Showing a Little Kindness at Christmas

4th December by Jo Hastie

Published on


Homestart & The John Lewis “Give A Little Love” Campaign

It's December, which means a host of Christmas adverts on the television, but in a year devastated by Covid, there is one advert that stands out above the rest.

The John Lewis ‘Give a Little Love’ advert is part of a broader package of support for two charities, Home-Start UK and FareShare, with an aim to provide food, comfort, emotional support and advice to at least 100,000 families in need.

Below we interview Vivien Waterfield, Director of Fundraising and Communications, and Deputy CEO at Home-Start about the advert and what a difference the support it is generating will make to some of those hit hardest by the pandemic.

AAW have worked with Home-Start for several years supporting them on their journey to develop their fundraising and income generation activities. More recently we’ve also been helping them find great people to lead and deliver projects and programmes through our AAW People service.

For a charity that often struggles to raise awareness of its vital and highly respected work, we were thrilld to see them being selected for this partnership.

John lewis Ad screenshot

How did the partnership with John Lewis come about?

John Lewis approached us directly in September, having already done their own research on what they wanted to do and who they might support.  We had a number of conversations to explore how they could help us and spoke quite early about three things: money, which is obviously important for all charities, voice – as a charity we have extensive reach, but not a high profile - and thirdly time, helping us recruit supporters and volunteers to our work. John Lewis were pleased that they could have an impact across all those areas for us.

Our role nationally is to support our local network wherever we can, working with communities around the UK. We spoke to John Lewis Partnership about our community reach and what urgent projects funds could help with, particularly around staying connected and providing emotional and practical support for families during Covid, as well as our ability to mobilise our network to engage with their shops and sites.

We provided them with collateral and materials, and then they made their decision separately. It certainly wasn't a standard application process which can take a huge commitment in terms of time and resources. Often as a charity we get shortlisted for corporate support as we fit their criteria, but we don't have enough brand awareness to win the staff vote which can be really frustrating. It was refreshing to have an opportunity where the thinking had already been done, where we could build on the company’s understanding of our work and get to a point where we both felt this was the right thing for us.

Tell us more about the Christmas advert and the support you are now receiving

The advert launched on 13th November on social media and then made its TV debut shortly afterwards during the final of the Voice, which also featured a performance of the advert song ‘A Little Love’ by Brit Award-winning artist Celeste, watched by 12 million viewers.

John Lewis have also produced an accompanying 30 second advert with a call to action to donate to the two charities, alongside a short, powerful film on social media made for John Lewis partners (members of staff) to explain the campaign and the people it was helping – it is well worth a watch.

John Lewis will match public donations from the advert up to £2 million pounds through the ‘text to donate’ online giving platform. They are also selling a range of merchandise to support both charities and will be making a 1p donation every time someone uses their loyalty card. They are also holding some online events over the next few weeks.

In addition, they have set up a £1million local fund which ourselves and FareShare are able to match with local needs.

Our local Home-Start staff have been meeting staff at Waitrose stores taking donations and using that funding for good already in local communities, as well pushing the national money coming through back into our community network.

The profile of the campaign has already meant we're getting a natural organic uplift to volunteer queries on our website, with people wanting to help. We're also starting to develop volunteer opportunities for the John Lewis partners and ways they can get involved. Their commitment is integrated through their business at all levels, it’s amazing.

So for those three elements - money voice and time - we're already seeing a really big uplift both nationally and locally.

What additional things did you have to put in place to support the partnership?

We have a relatively small fundraising and communications team with only 30 staff in total centrally, although as a Federation we have a hundreds of staff across the UK and thousands of volunteers.

We immediately set up a programme of workstreams that we needed and held daily meetings to make sure everyone who needed to be, was fully briefed and involved. The benefit of being small is that we could be agile and flexible in mobilising our team and make fast decisions.  

However, we also recognised we needed additional capacity at the project level. We sought help from AAW People for some interim support and chose Sally Cornish, a very experienced interim with an impressive track record, but also coincidentally already a Home-Start UK volunteer. The fact that Sally understood us and our ethos right from the start was an added bonus, alongside having the right experience and personal skills to work alongside our existing talented and capable team which was very important to us. 

Sally also recruited a second AAW interim Victoria Perry to manage and maximise the local elements of the partnership – something that was critical to the success of the campaign.  Vic has been managing a huge programme of internal engagement with John Lewis creating toolkits, assets and briefings for John Lewis partners, to help them gear up locally to make the most of this opportunity. They have had to do all this during period of big changes for the company as a result of the pandemic, in an extremely challenging time for retail.

It has been wonderful to see our local frontline staff and volunteers who have had to adapt so much to working online rather than face to face and deal with the challenges wrought by lockdown and the tier system, to be recognised by this campaign for what they do. It has been a whirlwind time that has been exciting to be caught up in, but we’ve had fun and the team at John Lewis partners have been amazing to work with. Our team here has been phenomenal in all the extra work they have delivered at the same time as their day jobs and responsibilities.

What does this support mean to Home-Start?

We help families who are struggling, whether that’s through mental health issues, poor housing, disability, etc and this pandemic has hit them the hardest. In many cases, with the withdrawal of statutory help (with health visitors deployed to hospitals), our service has been the only one parents in need have been able to stay in touch with. Community based services like ours have been crucial during this last nine months and have been a lifeline to families.

We are particularly concerned about new parents bringing babies home to lockdown or strict tiers without the usual health visitor, midwife or visiting friends for support. They are having a tough time.

We’re delivering food parcels, care packages, activities for children to help as well as paying data bundles for those that can’t afford it and, in some cases, buying tablets for children so they can access remote learning. We are already seeing evidence from the Chief Inspector of schools of the impact Covid has had on children's early development and the mental health of new parents - these are problems that are not going away.

Although we've had some support from brilliant grant funders, local government, the DCMS, National Lottery and Children in Need, we've also lost income through closure of our shops and community fundraising programmes. Funds from John Lewis will give us stability through this period and help sustain our critical work. And we hope as we move in 2021 that the partnership will continue and grow.

We know already we will need more volunteers next year to help the increasing number of people have been affected by the pandemic and to replace volunteers who may be having difficulties of their own.

Is there anything you would like to add about the message of kindness that is at the core of the Christmas advert and Christmas spirit?

John Lewis’s message about spreading small acts of kindness is a perfect fit with all we do and I believe that even very small things can make a big difference.

Given the latest stats and news around increasing levels of loneliness, particularly for new parents, and the hard winter we all face, it's good to talk to someone on the street, knock on their door to check people are OK, or offer to go shopping for them. It continues the acts of community we witnessed during lockdown, with people stepping up and actively supporting people in their neighbourhood. The simplicity of the advert's message belies its huge impact.

AAW is proud to support the Give a Little Love Appeal. If you’d like to find out more about the campaign and support Home-Start directly, visit here.

For more information about how AAW People can help you find brilliant not for profit leaders please contact Ali Kurn at