Monday 23 March, the first day of 'lockdown', feels a lifetime away. The world has changed. CHAS has changed. As we collectively take those tentative steps towards a "new normal", Iain McAndrew, Director of Fundraising and Communications, talks about the impact the pandemic has had on fundraising and how CHAS is adapting.
I hope that this journey, wherever it leads and however long it takes, carries with it the spirit of community that has emerged as we have endured the impact of this pandemic on our daily lives.
As a fundraiser, I'm not surprised by the generosity that enveloped the fantastic efforts of Sir Captain Tom Moore. It typifies us as a nation as we rallied around the staff of the NHS who put themselves in harm's way on a daily basis to treat those unfortunate enough to be so gravely affected by Coronavirus. Time and time again, I have seen the public step forward and dig deep to support causes and issues (nationally and internationally) in times of need that they care so passionately about.
As we went into lockdown, here at CHAS there were two key questions that were quickly asked and answered. The first: if physical distancing and the advice on staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives means we can't provide the services that children and families depend on in the way we've been used to, how can we reimagine those services to ensure children and families are supported and don't feel alone as they go into self-isolation or are required to shield? The second was: how will we continue to fundraise and ensure that we are able to support those families? The fundraising landscape was turned upside-down overnight. It's one none of us have ever experienced.
With the world around us shutting down, and as a consequence fundraising events being cancelled left, right and centre, it was initially a reasonable response to assume little fundraising was possible and close down operations. Many charities did and indeed many had no choice. At the time, I recall the palpable sense of uncertainty and yet I remembered a quote used by Tina Catling and Isobel McEwan from The Think Team: "when going through hell, keep going".
Yes, it's a Churchilian quote, yet it captured the essence of the moment.
As an individual, I'm a joiner of dots. I mull and cogitate until I've defined the problem. What was the problem here? As I worked it through in conversation with my team, the Senior Leadership Team colleagues and whilst on my daily hoof with "The Dude" (my guide dog), in those first few intense days it became obvious… we have to keep going.
It's a phrase I and other members of the CHAS team hear often from our very own Medical Director Doctor Pat. Emails drop into inboxes from Pat reflecting on or providing words of recognition and encouragement in challenging times where the sign off is always "Keep going … Doc". The context is that whatever the subject matter being referenced in the email essentially 'keep going' references that we need to be there for children and families.
So, as I mulled, I asked myself; what are our supporters thinking about? They are in exactly the same position as CHAS. Never has there been a truer phrase than "we are all in this together".
It has affected every one of us.
Yet, despite the hugely changed way of living we have tumbled into overnight, have any of us fundamentally changed? Yes, events have been cancelled, yes fundraising in the way we know it can't happen - for now. Fundraising is at its truest essence about people and it's about relationships, all of which suddenly can't happen in the way we've known.
So, what do we need to do to keep going?
Within days, CHAS developed and launched the UK's first virtual hospice service making sure we could "keep going" for those that depend on us. The first people to hear about this exciting development, apart from the children and families themselves, were of course our amazing supporters.
Our fundraising has, much like the fast-paced development of the virtual hospice services, simply applied the same approach - adapt. We focused on engaging with our supporters, recognising that the ways they usually raise funds for CHAS were not possible at the moment. We understood this quickly. We thanked everyone for the support they were able to give and understood where supporters were equally trying to work around their cancelled events and the plans they had to raise funds for a cause they care deeply about. And, overwhelmingly, our supporters are with us.
The messages of support we have received in response to the emails, phone calls and letters have demonstrated such warmth and the commitment of our supporters as they have found new ways to keep going, knowing they are enabling CHAS to be there supporting children and families.
Without a doubt, our overall fundraising will be impacted as a consequence of the pandemic. Yet, as the lockdown begins to ease and we can begin to look forward and think about how events can take place again, I'm confident we will emerge stronger. Stronger because we have focused on our supporters, their needs and having had them walking in lockstep with us through the crisis. It would have been so easy at the outset to think short-term, reactively and look inwards. Yet we took the bold decision to put our supporters front and centre of our thinking and thought beyond the pandemic, focusing on our long-term mission to be there for every family who needs us.
What has changed in fundraising? Has it changed forever? Yes, in the sense that gradual shift to digital communication has just been accelerated. Yet with events cancelled, those trusted methods will be there again, still working for everyone. What won't change ever is people's desire to support causes they care about. Our job as fundraisers is to never forget that and every day look to see how we can inspire and create the experience which is the joy of giving.
To every single supporter of CHAS - you are amazing. The CHAS virtual hospice service that your incredible generosity is making possible is making a tremendous difference to Scotland's most vulnerable children and their families - it is so deeply appreciated.