience or cause? It’s worth checking FF’s website to see.

Knowing what and when to communicate about coronavirus depends on what type of organisation you are.

If you are a health charity, one working with older people or one with public-access buildings, you may be sharing updates, especially if you are getting lots of helpline calls or forum discussions about risk. As there is so much misinformation circulating, this is your chance to be the go-to authority on the subject for people with specific needs and spreading good advice.

Dan Slee says that “we have all become public health communicators whether we like it or not”. In his post (The basics of communicating the coronavirus), he shares lots of useful tips about making sure your information is factual and shareable. And also notes that your comms need to go where the people are as rumour and misinformation circulate (see Enlist a team to play whack-a-mole with online rumour and How covid is playing out in Facebook groups).

Examples

Here are some examples of information charities have created for the people they represent:

Comms tips

Think accessibility – not everyone can read the text on an image. If you are sharing images with text on via social media, include a link to a web page where the same information can be read and/or repeat the text in your post. I have seen so many covid statements which are just images of text with no link (and probably no alt text). See more from @CovidAccessInfo (new account set up on 19/3).

Make information easy to find. Pin your tweets. Use hashtags (#covid19UK / #coronavirus etc). Clearly layout information so it is easy to read. Add the story to your homepage.

Tweet from Bloodwise UK. Very clear layout. Hashtags and signposting to sources of help.

Only ever link to one page which you are keeping up to date. As the situation develops you don’t want people to be seeing old advice. They may be seeing old posts or looking at old emails but at least you’ll know they can click through for current information. Avoid PDFs for the same reason.

Clearly indicate information you have added or changed. You might do this at the top of your web page or by highlighting what has been added. See this example from Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Even if you don’t have infomation you have produced yourself, at this stage it is probably a good idea to have a page about coronavirus on your website which links to the key sources of information and something about the services you offer if there are changes to them. A quick random search found lots of charity websites showing no covid results in their searches.

Website search results: says no items found

Don’t include information about the current number of cases or deaths. This instantly dates your information and shows that it is not up-to-date.

As the situation develops, you may need to use more effective and urgent ways to communicate your messages. Plan ahead now. Are you able to use video or audio or other methods to respond to a crisis comms situation? Might you need to devote your entire homepage to the story? Can you send out mass emails to your stakeholders? Are your crisis comms processes up-to-date? See this thread from Gemma Pettman sharing crisis comms planning tips.

Check your scheduled messages. For example, do you have messages scheduled which are promoting events which are likely to be cancelled? Be aware that the situation could change over the coming days / weeks.

Start planning ahead. We are now moving from the crisis planning stage into a more widespread experience of the virus. This means that your comms needs to be less about explaining the virus and how to respond to the changes we are all making. The next comms stage is describing our ‘new normal’ of operating and communicating about ill or dying colleagues, volunteers and stakeholders. See Coronavirus comms – planning ahead.

New: 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 about how language changes through a crisis and how to frame your comms is useful. 8 tips for framing covid19 – Ella Saltmarshe.

Running your organisation

Internally you will be looking at the impact of a wider spread of the virus and what this might mean for how you operate.

Here’s some of the current advice:

New: Charity So White have written a position paper sharing the ways coronavirus can impact BAME communities disproportionately. It calls on charities to consider that in their response and includes five key principles to guide them.

It’s useful to see other organisations’ internal plans if you need to write one yourself. Some have shared theirs publicly:

Reassuring staff and volunteers that you are prepared is key. Internal comms must play a vital role. What internal comms systems do you use? Do they work to reach everyone? There is some good advice in this post by Rachel Miller of All Things IC.

New: Rachel has also written this. How to communicate with furloughed colleagues.

What about your events or meetings? Many have been cancelled / postponed or changed to online. Here’s how Bond announced the cancellation of their annual conference.

Digital service delivery

What does the situation mean for the services you run and the support people in your community might need? What might you need to do more of or change?

For example, can you move face-to-face services , online? What different services could you offer to expand to support people through a scary and challenging time? Are you able to run digital events or make fun content to entertain?

Community response

Here are some examples of community and charity-run services:

Community Action Response - 5 steps

If you are a community volunteering charity, how are you keeping volunteers in touch with how they might be needed? And reassuring them about measures you’ll be taking to protect them?

Virtual working

More people are switching to virtual working as a way to reduce risk. It can be a real shift for an organisation if you are not used to working like this. Here are some useful links:

Fundraising

Fundraising is being hit hard.

The London Marathon has been postponed until October (announcement 5pm Friday 13th March). Read this thread by Russell Benson with great tips and alternative options for events fundraisers if you haven’t already. Here are a few examples from charities responding to the news in case you want some ideas.

Sarah Goddard is building a collection of resources for the fundraising sector including template appeal letters for hospices and smaller arts organisation from Mark Phillips.

Charities are launching appeals:

  • This from Kemp Hospice was released very early on.
  • Asthma UK have added a donation ask at the end of their information page.
  • Age UK Camden have put out an appeal to help them to support ‘an increasing number of anxious older people who are reaching out to us for help’.
  • FareShare – Help us get food to vulnerable people. Donate online or ‘text MEAL 10 to 70480 to give £10’.
  • New: JustGiving have shared some of the campaigns on their site.
Image from FareShare's homepage with their covid19 appeal

Other good reads / useful links

Archive:

Examples of warmer comms from week 2/3 of the outbreak:

Have you read anything else useful I should add here? Or seen examples? Let me know. I’ll add more useful links here as I find them.

Thanks to Charity Digital who published a version of this post on 10 March.