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Posted by Alex Vernon on

An afternoon’s bowling and a free drink? Pah! Why charities should be investing in stories to make their staff happy

I’ve long been rabbiting on to anyone who’ll listen about beneficiary stories and how they’re one of the best tools (if not THE best!) at a charity’s disposal for getting supporters on board. But recently I’ve been struck by the huge impact a great beneficiary story can have on a different audience: the charity’s very own staff.

Victim Support home page
Many people describe the help they’ve had from Victim Support as ‘life-saving’.

Over the last six months I’ve been working with Crest Advisory on a big project for Victim Support. I’ve interviewed dozens of staff, volunteers and beneficiaries and discovered just what an important and effective charity it is.

Victim Support helps victims of crime – anyone from elderly people who’ve been burgled, to children affected by domestic violence, to victims of hate crime, trafficking, anti-social behaviour, terrorism…the list goes on.

Time and time again, I’ve heard beneficiaries describing the help they’ve had from Victim Support as ‘life-saving.’ As you can imagine, such sentiments are music to this charity writer’s ears – you don’t get much more powerful than ‘life-saving’ when it comes to stories that will inspire supporters.

But never mind the supporters (for the moment at least). What about the people working their socks off to provide that life-saving support – the staff? Don’t they deserve to be inspired too?

Of course they do. And at Victim Support, they are. I’ve been sending beneficiary stories to teams across the UK and their responses have made my day:

“This is an amazing read. I’m so proud of my team here in Cornwall and stories like this remind me why I do the job I do.”

“Ah that story is lovely – I feel like crying!”

“Thanks so much for sending that through. It really is nice to read such positive feedback and makes me feel even more pleased that I do this job.”

I was wondering what pics to put in this post when I spotted Rosie – a wonderful beneficiary story lying right at my feet! We found our beloved pooch at the RSPCA Bristol Dogs and Cats Home and a few weeks later we posted a photo of her, delighted with her new home, on the charity’s facebook page. The team loved the pic so much that they republished it in their newsletter. I like to think that by sharing Rosie’s happy ending, we inspired the RSPCA staff to keep doing what they do. Woof!
I was wondering what pics to put in this post when I spotted Rosie – a wonderful beneficiary story lying right at my feet! We found our beloved pooch at the RSPCA Bristol Dogs and Cats Home and a few weeks later we posted a photo of her, delighted with her new home, on the charity’s facebook page. The team loved the pic so much that they republished it in their newsletter. I like to think that by sharing Rosie’s happy ending, we inspired the RSPCA staff to keep doing what they do. Woof!

So the case for charities investing in stories grows stronger! The benefits are bountiful. Your beneficiaries gain satisfaction from sharing their stories because it’s a way to ‘give something back’ to the charity. Those stories can then become compelling content – for your website, social media, appeals, grant applications, donor reports, newsletters – that will excite your supporters. And, as my work with Victim Support illustrates, those same stories will give your staff a warm glow, reminding them exactly why they do what they do and motivating them to keep doing it.

So what should you do the next time your employers invite you out for some staff-morale-boosting bowling and a drink on them? Suggest that next time, that bowling and booze money might be better spent on producing a great new beneficiary story. I’ll wager that its impact will last far longer than a free glass of Pinot.

Posted by Alex Vernon on

“I told a girl I had arthritis and she said, ‘Oh, is that all?’”

Last year I interviewed beneficiaries of the charity Arthritis Care as part of a big story-gathering project with Mile 91. I wrote this blog for Mile 91’s website.

Rowena (on the right) tells me about the help she's had from Arthritis Care
Rowena (on the right) tells me about the help she’s had from Arthritis Care

I’d always thought I was well acquainted with arthritis, as both my sister and my mum live with pretty nasty forms of it.

But it wasn’t until I interviewed others with the disease – people I didn’t know – for the charity Arthritis Care that I really started to grasp what it’s like for my mum and sister.

It sounds like I have a distant, dutiful-phone-calls-three-times-a-year type relationship with my family, right? Actually, the opposite is true – we speak every day. If anything we care too much, regularly working ourselves into irrational frenzies of worry about each other. It’s exhausting!

You can find this post in full on Mile 91’s website. Thanks for reading!

Posted by Alex Vernon on

New van, new plans – a day with Leonard Cheshire Disability

Last month I spent a lovely day’s story-gathering with residents and staff from Hill House, a Leonard Cheshire Disability home near Crewe.

Until recently, Hill House had transport problems. It had just two small vans, both vital for getting everyone out and about on day-trips to shopping centres, stately homes and the seaside. But if medical appointments came up, they had to take priority. With no vans available, the painstakingly-planned day-trips would be cancelled at the last minute. “That used to upset us, as we felt we were letting the residents down,” said Lynn, who coordinates the day-trips.

Not any more! Hill House recently got funding for a new vehicle – a spacious, specially adapted Mercedes van. Leonard Cheshire Disability’s fundraising team asked me to help them show the enormous difference this van has been making to everyone at Hill House.

Here’s Hill House and its much-loved new van. “Now that we’ve got the van, our daytrips are guaranteed,” Lynn told me. “Communal living is tough. People don’t have much personal space. But they’re so different when they’re out on day-trips - they’re free to be themselves.”
Here’s Hill House and its much-loved new van. “Now that we’ve got the van, our day-trips are guaranteed,” Lynn told me. “Communal living is tough. People don’t have much personal space. But they’re so different when they’re out on daytrips – they’re free to be themselves.”
This is Bev. She was just 30 – a busy mum with two young children - when she had a severe stroke. She has lived at Hill House for 19 years.
This is Bev. She was just 30 – a busy mum with two young children – when she had a severe stroke. She has lived at Hill House for 19 years.
I joined Bev and other Hill House residents and staff on a trip to a local garden centre. Here’s Bev getting herself into the Mercedes via the lift at the back.
I joined Bev and other Hill House residents and staff on a trip to a local garden centre. Here’s Bev getting herself into the Mercedes via the lift at the back.
Lynn’s in the driving seat. “It’s a big responsibility, driving all these people,” she says. “Their lives depend on me. Knowing that we have a reliable vehicle - that everyone is safe and comfortable in the back - is a real weight off my mind.”
Lynn’s in the driving seat. “It’s a big responsibility, driving all these people,” she says. “Their lives depend on me. Knowing that we have a reliable vehicle – that everyone is safe and comfortable in the back – is a real weight off my mind.”
Unfortunately we’d chosen a pretty grey day for our trip out…
Unfortunately we’d chosen a pretty grey day for our trip out…
Fortunately there was lots on offer under cover!
Fortunately there was lots on offer under cover!
Bev and her support worker Sue spent most of the day laughing…
Bev and her support worker Sue spent most of the day laughing…
…while Marianne enjoyed a civilised glass of rose with her lunch, accompanied by her support worker Annette. A former social worker, Marianne has multiple sclerosis.
…while Marianne enjoyed a civilised glass of rose with her lunch, accompanied by her support worker Annette. A former social worker, Marianne has multiple sclerosis.
“It’s really nice getting up close and personal with the flowers,” said Marianne.
“It’s really nice getting up close and personal with the flowers,” said Marianne.
Then it’s back in the van for the journey back to Hill House. “The new van gives us exceptional opportunities to go out as a family,” said Lynn. “We enjoy being out together - it’s the more, the merrier. It’s just a lot more fun for everyone.”
Then it’s back in the van for the journey back to Hill House. “The new van gives us exceptional opportunities to go out as a family,” said Lynn. “We enjoy being out together – it’s the more, the merrier. It’s just a lot more fun for everyone.”
Thanks so much to everyone at Hill House for making me feel so welcome. Here's to more delightful day-tripping in the new van!
Thanks so much to everyone at Hill House for making me feel so welcome. Here’s to more delightful day-tripping in the new van!