Category: Fundraising


What my grandmother taught me about White Saviours

Bethel Finance Director Simone La Corbinière shares her personal view on the lessons she learnt from her grandmother who worked as a Nursing Superintendent at the St Lucia branch of the British Red Cross. Looking at this picture of my grandmother (centre in the boldly patterned skirt) alongside some of her fellow nursing students in early 1950s London, I’m always struck by what a perfect snapshot it is of a diverse group of determined women gaining skills they could take back to their communities, communities which, for the women of colour in the photograph certainly, were thousands of miles away. In her forties by this point, my grandmother, Nen as we called her in the family, was already a strong, capable single mother (in a majority Catholic society that stigmatized unwed mothers, she would go on to adopt another child) and accomplished singer. In 1945, when Sir Edward Twining commissioned a performance in St Lucia of Gluck’s grand opera, Nen had sung the part of Orpheus. A natural feminist, well educated and intelligent, Nen was a thinker as well as a doer. She identified problems and their solutions – and then took the practical steps herself to make change happen. As a nurse and midwife, Nen had already become famous throughout the island for riding out on her beloved horse to deliver babies. Cars were useless in the rainforest, where people lived in scattered dwellings throughout the bush. Even where there were roads to small towns and villages, these could quickly become impassable by car in a sudden tropical downpour. So this tiny, authoritative, young-looking woman would saddle-up every day and ride out on her horse, Suzy, to visit women in out of the way villages, delivering babies as well as providing pre- and post-natal care. Nen delivered so many babies that her daughter, my Aunty Sybil, tells me there was a joke at one point that “she delivered St Lucia”. Indeed, the priest at Aunty Sybil’s wedding shared with her the fact that he, along with most of his siblings, had been delivered by Nen – or “Nursie” to the children she had helped into the world. So this is what brought Nen to London, to further her medical knowledge; on her return to St Lucia, she would be made First Lady Health Visitor. Looking at the photo, I imagine how she might have adapted the lessons in real time in her head, to suit the particular challenges in St Lucia at the time – a tropical climate, little refrigeration, lack of roads and infrastructure, as well as families who spoke no English, only Kwéyòl, a language entirely unknown outside the Caribbean. And the people that Mrs Gage met (Nen had by now married a dashing, young Jamaican executive in the Department of Agriculture who couldn’t be persuaded by her to look for a younger bride, one without children) always stayed with her. When a recipe booklet was compiled, commissioned by the Ministry of Education & Health, it was dedicated to: ‘The many St Lucian Women whom over the past years have requested easily prepared nutritious recipes utilizing Local Produce.” Mrs Gage made frequent trips around the island as First Lady Health Visitor. Here she is with her colleague Miss Williamson outside the Health Centre. The last time I saw Nen, some six months before her death at the age of 92, she told me of an exhausted, depleted mother she had met half a century earlier who had eleven children, whose twelfth baby had just died during birth. The thought that came to her at the time, she told me, was: “Praise the Lord”. Back then, Nen didn’t see a way for this woman and her husband, who lived in abject poverty, to support another child – they didn’t have the physical, emotional, mental or material resources left to do so. Deeply religious, and seemingly at odds with her daily work to save lives, Nen believed to her dying day that God took the baby to Heaven to spare the child and the parents from further suffering. As comfortable fundraising among wealthy elites or schmoozing at cocktail parties at Government House as she was rolling up her sleeves in the Health Centre, Nen became Nursing Superintendent at the St Lucia branch of the British Red Cross and was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1964 for her work. It’s interesting now, with more than half a century’s hindsight, to look back on all that the British Red Cross got right. Would a ‘white saviour’ have known to ride out to the middle of the bush to find a family in a single shack? At the very least, gaps in local knowledge would slow down help as charities seek to learn the intricacies of every community they want to help. Mrs Gage at work in her role as Nursing Superintendent at the St Lucia branch of the British Red Cross. After retiring from the Health Centre, Nen continued to work tirelessly for children and mothers – now for the Save the Children Fund. She had a strong empathy for women with multiple children from different fathers, seeing clearly how circumstances forced single mothers to seek out help and protection from another man, with whom they would also become pregnant and then, if the second man left, to seek help from another man, thus continuing the cycle. Nen worked with these mothers to tap into their skills and craftsmanship, producing wares they could sell at market and so become financially independent. At the same time, she found overseas donors to sponsor the children’s education, a model familiar to those working in international development.  Many of these children would be supported right through university overseas, often Canada, and would then return to St Lucia to help develop their communities. As is so often the case, Nen’s contributions and achievements were often overshadowed by the more visible, and certainly more widely reported, work of the men, including those in our family. But at Nen’s funeral, where nurses lined up in uniform by her coffin as a Guard of Honour, I heard stories of how she had inspired generations of St Lucian girls and women to go into nursing. Perhaps an even more pertinent question would therefore be: would sending foreign nurses – ‘white saviours’ – into St Lucia have inspired people in the same way? Perpetuating an image of foreign outsiders coming in to save communities can do lasting harm by depriving those communities of visible role models they need to inspire lasting change. Perhaps the young women needed to see Nen in charge at the Health Centre, or hear tales of Mrs Gage and Suzy riding through the bush in the rain, to inspire them to study to become nurses themselves. Even in fundraising this holds true. ‘Lift letters’ from people at the coalface are extremely successful in raising funds in direct mail packs; charity donors certainly seem to appreciate hearing first hand from the people working in their communities. Why do we think celebrities are needed when we can hear and see powerful first-hand accounts of local doctors, nurses or veterinarians, for example? This isn’t to say celebrities shouldn’t ever be used – but that they should be welcomed for their endorsement on the basis of their expertise and empathy, rather than for their celebrity. When visiting St Lucia for Nen’s funeral, my (White British) husband was rather taken aback when myself and my brother, as brown as we are, were referred to as ‘white people’ – the term denoting that we were now foreign outsiders, having lived away for over twenty years. In this context, I wasn’t offended – it was an expression of the undeniable truth that, no matter how St Lucian I still look, I was no longer a part of St Lucia. It was neither meant, nor taken, as an insult. After Nen’s death, when we gave a portion of her estate to charity, we didn’t research organisations working in St Lucia, or read charity annual reviews. We left the choice to Nen’s closest friends, including an indefatigable local lady from a very well off family, who worked tirelessly alongside local nuns for decades to help the very poorest of her fellow St Lucians. She’s as white as I am brown, but no ‘white saviour’ she. ABOVE: Mrs  Gage, aged 75, during the Queen’s visit to St Lucia, 1985. LEFT: Olga Gage (née Pierre) 
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Unprecedented times (but not as unprecedented as you think)

Bethel Finance Director Alastair Irons reflects on charity fundraising during times of crisis and what we can learn from history. Listeners to Radio 5 might have been as surprised as the presenter when an expert from Edinburgh’s Mary King’s Close – a secret underground world beneath its busiest thoroughfare, the Royal Mile – countered their suggestion that the 15th century plague and the current pandemic had little in common. In fact, in 1498 she pointed out, people wore face masks, were confined indoors, and travel was restricted. They also wore special clothing as they observed that people who wore leather didn’t attract the disease. People acted compassionately then as now. Food and drink were provided to the plague sufferers housed on Edinburgh’s Burgh Muir and to the poorest and most vulnerable people trapped in their homes. In June 2020 the Trussell Trust reported food banks’ busiest ever month. Back in plague times, frail and elderly beggars escaped the harsh treatment meted out to their younger and healthier brethren while debtors were actually freed. Compensation was given to people whose clothes were forcibly destroyed. After Black Death, which first arrived in England in 1348, the resulting dramatic population decrease forced rulers around the world to see people as the most valuable resources of the state. Key workers anybody? And the lack of a workforce stimulated technological innovation – think remote working in 2020 and digital transformation. Furthermore, cities that suffered under the Black Death epidemic began to understand the health of the population was their responsibility and consequently developed the earliest forms of public health. As we are anticipating with the so-called ‘new normal’, epidemics can and do permanently alter society, and often for the best by creating better practices and habits, including in charitable activity, volunteering and in fundraising. In response to the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, The Free African Society, an institution run by and for the city’s black population, was particularly altruistic, providing two-thirds of the hospital staff, transporting and burying the dead and performing numerous other medical tasks. Strike any chords? Meanwhile the Mayor Matthew Clarkson asked volunteers to collect donations of clothing, food and money. They created a makeshift hospital – not called Nightingale – and built a home for 191 orphans. Historically, disease has fuelled many such fundraising programmes. The USA polio epidemic of 1952 left 21,269 cases of paralysis, with some 57,000-plus sufferers. After the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis temporarily ran out of cribs for babies with polio, the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis supplied iron lungs, rocking chairs, beds and other equipment. And funded doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers where needed. This later came to be known as the March of Dimes and has distributed around $25 million through its local campaigns, setting the standard in public health education and fundraising since its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. In January 1925 when the people of Nome, Alaska, faced a shortage of antitoxin – between them they simply didn’t have enough to go round – to tackle a diphtheria outbreak, 20 of the area’s finest dogsled teams volunteered to bring a supply of the serum all the way from Fairbanks—674 miles—in record time, facing temperatures of more than 60 degrees below zero. Their delivery on February 2nd, plus a second shipment a week later, successfully halted the epidemic, saving Nome’s children from suffocation. It is now memorialised most notably, with the annual Iditarod race. And the significant challenges of delivery by dogsled also sparked the investigation into the possibilities of medical transport by airplane, which takes place all the time in remote areas today but was then still in its infancy. In March 2003 the Severe Acute Respiratary (SARS) outbreak came in Hong Kong where the next four months saw 298 deaths plus over 1700 other cases. Quarantine began in April and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a travel advisory against Hong Kong. ‘The entire society slowed down with people avoiding work and public places.’ Strict measures, similar to the plague years and not unlike now, eventually led to a decrease in cases.   Hong Kong was affected by SARS both as a physical and mental health crisis. Studies documented that many people, ‘felt helpless or worried themselves or their family members would contract the virus’ and revealed ‘increased frequencies of sleeping problems, smoking and drinking’ and ‘family and financial stress,’. Just like now. However, a study also found some positive outcomes: strengthened relationships with family and friends, a new drive to start focusing on mental health and over a third of people took more time to rest, for relaxation or exercise. Which brings us to the economics of epidemics. David E. Bloom and David Canning of the Harvard School of Public Health have said, ‘The links between epidemics and economics are broadly similar to those between health and wealth in general. Prosperous societies not only have better health; they are also at least somewhat protected against epidemics.’ What we learned from previous crises, is that some people don’t stop giving. Although previous crises to hit the charity sector – the housing crash of 1989 to 1993 (the market didn’t actually bottom out until July 2005), and the 2008 credit crunch crash – have been principally financial, with a potential £10.1bn shortfall in the sector, this deadly and heart-wrenching pandemic has just as devastating a financial effect. But many charity donors are independently wealthy and financially secure. Either through personal or business financial success, pensions, investments, inheritances or a combination of all four. They are therefore substantially immune to the financial effects of many crises. As The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)  reported in 2009 regarding individual giving at the time of the 2008 crisis here, over half the adult UK population (54%) continued to donate to charity in an average month. Whilst there was a slight decline in the proportion of adults giving, levels were equivalent to what they were in 2006/07. Current evidence suggests that the length and severity of any recession brought about by the pandemic will impact on the levels of charitable donations and that not all causes will be affected equally. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) says that when asked at the end of April 2020 about, ‘donations to their charity, 53% said that they had decreased whilst only 18% agreed that they had increased’. Their UK Giving research already showed that ‘not only do people have less disposable income but that the cause areas they are giving to have changed since the crisis began’. The Institute of Fundraising has also helpfully pulled together all the research they could muster, including some striking figures from Pro Bono Economics: UK charities face a £10.1 billion funding gap over the next six months. 72% of charities expect demand to rise over the next six months. In order to meet the increase in demand, the sector would require £3.4 billion of funding. 59% of charities have had to significantly reduce their activity due to reduced income as a result of the pandemic.  So on the one hand you have greater demand, and on the other, less money and fewer donors able to support you financially. Of the lessons to be learned from the past, the first and most obvious is that if you’re not asking for money, you are going to be a part of the 53% suffering a monetary shortfall. As Professor McGregor-Lowndes, Director of the Centre of Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies at Queensland University of Technology, previously wrote,  ‘If charities decide to reduce their activities to ask for donations or reduce fundraising staff, then it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy’. 2. Edinburgh’s plague experience shows us that new propositions may be needed to address very specific needs arising from the pandemic. Where the people of the fifteenth century needed money for clothes to replace those destroyed to protect them, what effect has the pandemic had on the people, animals or environment you support? What is needed now that wasn’t before? What changes to your service provision need a new proposition? 3. From Philadelphia we learn that help may come from a new source – the  importance of turning to different and potentially unexpected audiences for support. If your existing donors haven’t the ability to give, who has? Who may be willing and able and may just be waiting to be asked? 4. Minneapolis shows us that what might now appear to be an urgent appeal in response to an ongoing emergency could in time become the single-most significant and long-lasting fundraising campaign that your charity will ever conduct, so it’s important to think of every appeal as just that, part of a campaign. 5. From Nome, Alaska, we understand to turn to the people we know and trust the most in an emergency – for charities that is your most long-served, generous and loyal donors. Equivalent to the 54% who continued to give during the 2008 financial crisis. We also learn that if people are not willing and able, but instead willing and unable, what else can they give? You may not need an expert dog-sledder, but what do you need? With demand up and income down, where can volunteers help charities fill the gaps? Maybe the first thing to do is to ask lapsed donors, especially those who have cancelled their regular gifts, how else they may be willing to help. And diptheria in Nome also showed the importance of the delivery method – not only the best available at the time – the dog-sled, but what would be better in future i.e. airplanes. 6. Hong Kong’s experience of SARS shows that epidemics can have long-lasting positive effects too – so it’s important to recognise and value such changes – the spirit of community, the need to cherish everybody around us, even the sudden awareness of the importance of an up-to-date Will – that may be some of the consequences of the current pandemic. And if you’re wondering whether we should really be looking to the past for our learnings, at times of bubonic plague, Edinburgh’s curfew was 10pm, taverns and schools were closed and people were quarantined. And scientific consensus has it that it was this quarantine that eventually eliminated pandemic Black Death. Alastair Irons, Director, Bethel Finance Source links:
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Now is the time to plan your Christmas campaign

Picture the scene… the end of 2020, a year we had to spend much of separated from our loved ones. It’s Christmas time, and families all over the country are settling in after their long journeys to return home.

As Clive Mishon of The Marketing Agencies Action Group (MAAG) said earlier this year, “it may be the first time families are properly together again”. Christmas 2020 is going to be the biggest one for decades. As you might have read in our recently-published COVID-19 report, it’s a fundraising opportunity no charity can afford to miss – this means you should start planning your Christmas appeal right about now.
Our Creative Approach to Christmas
Here at Bethel Finance, our planning for Christmas begins in the Spring. Last year, we even ran a special Christmas Campaign Workshop for charities in May. We talked of ‘the wonky truth’, and how to deliver your message in a way that will stay in people’s long-term memories. There was the ‘power of contrast’, a technique to make your storytelling even more compelling, and format tips to give your direct mail campaigns clarity and urgency. Feel free to get in touch with us to find out more about last year’s workshop, and why it left participants feeling so inspired.

In May, tinsel and baubles are nowhere to be seen, but this is the time of year the most successful Christmas fundraisers start planning their activities.  

Connecting with your festive donors requires fresh thinking. Your 2020 campaign can’t just be the same as last year’s with a few extra bells and whistles. What’s going to make it truly stand out from every other charity Christmas appeal? And how are you going to ensure it’s a fully integrated campaign that goes across all channels’?
Freedom from Torture: More than A Box (2019)
These questions were at the front of our mind when we created Freedom from Torture’s ‘More than a Box’ Appeal last year. It was the charity’s most successful Christmas Appeal to date, delivering some excellent income results.

Our aim was to use existing creative content for FFT’s annual Christmas Care Box campaign, but in an enhanced way which would make it the most successful year yet.

To do this, we paired tangible items in the boxes with their metaphorical meanings for torture survivors and their children. We also made a bold, brave move to visualise what a torture survivor had endured to get to the UK, bringing to life the story of ‘Samir’ through an illustrated storybook.

To maximise success, our direct mail creative was taken into digital channels. The Freedom from Torture Christmas Shop was built on Shopify and donations were reframed as ‘purchases’. Supporters had the ability to ‘buy’ multiple items for survivors.

There was also a carefully crafted Facebook campaign, including an animation of our offline storybook, which had a dramatic impact on the results (check them out below!) The approach we took could be highly cost effective for your charity too, delivering strong results even if you don’t have the budget to commission brand new content.

Click here to read more about the ‘More than a Box’ appeal.

Medical Aid for Palestinians: One Wish for Palestine Appeal (2019)
When putting together MAP’s One Wish for Palestine Christmas appeal last year, we were keen to reinvent the wheel and try something bold.

Instead of the usual Christmas and reminder mailings, we tested a double campaign, aiming to create a rallying cry for the children of Palestine. We sent out two independent appeals linked to the One Wish theme, each with fresh content and new asks, less than one month apart.

Each appeal had to generate a return worthy of the investment. Pack one would appeal to the heart: creating an emotionally charged narrative by using case studies. Pack two would appeal to the head: demonstrating the practical steps MAP are taking to alleviate suffering and revealing their big ambitions for 2020.

Scratching your head on your plans for Christmas 2020? Reach out and let us help you make the most of this unusual opportunity in the year of COVID-19. We’re operating as normal and you can reach us on 07917 113 157 or at

A parting thought for you: how can you normalise donations to your charity as a Christmas gift to someone else? One JustGiving study found that more than half of respondents would prefer this to receiving a physical gift. Call us today for a free discussion on how you can harness the potential.

Andrew Derlien, Creative Copywriter

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