First impressions are everything these days.
From the moment we opened our doors as a charity on 7th April 2017, we have worked really hard to set out our stall in the most professional way possible.
We applied due diligence with every penny of our limited start up funds and our CEO Tracey embarked on a digital mission to see what free or discounted products and services were available to charities, to help us kick things off; there’s lots to be found if you do your research.
Our Director of Technical Wizardry, Simon, gave us a fantastic website and as we’ve evolved – opening our ethical shop and creating an events calendar – he’s added new functionality to the site and ensured it is fully responsive. Responsive is a geeky term that means your website looks as gorgeous on a computer, as it does on a tablet or a phone. The images and text you see, have to be responsive to the size of the environment they’re being viewed on.
Almost everyone uses a smartphone to look at websites these days. They expect it to look good and be easy to read and navigate, and when they hop across to their laptop or bigger screen, to look good there too. Even the smallest of organisations should ensure their website looks polished on all mobile devices and if they don’t have the skills to do it in-house, it’s pretty easy to find an IT expert to help them.
The informative training workshops we attended back in May at the Third Sector’s Annual Fundraising Conference, confirmed our thoughts about how people engage with charities and gave great insight into the millennial generation and their expectations and demands. They’ve grown up using smartphones, laptops and tablets, therefore constant connectivity to the Internet is an absolute expectation of life. They want to be able to peruse, shop and donate on their devices and almost 17% of online donations were made on a mobile device during 2016.
One of the loveliest finds in our early days was Marler Haley, a display stand and banner making company based in Northamptonshire who have great respect for what charities do. They’re currently offering 35% off display materials for charities to help them deliver their vital message.
The creation and arrival of something so big with our name emblazoned all over it, was quite amazing and while Simon revelled in the speed and simplicity of putting up the banner they’d made for us, our Tracey was moved to tears.
There was something indescribable about seeing the photo we’ve always called ‘Poster Boy’ being revealed as precisely that! Kelvin is from Kundeni Primary School and he is about 9 years old in that photo. He’s leaning on our trees planted around the school compound and in the background, you can see one of the classrooms we built. His eyes have always looked right into my soul and his ragamuffin appearance looks like any other young lad of that age. It’s only when you see this image on a powerful pull up banner and on closer inspection, you realise that two buttons on his shirt are missing. His mother is so poor and all she could do was put a stitch in the fabric to hold it permanently closed. It blew me away to see the minutiae of his life in his face and clothes, and I knew we’d be able to convey the abject poverty and tell the story of our Kenyan children, with this incredible banner.
On the morning the banner arrived, we were booked to do our first street collection. Despite the fact that it’s really meant for indoor events, we were able to use it as it was a calm, dry day, we were located in a sheltered position and there was a rigid, fixed pole behind the banner to secure it to.
The town was busy and we were delighted to be joined by our wonderful Trustee Izzy Robertson and briefly by the equally lovely Trustee Rikey Austin. In the absence of officially branded shirts, Rikey had re-purposed some old lanyards that held our ID badges – between us, we made quite a team. People stopped to take leaflets and talk about all manner of things and one of the points we got across was how the canopy cover we’d planted was attracting all sorts of wildlife back to the area; biodiversity is flourishing once more.
Big cats, dik-dik (the smallest of the antelope family), weaver birds and more are enjoying the safe habitats that we’ve created in the forest and one of our dear friends Annie, brought along her beloved Rainbow, an elderly 18ft python who had been rescued many years ago from an abusive home. He has sat quietly at countless charity events over the years and whilst he’s not native to Kenya of course, he certainly helped us engage conversation with people about the urgent need to plant more trees – humans need them and wildlife does too.
We raised £99.93 that day. We were confident, we knew we looked professional and we were driven by passion to further our mission: getting lots of trees in the ground in Kenya – that’s what it’s all about.
NB: We’ve just received word that Marler Haley are running a competition to win £500 worth of exhibition equipment. It’s open for UK and Irish charities and community organisations and closes on Friday 22nd September 2017 – click here for details of #MHCharityComp
Take our advice, get your entry in soon (we will be) kit from these guys is top grade! A win of professional expo tools of that magnitude, would be an invaluable asset to our fundraising strategy, for so many reasons – we know how good it is and we’ve seen it in action! It wouldn’t bite our marketing budget either, which means we could spend funds kindly donated to us on other vital tools like educational leaflets. £500’s worth of kit would be sizeable, sturdy and would help us unlock the untold stories of the children in our village, just like the banner did for Kelvin. Size matters and exceptional quality helps to qualify you in the minds of folks who are forming those all important first impressions.
For our reforestation charity, £500 we don’t need to spend on marketing, would buy 200 trees to plant around Kadunguni Primary School and buy 1/20 of a brand new classroom there too! In a handful of years, the trees would draw down and lock in 50 tonnes of CO2 and other pollutants from the atmosphere.
Every penny counts in the 3rd sector – we’re keeping our fingers well and truly crossed for a win!