Hannah Crouch is Head of Fundraising and Engagement at Caring Together, a charity that helps carers across Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, and which in 2019/2020 supported 11,150 people. We interview Hannah about how the charity’s services have become even more critical during the pandemic and about the specific challenges regional charities have faced over the last year.
Caring Together works to ensure that carers have the practical and emotional support that they need, whether that’s through providing information and advice, running services in the local community (the charity offered 12,129 breaks to carers last year) or campaigning to raise awareness of the challenges that carers face.
Whilst of course there are positive experiences in being a carer, the reality is that life is extremely tough for many who can experience the isolation, loneliness and stress on a daily basis that many of us have struggled with during the pandemic.
In recent times, Hannah states “Covid has exacerbated their challenges, with the usual support they might have had from their community having disappeared. All of that can lead to mental and physical breakdown, and crisis, with carers no longer able to support the person they are care for”. Whilst many people have become carers for the first time during the pandemic, other working from home or young carers off school have had to step up their caring roles.
Covid has, as expected, increased demand for the charity’s services, particularly in the early days with requests for immediate help. But, it has also kickstarted different ways of working, such as digital and remote services and offering Covid-secure face-to-face activities, such as going for a walk with a young carer where they can share what they are going through. Increased online outreach has also helped the charity identify and support more people in need over the large rural area they work in.
Fundraising has, of course, been impacted for an organisation which is deeply rooted in its community. Hannah joined the organisation in 2018, building up a fundraising team and working through a successful rebranding and developing of a strategy around supporter growth and engagement through the charity’s relationship with the local community.
Whilst Covid brought about the cancellation of all face-to-face activities and an about turn in approach, Hannah acknowledges there have been positive outcomes from a fundraising perspective. “We’ve just had to get on with it… this has been an opportunity to test and experiment with ways of fundraising that would previously have taken a huge amount of planning and investment. This has levelled the playing field slightly – we can all our dip our toes in the digital fundraising world for example… we might not be polished or experts in it just yet, but it has given us the space to try.”
Hannah’s team have also had success in funding applications around the pandemic to ensure that previous gains in establishing fundraising infrastructure were not lost and to help the charity continue to deliver a support that carers need now more than ever.
The team also approached the charity’s fledgling supporter base for the first time to ask them directly for help and have been pleased with the positive response, reaffirming those donors’ relationship with the charity, although Hannah remains concerned about future lost opportunities to reach new supporters in the community.
We asked Hannah if she thought there were any specific challenges that regional charities might have faced over the last year. For her, that goes back to “your fundraising being rooted in community interaction, which is not necessarily the same for a larger national or international charity. We have less ability to flip or pivot to a different fundraising model – community fundraising is part of what we are”.
Hannah is also conscious of regional charities potentially falling through the gaps during a time of emergency fundraising, with people often wanting to give something tangible – such as a bag of rice at a very local level to a food bank - or to make a donation to a large national charity such as NHS Charities Together. “It makes it harder to pitch fundraising at a regional level and you have to really make sure that you are delivering a solution to an issue your supporters want to donate to at that moment”. Caring Together, as a social care charity closely linked to health care, has been successful in that and with engaging people with their work, but as Hannah states “If we didn’t have that affinity, I think it would be tough to be relevant to the current situation”.
Looking ahead, fundraising plans for the organisation will be a hybrid of activities including digital, but the charity won’t be abandoning its community focus “that’s definitely where we should be”. The pandemic has provided fast learnings and made the charity realise that, regardless of size, supporters still expect a particular journey which they will need to respond to in future, including ensuring ways of giving are engaging and making it as easy as possible to make a donation on their website, for example.
For Hannah, the biggest take away for the last year has been “how we harness caring as a cause. Huge awareness has been raised for caring during Covid, whether that’s in care homes or in people’s houses. Caring as a cause has had a light shone on it and we must build on that and maximise this opportunity within our fundraising, getting people to recognise what carers do, day in, day out.”