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.

Digital round-up – January 2020

Highlights this month: personal stories driving donations, lots of new campaigns, #BongForBrexit, #DollyPartonChallenge, the climate as a global risk.

January is such a long long month. Luckily there was lots of great charity content and good reads to get us through the dark days. Catch up here with some gems you might have missed.

Winter sunlight pouring through a window making a silouette of a sewing machine and a pot plant

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

Imagery from BHF campaign. Totaliser shows air quality in London exceeds WHO safe levels
Gif showing a dusty street with tumbleweed rolling through. Tweet text says Want to know the science about #BlueMonday..... There isn't any.

Comms

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Infographic showing use of Facebook by audience
Three examples of how memes could include alt text. Screenshot taken from Time article.

Fundraising

People and organisations

Climate crisis

wef top ten risks over the next ten years

And finally….

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.

——

Did you miss December’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – December 2019

Highlights this month: as well as all the Christmas campaigns, end of year round-ups, December was busy with Giving Tuesday, the election results and more.

If you were caught up in festive planning or trying to get everything done before a break, here are some of the charity highlights from December. Hope you had a good break if you got one.

red berries on a tree on a grey misty day

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

Animation by British Red Cross. Shows a young boy looking sad. Text above his head says 'War and conflict separate families'

Takeover of the month: For human rights day, Gisella Valle of LAWRS tookover ACEVO’s Twitter account to share insights into the work done by LAWRS to support migrant women.

Christmas content and appeals:

Calm zone's YuleSlog with Noel's top tips for getting through the holiday

Highlights of the year:

Predictions for 2020:

Post-election comms:

Comms

screenshot from Lightful's article about hashtags

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Fundraising

Screenshot from Grantmaking website showing coloured navigation blocks

People and organisations

And finally….

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch? 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.

——

Did you miss November’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Digital round-up – October 2019

Highlights this month: big hashtag events including #YouMadeItHappen and #WorldMentalHealthDay, legacy fundraising + the sector’s response to the climate emergency.

October is a massive month for awareness days and creative content so this is another bumper issue of 100+ links. I have also included a new section on the sector’s growing response to the climate emergency.

Countryside view - early morning. Orange light.

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

Ginger cat from Battersea's ad - rescue is our favourite brand

#WorldMentalHealthDay is a very busy day. Here are some highlights and other mental health-related content shared this month:

Did you join in with #YouMadeItHappen day this year? Here is a #YMIH Moment of some of the stand-out comms and a #YMIH blog post which goes into more detail.

Comms

Screenshot from Helpful Digital post about Instagram Stories - shows screenshots from Royal Air Force

Digital – strategy, design, culture

Fundraising

Charity on the climate crisis

Extinction Rebellion have sector specific branches for doctors, lawyers, the arts etc but there isn’t one for the charity sector? I have added this section to share some of the sector’s response.

Poster at IFC Holland with list of environmental pledges from the conference

Action:

There’s another global school strike coming up on 29 November. Will you get involved? I wrote this about the sector’s response to the strike in September.

Campaigns and comms:

Useful reads:

People and organisations

And finally….

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.

——

Did you miss September’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Be a good Secret Santa 2019

Don’t buy your colleagues or family members pointless plastic tat or novelty socks this year. Instead use some or all of your Secret Santa in a more impactful way.

Here are some links to charities running Secret Santa-sized fundraising campaigns and other ideas for doing good within your budget.

Vintage wrapping paper

Buy a gift for someone else

Support a seasonal gift charity campaign with your Secret Santa.

Buy good gifts

Spread Christmas cheer

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

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

What are you doing?

Last year, the team I was working in split their Secret Santa. We each gave £5 to the pot to be donated to a Christmas appeal we all agreed on. Then had a budget of £5 to spend on a gift which had to be bought from a charity shop.

  • Do you do Secret Santa in your team? Any tips?
  • Is your charity doing an interesting appeal?

Please share in the comments.

See also…

Merry Christmas!

Digital round-up – September 2019

Highlights this month: a lesson in crisis comms from RNLI, climate change comms, diversity in the sector, guide to wellbeing.

It’s overwhelming to try and keep up at the moment. Aside from UK and world news, this is a busy time of year for awareness days and campaign launches. Here’s a small snapshot of some of the best charity content and reads from this month and some from August too.

two men in a dark room photograph some neon artwork on a phone. pink and purple colours

How to use this round-up: 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

Big campaigns

screenshot of Samuel L Jackson's ARUK film. He holds an orange.

Creative content

Reactive content

Celebrity endorsement of the month: The Hoff visits RNLI Penarth.

'we support the climate strike' drawing on office window. By Salford CVS

Did your organisation do anything to join in with the #GlobalClimateStrike either by joining a strike or sharing messages of solidarity or making statement about your own organisation’s commitment to addressing climate change? On a day where there was a global focus on the issues, it was good to see some (mostly environmental charities) pulling out all the stops. It was disappointing to see so many others saying nothing. Here are some examples of charities who joined in with the #GlobalClimateStrike.

Comms

It can be stressful and relentless being on the comms frontline. Your work is key to building and protecting your organisation’s reputation and impact, while also battling internal pressures. This month, Charity Comms launched A wellbeing guide for comms professionals authored by Kirsty Marrins with contributions from others sharing case studies and tips. It aims to help build resilience and look after mental health. Do have a read if you haven’t seen it already.

RNLI changed their homepage to include a striking image from one of their overseas projects

This month, RNLI faced a backlash then a rush of support, following a story profiling their overseas work. Their messaging on Twitter was an example of patience and warmth. The volume of incoming comments was relentless through the week. They responded by writing personal messages to thousands of people. Their initial tweet has been liked 44.8k times.

I wrote a short thread through the first day as the situation developed including tweets of support from other charities. Dan Slee blogged with more examples and UK Fundraising showed some of the ways people challenged the press story.

What was striking about RNLI’s response was that they took ownership of the situation and proudly communicated their values and mission. For example they changed the image on their homepage (see above) and shared beautiful images from their overseas projects on social media. They also did lots to connect with new and established supporters (see this tweet from Shappi Khorsandi, a thank you email and a thank you video from Dave at Poole Lifeboat Centre).

Would you be ready to respond to a crisis comms situation?

Also this month:

Digital – strategy, design, culture

CCDH advice - don't feed the trolls - graphic with 5 steps. 1=don't engage, 2=don't post you are being targetted, 3=if unlawful, record, report and get help, 4=block trolls, 5=don't let it get to you)

Fundraising

Screenshot from Age UK's website. Older man sits alone. White writing on a purple (cadbury coloured) background say Cadbury are joining Age UK to fight loneliness

People and organisations

There has been lots shared this month about representation in the sector. Here’s a selection of useful reads and resources

Also this month:

And finally….

Well done for getting to the end! Here’s some fun stuff.

Your recommendations and feedback

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

Could you also tell me if these round-ups are useful. It takes quite a long time to put them together. How do you use the round-ups? Please share any feedback. Thanks!

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 July’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!

Charities joining in with the #GlobalClimateStrike

Today’s #GlobalClimateStrike is likely to be the biggest ever with adults showing solidarity with striking students. Millions of people are taking to the streets around the world. #ClimateStrike, #SchoolsStrike4Climate and #ClimateAction are all currently trending. According to The Guardian yesterday, a public poll found that the Climate crisis is seen as ‘most important issue’. The eight-country poll showed that people view the climate crisis as priority over migration and terrorism. But does the charity sector reflect this?

'we support the climate strike' drawing on office window. By Salford CVS

Even if it’s not your cause, this is a global day of activism about something that will have impact on us all. People will be talking about the issues. How is the sector seeing this as an opportunity to take collective action?

Striking

Charities with an environmental focus are of course shouting about it from the rooftops, encouraging staff and supporters to join in. For example:

Some other organisations are publicly saying how and why they are joining in with the march:

For many it will not be possible to join in with a strike. There is also a way to join in the #DigitalClimateStrike to show solidarity. I’ve seen a good number of agencies and individuals doing this, but no charity websites.

The examples above are primarily from organisations whose remit is connected to climate change. They will of course be joining in.

Other ways to join in

What if it is not your remit? Most organisations can’t stop their everyday work to join a strike. Most will also not want to change their homepages or social media feeds to distract from their own work.

But if on the biggest day of protest about the environment, you are not joining in with the conversation, what does that say? If you are not talking about what you are doing, maybe people will assume you are doing nothing? And in a culture when we need to build trust, connect with our audiences and collectively take action, this is important.

This is an opportunity to show that we care about the same things as our audiences / beneficiaries, especially if they are primarily young people (see this example from YoungScot).

So, use the day (and beyond) to say what you are doing for example to reduce waste or energy use. Talk about some of the changes you have made to the way you work and travel. Talk about what you plan to do (for example, VONNE announced that their annual conference will focus on climate change. And Just For Kids Law had a lunchtime session talking about climate change). Talk about the impact that climate change is, or could have, on the people you represent (see Oxfam’s #WhoTakesTheHeat series).

If the reason your organisation is not doing anything today is because climate change is not on your organisation’s radar, maybe use the day as a way to raise it internally.

It’s time for adults to listen to children say Save the Children in this powerful video.

Read more

Update: after the strike

Youth Strike 4 Climate stated that globally, 4 million people joined in with the strike. There were 5700 strikes in 185 countries. Scottish Youth Climate Strike estimated that 1 in 125 Scots joined the strike.

Here are some examples of timely and powerful comms shared during and after the event to mark the day and build momentum further:

Update: ongoing climate change action

  • Woodland Trust are inviting everyone to join the #BigClimateFightback by pledging to plant a tree by 30 November.
  • British Red Cross shared a video from IFRC called the #FacesOfClimateChange. The same video, translated into different languages, has been shared by branches in other countries.
  • Manchester Community Central are devoting their annual storytelling event to focus on local organisations addressing climate change. On day one they introduced Friends of Fallowfield Loop.
  • Friends of the Earth shared an animation, saying “If you’ve been inspired by the #GlobalClimateStrike or Greta Thunberg’s incredible speech to the UN, then don’t wait for those in power to #TakeClimateAction.”

What do you think?

Did your organisation join in? Is climate change being discussed internally? Have you seen any great examples of climate change comms?