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The Isolation Conversation – Charities in Isolation

Categorised as Attollo Intranet, Blog

We are thrilled to introduce our eighth episode, ‘The Isolation Conversation – Charities in Isolation’. Featuring Mark Stokes – Chief Technical Officer at Attollo Intranet, Jamie Edwards – Chief Executive at Shrewsbury Town in the Community, Natalie Hughes – Charity Manager at Little Rascals Foundation, and Julie Child – General Manager at Race Against Blood Cancer.

If you want to watch this episode click here & enjoy!

What lessons have you leant over the last week:

With the COVID-19 outbreak, our working worlds have changed even for those that are used to remote working. We asked our panel what lessons they have learnt this week whilst working in lockdown.

  • We’ve learnt that we can work from home, that’s one thing we can now do. I think we also need to be careful and understand that everyone’s situation is different. We have obviously talked about having children and having to work around them. We employee a lot of staff in their early 20’s and we’ve had to consider that they don’t have a workstation in their house. I’ve found it amazing spending extra time with my kids at the end of the working day but if you’ve been isolated all day and working in your bedroom as a late teen or early 20’s, that’s a really difficult position to be in. Although we want to keep a lot of work from home going on once we come out of lockdown, I think that that we will have to be really careful about how we do that and like I’ve said look at everyone’s individual circumstances. We just have to find a happy medium of how we are going to work.

Overview of each charity:

Shrewsbury Town in the Community

Shrewsbury Town in The Community are the official charity of Shrewsbury Town Football Club, We aim to make sure that Shropshire can flourish, by helping everyone realise their potential and achieve their goals.

Our own goals are simple.

– To improve health and wellbeing

– To build stronger and safer communities

– To create better life chances for everyone.

Little Rascals Foundation

The Little Rascals Foundation – a charity supporting children with disabilities and their families.

This is something that we are very passionate about and we will strive to make a difference for them. This is the story behind what led us to set up the foundation and what we hope to achieve.

Race Against Blood Cancer

Race Against Blood Cancer is a non-profit charity whose goal it is to increase the volume and diversity of people who register as potentially life-saving donors.

We are a group of individuals based in the UK, US, Middle East and Asia, who are united by the devastating news of a close friend’s blood cancer diagnosis.

How has the pandemic impacted your charity?

  • I’m the only permanent member of staff but we have staff that work with us on a per-event basis. We have been working on a big bicycle ride event that a famous footballer was going to do for us, unfortunately, this was cancelled and therefore this took our unrestricted funding for the rest of the year went with it. We are hoping to do the bike ride at a later date however without any income from this event we have been unable to do out donor drive events where we recruit potential stem cell donors and now these are cancelled too. We can still send out swabs to join via our partner that we work with. However, the trustees made the difficult decision to press the pause button as we are a small charity that is young in our journey. We are having to drive people to do things online rather than on a face to face basis.
  • It must be very difficult for you to sit back while being furloughed and watch other members volunteer to keep everything going. It must be very challenging for something that you are so passionate about.
  • One of the problems with being furloughed is that you can volunteer for other charities that you are passionate about but people that work in the charity sector, we have a different motivation by the very nature that we work in the charity sector and there aren’t huge benefits or salaries. We are passionate about what we do. On an emotional level too I get a lot of job satisfaction and that’s difficult for me to deal with personally as I get a lot out of my job from the work we are doing as an organisation and of course, that’s all stopped. So that’s quite difficult.
  • We’ve been hugely impacted, our centre, the business side of our charity which tends to support lots of our fundraising as well and obviously we’ve had to close our centre so that’s all gone along with the income and revenue. It’s difficult for us to hear about families that have become even more isolated. We’ve struggled to keep in contact with our families and our young people because they tend to feel isolated in normal times and now they have this extra on top of what’s going on. We had ambitions and projects that we wanted to achieve but we have had to press pause on those and that’s frustrating.
  • I think the most accurate saying I’ve heard within the business was that the last week felt like a year long. So when we were in the middle of the crisis stage we approached it with a process and adapted and went from there. We, unfortunately, had to furlough 18 members of staff immediately as we had to think about the long term finances of the business and sustainability of the charity. The long term aim is to be here for as long as you can. During this stage we also focused on our venerable participants, we made a phone call to each one of them to see if there was anything we could do to help them. We looked at what we could do to adapt our delivery as we didn’t just want to hibernate during this time. Although it helps to have staff on the furlough scheme, we still need an income. We have to stick to our KPI’s so we changed our delivery to have online resources. We’ve created isolation packs which have proved to work well that we received funding for. I have 15 tablets that I need to send out for people that don’t have access to the internet so we are trying to make it reachable for everyone to stay connected. Even though we have continued to work, we estimate that we have lost £140,000 worth of income over the last 3 months.

Communication in Lockdown

  • I feel that it has broken down formality with our customers that have made me more productive in the work that I am doing for them.
  • Our communication has gotten much better by using tools such as Microsoft Teams. Although I am certainly missing that face to face interaction and delivery. I can’t tell if people are listening to me over a Teams call. It’s also difficult to pick up on difficult emotions over video calls. I enjoy the flexibility of it but there is a lot of work to do to make this the new norm.
  • It took me a lot of time to adjust and work from home. It doesn’t suit everyone.

Families and working in isolation:

Working from home is not the same as ‘normal’ working from home. The dynamic is totally different remote working in this climate compared to before the pandemic. There are many more factors to be considered that make it more difficult for individuals and businesses.

As an organisation, we have found that we have had to be more flexible with employee to accommodate family life. We feel that we get the most out of our employees and they tend to work above and beyond for us in return. That’s a stance that we have always taken but it seems even more important during these current events.

  • My personal situation is I have a 3 and a half-year-old at home and my wife is a teacher and my child walked out of 3 of her lessons when she was trying to teach. It does feel impossible sometimes to work from home as it’s not the ideal work from home situation that you would want. Then on top of that you have Shropshire broadband, it’s getting better but it’s not quite there yet. A learning curve for us as at times it was like trying to do your job with your hands tied behind your back.
  • As a technology company, we are nerds and so have the best technology and internet speed that we can get. However, there are people that can’t afford it and that causes inequality in their ability to even work as well and this acts as a barrier. It’s made us realise that internet connection of a sufficient level has become a utility.

Technical divide in education:

  • We have seen a huge divide in education with families that can’t around technology. There is an assumption that families can afford desktops, laptops and tablets but that’s not always the case. If children can’t access the resources, it makes you wonder how those families and in particular the children, how they have been missing out.
  • We have an education episode and much of that discussion was around this. We filmed it a week before the government announced that they would provide laptops to children who are less privileged.
  • There has been a gap created in the education sector. We run a project called National Citizen Service (NCS) is a national initiative for young people. They converted it this year to that we can work with schools over the summer holidays to help reduce the gap and the transition of children into school.

Care packages

  • We are not flush with money as a charity but during this pandemic, we wanted to do something to help. We put a bid into the community foundation and we got £8000. One was for technology for our own staff as we needed help with that as we hadn’t budgeted for additional technology this year. The other part was to send tailored isolation packs out for example, some of our disability groups have received some football-related content to get them involved at home. Our elderly community have received a gym matt for their homes. Anything that links into what our health activator is doing. With that, we have a certain amount of tablets that we have put data packages in we try to lock them so that they can get onto Zoom with 1 or 2 touches of the button and this is where we aim to reduce the social isolation barriers that have happened because of COVID-19.

How has funding been impacted?

If you are a charity that provides an in-person service and therefore gets allocated money for the particular service, many charities have said that their funding is being withheld until the services are up and running again or have charities been allowed to use it for something different.

  • With charities you have restricted (money you have to deliver a certain project, if you don’t deliver you have to give the funding back) and unrestricted funds. We have tried to build a portfolio that doesn’t rely on restricted or unrestricted funding and we try to steer clear of having too many of either. The unrestricted funding is easiest explained as a £1 that goes into a bucket whereby an individual doesn’t say I want it spent on this specific thing and this works well for a charity. This works well for us as we are a locally based charity and therefore don’t qualify for some of the national funding. Our unrestricted funding over the next 3 months was estimated to be about £40,000 due to different events that are now not going ahead.
  • We’re finding that if you’re not a front line, COVID-19 responder, it’s very difficult to get any kind of funding for your charity right now. Where we have adapted in this short terms, it’s not going to help us come September through to early next year where the corporate people that were previously able to give, are going to slow down as well and cut their costs. I think that we won’t see the impact in the next 6 months, it’s much more likely to have an impact in the next 12-24 months. Charities will take a hit and we will have to work around that.
  • Agreed, we’ve had our unrestricted funding cut as we have had to cut away at all of the events that guaranteed us that stream of income. We’ve don’t know even in a years time, how people will want to use their leisure and social time.
  • We are so used to keeping away from each other now, could you imagine in 6 months time jumping on an aeroplane? It feels as though we will have a resistance to interact with different people. 
  • Has there been any flexibility on the restricted funding?
  • We have seen flexibility when we have adapted what we are doing and the organisations supplying the restricted funding have asked us if we need more resources. We also have to prove what we have spent the money on so again it will resurface in 12 months time.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

There have been companies that have done extremely well financially out of COVID-19, through no fault of their own and just due to the nature of the organisation they are in. I would hope to see that when restrictions start to ease that those companies ramp up their CSR efforts and give back into those charities that maybe haven’t done so well during these difficult times.

How can people help local charities?

  • If anyone has supported any charity that has meant something to them then people don’t underestimate the power of any gift.
  • We’ve had lots of people talking about supporting local business, support local charities as well and talk about us if you can to raise our profile.
  • There has been a lot of people to save during this time be it on fuel or holidays. If it’s £10 or 10p it all goes to the same cause and it hugely appreciated.

What’s Next?

We are thrilled to introduce our ninth episode, ‘The Isolation Conversation – Life in Lockdown’ which will launch next week. Featuring Mark Stokes – Chief Technical Officer at Attollo Intranet, Andrew Woodward – Enterprise Architect / Workforce Experience at Zurich Insurance, Mark Macrae – Dynamics 365 Practice Lead at InterGen Limited, and Rob Foster – Senior Manager at Deloitte.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us via email or call us on +44 (0)1952 288 365.

By Sam Dolan

Sam Dolan is a consultant for Attollo specialising in Intranets, SharePont & Microsoft 365.

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