Monday, December 30, 2013

Charity Hack Revisited - ACT for Meningitis

What happened after Charity Hack?

We've been asked by lots of people what happened to the organisations after the first Charity Hack?

Did it make a difference?

Was it all just a big waste of time?

+Laura Ryder returned to the charities to see how the Charity Hack experience impacted them

Here she speaks to Siobhan Carroll from ACT for Meningitis.

“You need to go in with an open mind, and be ready to take negative and positive comments on board.”

ACT for Meningitis CEO Siobhan Carroll came to Charity Hack with a big plan - to create a national one day awareness campaign. She went away happy with an entirely different plan - working towards the national stage community by community.

ACT for Meningitis is a very personal charity created in the wake of tragedy. In 2008 Siobhan and Noel Carroll lost their precious four year old daughter Aoibhe to meningitis, and in 2011 they established ACT for Meningitis.

The Galway-based charity’s aim is twofold - to raise awareness about meningitis countrywide and to support those who have been affected by it.

The charity’s obstacles - as Siobhan saw them in the lead up to August’s Charity Hack - were a lack of loyal donors, no government funding, higher costs than larger charities and no real presence in the charity sector, with the problem of presence the most pressing issue.

“Our big plan was to launch a one day national campaign,” she told me when I caught up with her this week, “but by the time we were finished we’d decided to work on more community-based projects.”

Allowing yourself to buy into an alternative plan isn’t the easiest thing to do, particularly when the cause is so close to your heart.

“You need to go in with an open mind, and be ready to take negative and positive comments on board,” Siobhan warned.

Moving the focus from national to local has really worked however, and is something Siobhan is delighted about now.

“I’m a lot happier,” she explained, outlining local projects including community awareness talks, remembrance walks and a fight night that have already taken place.

“The idea was to go to small communities to do awareness talks and let people find out about the charity,” Siobhan explained, adding that the hope is for word to spread to a more national arena one community at a time.

“It’s been really successful,” she added. “People really want to work on that level with us and we have plans to go to more counties in the New Year.”

What’s putting a smile on Siobhan’s face right now is the structure Charity Hack helped put in place for the organisation, which she says will really help them to move forward. “We’re just seeing what works locally and then we’ll take that national,” she said.

The ACT for Meningitis team really bonded with their dedicated hackers on August 10, though tough love definitely played a part in the day.

“Their advice was invaluable,” Siobhan says of hackers. “I definitely would recommend any charity to go and spend the day there. It really is an experience that will stay with you. You learn so much in such a short space of time. Without a doubt it is not to be missed. It really can make such a big difference.

ACT for Meningitis

You can read Laura's pre hack interview with ACT for Meningitis here and watch James Keatings video of their experience on the day here

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas

We want to wish everybody who has played any part in Charity Hack a very Happy Christmas. May you and all whom you hold dear have a peaceful and joyous season.

I've been a bit slack on the blog posts over the last few weeks. Normal service will resume with a recap of 2013 over the next few days


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Charity Hack 1 Revisited - Rainbows Ireland

What happened after Charity Hack?

We've been asked by lots of people what happened to the organisations after the first Charity Hack?

Did it make a difference?

Was it all just a big waste of time?

+Laura Ryder went back to the first group of participating charities to find out how they are getting on.

Here she talks to Anne Staunton CEO of Rainbows Ireland about their experience.

For background you can read Laura's pre hack interview with Rainbows here  and watch James Keating's video of their experience on the day here

“It gave us a way forward with a safety net in place.”

Rainbows Ireland came to Charity Hack between a rock and a hard place. Wary of fundraising after being burned at its first attempt, the loss/bereavement support service for children knew it had to look at fundraising once more to ensure its future in the wake of its main funding from the Family Support Agency being cut by almost half. Speaking nearly three months after Charity Hack, CEO of Rainbows Anne Staunton said the day gave her organisation a way forward, complete with a safety net.

The main part of Rainbows’ Charity Hack plan was to roll out a pilot fundraiser in Louth, looking for either an annual donation of €21 per month or a once-off donation from the county’s businesses via a letter written under the guidance of Charity Hack’s experts.

“They came back full of enthusiasm, all fired up,” Anne said of the two Rainbows’ workers who attended Charity Hack. “And for the first time - particularly for us who had never fundraised before - with a plan, something that was do-able.”

Two thousand five hundred of those letters went out two weeks ago. To date there have been two positive responses. This week it’s planned to follow up the letters with phone calls.

Anne said far from sitting on their laurels, it’s taken until now to get everything for the campaign in place. There were concerns about the letters going out in the wake of negative press regarding fundraising money being used for salary top-ups, and also so close to Christmas. “We felt if we don’t get in we’ll never get this done,” she said however, adding that there’s also a feeling that people are more inclined to give to a good cause at this time of year.

The outcome of the fundraising effort in Louth is to be reviewed in January, with a decision made then on whether or not to roll it out county-by-county or countrywide.

Other actions prompted by Charity Hack included training in how to get the group a presence on Facebook, which was carried out in recent weeks. Anne said it’s also affected how she and others present Rainbows. “It’s flipped our thinking in a more focused way,” she said. “For example the team identified that our literature is very geared towards people around the service itself, and doesn't sell what we do or tell our story. When I’m presenting I generally now start with a few quotes from kids regarding what we do.”

“Our experience of Charity Hack has been nothing but positive,” Anne added. “It gave us a way forward with a safety net in place. We still have loads to do, but it opened a door for us - a safe door management and the board were able to walk through.”

The day also had bonus benefits. After meeting other small charity groups Anne said Rainbows now feels “part of a more national group”. And with real efforts being made to raise funds for themselves, Anne said taking part in Charity Hack has led to increased respect from the Family Support Agency too.

Charity Hack took place over just twelve hours, but in a move that’s turned out to be quite common amongst August’s hackers, hacker Denisa Casement didn’t end her association with Rainbows after August 10. She also attended follow-up meetings and presented the team’s main fundraising idea to the Rainbows Ireland board.

“That meant so much,” Anne said. “It’s having solid people that you know now and can trust. These aren’t people who are trying to get something out of you. They’re trying to do real good and it’s fantastic back-up.”