From Willies to Murder: Innovation in the sector

Innovation is a big buzz word at the moment and something the sector talks about a lot but are we ever really doing it?

There are a few campaigns I’ve seen lately that I think are interesting and worth reading about – some of them I would say are innovative and others I think are a step in the right direction. What do you think?

Treat, are pioneers in income generation; they’ve understood that the sector is treatchanging and there’s a space to find new ways to generate financial support.

From their extremely successful Charity Concierge service to their new product ‘Treat’ I would recommend trying to get into their headspace for a day. Treat is a service for employers to thank their employees and celebrate success.

You can try Treat for free here.

Whodunnit?, Macmillan Cancer Support

At home supporter-led activity has become so popular in the past year that it’s hard to find something that is truly innovative. Macmillan has capitalised on the popularity of escape rooms and murder mystery to create your very own stay at home murder mystery party.


Professionally done with an interesting storyline, I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled on the fundraising results – I might even throw a party myself!

Best to do your event before 25 March so you don’t catch any spoilers on social media (but you can take part year round). Get your game pack here.

Feast your Eyes, Fight for Sight

Supper clubs are a dime a dozen but there’s something special about Fight for Sight’s ‘Feast your Eyes’ campaign. Not only does it connect their supporters to the cause, and creates a new tantalising experience but it’s simple to run with a delicious twist.feast-your-eyes

The concept is simple, host a dinner party but where you dine in the dark. Dans Le Noir in London has been incredibly popular for years, so why not recreate at home!

Feast your Eyes happens all year round and you can register to host an event here.

The Great Willy Waddle, Orchid

This September if you were to stumble towards Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park you will no doubt find lots of people dressed up inflatable penises (is that the plural? We’ll go with it!) to raise money for Orchid, the male cancer charity.orchid-wheres-willy-2016-26-750x437

Not necessarily inventive – we know lots of runs, walks, cycles with a fancy dress twist (I can still remember the hoard of gorillas running towards me one sunny September day a few years back). I like how bold, silly and downright fun this event is – whilst raising money for a very worthy cause!

The Great Willy Waddle happens on 26 September 2017 and you can register now here.

London Landmarks Half Marathon, Tommy’s

The challenge event market has exploded in the past few years, so what’s do unique about a new half marathon – especially one happening in London?llhm

Tommy’s have been bold enough to arrange and run their own half marathon in London but not only can people enter to raise money for Tommy’s, charities will also be able to buy places for their supporters. This is a fantastic event that merges fundraising with income generation and a really lovely route to top it off. The London Landmarks Half Marathon is on 25 March 2018.

You can pre-register for the London Landmarks Half Marathon here.

What do you think?

What innovative or interesting campaigns have you seen that you think should get noted? Tweet me @Holly_Christie or comment below so others can hear about them.


Wild Campaigns this Summer

Have you spent some time outside enjoying the flora and fauna, perhaps taking part in some citizen science, or even just going a bit wild?

There are some really fantastic campaigns that have been happening in the past couple of months that not only help with conservation but encourage people to get outdoors and see the joys that British countryside and wildlife has to offer.

Below I’m going to run through my three favourite campaigns I’ve seen this year.

Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count

‘The UK has lost a shocking 20 species of bee and a further quarter are on the red list of threatened species.’ Put quite simply this statistic made me angry enough that I wanted to do something about it.

Friends of the Earth, had a clear message, a call to action and the opportunity to take part in citizen science – enabling scientists the opportunity to use the vast amounts of data collected by participants.

I was also pleased to see that Waitrose is a corporate partner for the Great British Bee Count. This fits really well with their brand and really helps them to showcase their commitment to protecting Britain’s bees.

When I was at the British Science Association we worked with one of our corporate partners, EDF Energy, to develop and deliver the Big Bumblebee Discovery, an award-winning partnership (the partnership won the Third Sector Business Charity Award for short-term partnerships) that asked families to get involved and identify different species of bees during the summer. The results were also published in the scientific journal, PLoS ONE.

In 2016, the Great British Bee Count participant’s impressively spotted 370,000 bees; we’re still waiting for Friends of the Earth to finish analysing the results but I’m looking forward to reading more about the outcomes.

Below is the white-tailed bumblebee, spotted by me in my garden.


The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild

I love London but every now and then I love nothing more than to get away from the bustling streets and find myself out in the countryside, enjoying the air, and the flora and fauna. So I found myself particularly drawn to The Wildlife Trusts’ campaign ’30 Days Wild’.

The premise was delightfully simple. They asked you to ‘make room for nature this June’ encouraging you to take part in Random Acts of Wildness, encouraging you to bring a little bit of nature into your life.

Their website was beautifully designed, user-friendly and interactive. Enabling participants to share which acts of wildness they’ll be joining in with.

Most of all, you could still take part in inner city urban areas, just enjoying a plant on your windowsill or some daisies in your local park.

Butterfly Conservation’s The Big Butterfly Count

This campaign was run by a much smaller charity called Butterfly Conservation who are incredibly lucky to have the brilliant Sir David Attenborough as their President.

They have a simple mission ‘the conservation of butterflies, moths and our environment’ – like Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count; the Butterfly Count really does showcase the alarming decline in British butterfly and moth species.

The Butterfly Count ran from 15 July to the 7 August in 2016 and there were a number of resources and tools to get people involved. Furthermore, they were also supported by Waitrose, who have shown a dedication to their ‘Seven Point Plan for Pollinators’ – a truly fantastic piece of corporate social responsibility and thinking of the wider environmental picture.

Both The Butterfly Count and The Great British Bee Count are a fantastic way to engage children and to talk to them about the importance of protecting habitats and the amazing ways in which these lovely little creatures help protect our planet and help us thrive.

Go outside and thrive…

I’m sure there are loads more great conservation, wildlife friendly campaigns happening this year; from some of my favourite year-round campaigns such as the incredibly engaging ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ campaign run by the National Trust, I know there’s a lot of ways that charities can engage with young people, families and adults to get them to look outside, take stock and spend some time together.

What are your favourite campaigns that encourage people to get outside? To make a difference to their environment? To be the ultimate Little Critter Saviours?

World Refugee Day

Today marks World Refugee Day, a day that in recent years has become needed more than ever.

We are currently living in a world where violence is forcing hundreds of families to flee each day. Where atrocities are not only being committed against our fellow humans in the country they’re fleeing but in the camps and countries that are meant to be offering them a safe space.



The hatred and anger towards refugees is mind boggling. People all over the developed world are turning their anger towards the people who need compassion the most. The refugee crisis has given a platform to people who have fears over immigration and enabled a xenophobic attitude to have a ‘respectable face’.

It is time for governments to ensure protection for refugees, an education, a safe space, an opportunity for them to join in with their local communities without fear of persecution.

During World War 2 Europe looked with pride in the way we helped refugees, we accepted them into our countries, to give them a safe space whilst their home was being torn apart. A place of continuing fear and hell. Instead of learning from our past, and building upon a moment of history in which we can be proud we have taken a step back and become those very people we fought against.

On World Refugee Day I would like to say, thank you to all the amazing charities working their arses off to protect and help refugees even when it’s not seen as a popular thing to do. And to the volunteers who are on the frontline taking their time to help in camps, or those at home raising money, spreading awareness and generating understanding and hope within their communities.

Finally, huge hats off to the brilliant Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for being incredibly bold and sticking to their principles. On the 17 June MSF announced that they will no longer take funds from the EU and its member states due to its damaging deterrence policies and their attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores.

It’s not easy for a charity to turn away c. $63m, about 8 percent of your total budget, I am, however, confident that MSF will continue to grow and prosper and help those that need it, no matter their race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

I also wrote about MSF in a blog earlier in the year and their partnership with Muse.

Small Charity Week & FoodCycle

‘Supermarkets waste ‘360 million meals that could go to needy’ every year’. This was a headline I saw in The Independent in May and I thought that it was a good opportunity to speak about one of my favourite small charities this Small Charity Week and about innovation in the sector.

Small Charity Week

The article explains that 1.1million tonnes of food is being ‘avoidably’ discarded every year. That’s an incredible amount of food. In the charity sector, we talk often about the demand on charities, such as the Trussell Trust, and other food banks due to rising inequalities and poverty hitting all parts of the UK. It’s easy to see, looking at the above numbers, that some of that food poverty could be easily alleviated through charitable activity.

The survey that has discovered this incredible waste was government commissioned and carried out by waste and resources charity, Wrap. They are working to create a world in which resources are used sustainably. They’re doing fantastic work to get legislation and policy in place and to change cultures within businesses and government to essentially make the world free of the kind of waste heard of in the Independent article.

However, one of the charities in the UK that is tackling food waste, social isolation and food poverty on the ground; helping those who are affected now and can’t wait for mass change to happen, is FoodCycle.

FoodCycle are an incredible, small charity, they operate where communities need them most whilst helping to reduce food waste in the UK. They take all surplus food from supermarkets and other food providers and work with their team of volunteers in their Hubs to create delicious and nutritious food for local people affected by social isolation and/or food poverty.

Founded in 2009 to battle food waste and poverty they have gone from strength to strength with, in 2016, around 30 hubs in the UK. This to me is an example of innovation, seeing a need and delivering in a fun and impactful way.

So in honour of Small Charity Week, I encourage you to donate, volunteer or spread the word for FoodCycle and help them continue their incredible work.

I also wrote about FoodCycle and a brilliant corporate event I worked on designed and delivered by Volume48 in a previous blog here.

Ghostly Fundraising

Forgive me in advance for what may be considered a silly post.

I always love seeing new and interesting ways that people choose to fundraise for causes close to their heart.

The other day I was out for a walk with some friends of mine. We meet up and do self-guided ghost walks of London, using this amazing book from Richard Jones ‘Walking Haunted London’. Although a slightly geeky pastime it does introduce us to new parts of London and most importantly all routes will take you to pubs with interesting stories and history. So I have a good backlog of great pubs in London, which is always handy.

Our latest walk took us to The Grenadier in Belgrave Square. A cute little pub tucked down a mews which was incredibly difficult to find!

The pub is so called after a young Grenadier whom is said to have been caught cheating at a game of cards. As the story goes he was savagely beaten to death by his comrades and it is known for a solemn, silent spectre to have been witnessed creeping slowly across the pub.

To pay for is debts visitors of the pub are said to attempt to pay off his debt by attaching money to the ceiling, after a century-old tradition, it truly is an amazing.


Whilst in the pub I saw a wall of newspaper cuttings about the pub and my eye was drawn to the article shown below from the Daily Mail from Friday 13 June 1969.

The article describes a young girl who recruited friends to stay in the cellar of The Grenadier, and asking for sponsorship from friends and family to raise money for The Spastic Society, now known as Scope.

Ghostly Fundraising1

I was delighted to read this small newspaper story, to see how people have always been innovating to find new ways to raise money from their friends and families. Walks, runs, treks, cycles and bake sales are great, because they work; but there’s something thrilling of the idea of these girls choosing to do something they’re scared of to raise money for a cause they care about.

It made me realise that people often put themselves at their most vulnerable or in situations that terrify them the most to raise money for causes that are important to them. From skydiving, to swimming the channel, to a 5k run to sleeping in a cellar that is rumoured to be haunted.

I commend the thousands of people who are putting themselves out there because it’s important to them to make a difference to their family, friends and wider community.

Just as importantly, if you’re in London, visit the pub, it’s brilliant!

P.S. You may have noticed that I decided to publish this blog 47 years after the newspaper article was published.

Happy Small Charity Week 2016!

Small Charity Week begins today and I’m incredibly excited to see all the celebrations to showcase the life-changing work that small charities do throughout the UK.

Small charities make up 97% of the registered charities in the UK which is an amazing 160,000 charities, not including the number of charities that are too small to register, these are often called ‘Micro Charities’.

Small charities in the UK are always facing funding pressures and struggling to keep their services open or available to a wider beneficiary group.

I was really impressed when the FSI set up Small Charity Week to celebrate the phenomenal work that small charities do every day; encouraging public giving, raising their profile and in general celebrating their existence.

The FSI (Foundation for Social Improvement) are an amazing organisation and definitely worth visiting their website if you’re a small charity as they offer invaluable expertise and support.

I’m always impressed by small charities, from the West Hampstead Women’s Centre where I’m a Trustee to my local independent non-profit cinema, The Lexi, and the money it raises for its fellow charity The Sustainability Institute; to other small charities that are providing food, company, support, and care for people and animals in their local communities. Their work is invaluable and it should definitely be praised.

It’s important to showcase the work of the little dog. Large charities can often dominate conversations in the sector, with the general public and by politicians and media alike. Indeed, a lot of people in the general public in recent months have found them distrusting the large charities with the huge brands but their trust and love for their small local charity providing services still prevail. Though it prevails through constantly swimming upstream. Many of these people who love and appreciate the service provided by these small charities often also, don’t quite realise that they are a charity and exist on the goodwill of donors and impeccable fundraising.

I’m looking forward to seeing all the celebrations this week and hopefully bringing to my attention some of my local small charities that I just don’t know about yet!

Small Charity Week have intelligently focussed on different celebrations and services for each day of Small Charity Week. The below screen grab will show you, click on it to take you to their website to find out more.



#1 Behind the Scenes of British Science 2016

In 2015, the Development team at the British Science Association decided we wanted to create something for organisations and companies to get involved in British Science Week. We realised there were a number of fascinating places where fantastic science, technology and engineering is happening every day.

We wanted to create something that enabled companies and organisations to have conversations with their local communities, showcasing and celebrating the work done by their staff.

We wanted to acknowledge the public’s curiosity, I have often walked past a head office or a large manufacturing site and been deeply curious as to what was going on behind closed tours. The idea of Behind the Scenes was to throw open the doors of these places, to satisfy curiosity and to share the amazing innovation and discovery that takes place in science, tech and engineering locations all the time.

Furthermore, we wanted it to be an opportunity to inspire and enthuse young people by meeting real life scientists in their workplace. Breaking down those stereotypes of a scientist being a man in a white lab coat. Helping them realise that science, technology and engineering opens up a whole world of opportunities for their future.

In 2015, we piloted this idea with a few companies and organisations, and after ironing out the details we decided to launch it properly in 2016.

For 2016 we had some fantastic partners, who I worked tirelessly with, to recruit, engage and promote their fantastic range of events. Partners included Royal Mail, L’Oréal, Historic England, Cancer Research UK, London Stansted Airport, Creative Skillset, Bletchley Park, University College London Hospitals and NHS Blood & Transplant.

I found myself super excited as British Science Week came around in March and I was finally going to be able to see these events taking place throughout the UK and what’s more, I got the chance to attend some of these events.

I spent one morning at Royal Mail’s mail centre hub in Mount Pleasant, London; we had a group of young people who for various reasons were not in a typical school environment and instead were educated through an education group. They were so excited to be there and got to talk to real Royal Mail apprentices and see the innovative automation technology at one of Royal Mail’s mail centre, and see the life journey of a letter.

I saw 25 young people come down to L’Oréal’s Head Office where they heard from the scientists at L’Oréal and the work they do around proof and communicating the science behind their cosmetics. The young people then spent the afternoon creating their own adverts which were only allowed scientifically proven facts!

At Cancer Research UK’s cancer research lab at Bart’s Hospital, London, I got to meet scientists and hear about their fantastic research and the challenges they face every day.

Finally, I got to go behind the scenes of UCLH’s new Proton Beam Therapy Centre; learning not just about the science behind proton beam therapy but also the construction work that is taking place to place such a building in the centre of London.

All of the events taking place were fantastic and you can learn more about what all the other organisations did to take part here.

I was so pleased to be part of this campaign and I sincerely hope it continues year on year.

Plan UK | My experience as a child sponsor

In October 2014, I made the decision to sign up to Plan UK’s child sponsorship programme. I wanted to help children and their communities in a long-term and impactful way.

I had always derided the thought of child sponsorship, I didn’t think it was an effective way of helping communities. When I heard about Plan UK’s child sponsorship model I realised that it was an outdated version that I knew about. Plan have been pioneering child sponsorship for 75 years and you can tell.

Through Plan’s child sponsorship, the funds are used to drive change at a grassroots level, and using, most importantly, local people to drive this change. They make real long-lasting changes that help not just the sponsored child but the whole community. On their website, they state that the child sponsorship money helps, improve educational opportunities, create medical infrastructure, improve sanitation facilities and prepare for disasters.

It was after reading more and reading testimonials from children and sponsors that I decided that I would take the step to become a child sponsor.

When you choose to become a child sponsor you can choose from three things, the continent, their age and their gender. I decided that I would like to help the communities that were in the most needed as identified by Plan and therefore would leave it quite free. I did, however, decide that I wanted to support a girl. Especially as I know that around the world girls are usually the most disadvantaged.

Plan UK

Zoila-Magdalena Cuc

Zoila-Magdalena is four-years-old who lives in Guatemala and she is the little girl who I sponsor. When I first received an introduction to Zoila-Magdalena from Plan Guatemala I saw that her date of birth was the same date as my sister, which made me smile.

I learnt a lot about Zoila-Magdalena’s family and community; the housing, education and health situation in the area, as well as their access to water, toilets and health facilities.

I also received a message from the Program Unit Manager, Juan Gómez Polochic. He told me about the challenges facing the local community and their plans on how to make it better.

Since my first letter from Zoila-Magdalena which I received in November 2014 and can be seen below (she obviously didn’t write it, she was four!), I have communicated with her and her family and it’s been a pleasure to receive photographs and hear more about how she is growing and how her life is changing.


It’s also been great engaging with a country that I knew little about, through the sponsorship I have learnt more about the community, their culture, the challenges they face and what a normal day is like for children there.

Read more about the impact of child sponsorship.

I don’t regret my decision to become a child sponsor and I’m looking forward to hearing about Zoila-Magdalena’s life for the next ten years and maybe once our relationship has grown and I can afford it I will be able to visit her in Guatemala and see first-hand the different Plan International are making.


The Choir with No Name: Laughter, tears and a soul uplifted

Last week I attended a comedy evening in aid of the fantastic charity The Choir with No Name at the beautiful Union Chapel.

The evening hosted by Miles Jupp and featuring a stellar line-up from Josh Widdicombe, Seann Walsh, Sarah Kendall, Justin Edwards, Jess Robinson and poet John Hegley. The evening wasn’t like any other comedy fundraising event I have been too.

In the interval I was delighted to have been treated to a few songs from the two London Choirs, singing together and really showing the incredible impact of the work the charity does.

So who are The Choir with No Name?

Put simply the Choir with No Name runs choirs for homeless people and other men and women from the very edges of society. They were founded on the premise that singing makes you feel good and they were spot on.

We heard from an old choir member, who joined the Choir in 2008 and eight years on is doing amazing. The Choir helped him turn his life around. He now has a life filled with music and love.

It was amazing going to a charity comedy night, which not only entertained me in a way that only good comedy can (trust me you need to see Jess Robinson, her Julie Andrews singing ‘All about that bass’ impression is fantastic), the evening also made me realise how important and impactful a simple message can be.

It’s simple. They change people’s lives by creating a safe space where for a couple of hours a week they can forget all of their worries and sing their hearts out. And if a snapshot of the testimonies below is anything to go by, it really does work.


I was also particularly impressed by their corporate sponsors Links Resourcing and MillMoll Ltd, whose support enabled the Choir with No Name to actually put on the event but also ensure they get 100% off the proceeds from tickets and bucket collections.

Event small charities can bring in corporate partners that can make a huge difference.

Take a look at their website, and if you’re feeling generous, donate. They need your support.

Future gigs?

22 May – Community Spirit 2016, Birmingham Symphony Hall. Tickets here.
29 June – CWNN London Big Summer Gig, St James’ Piccadilly, London.
15 July – CWNN Birmingham Big Summer Gig, MAC, Birmingham.

Trustee Week: Why everyone should be a Trustee

This Trustees Week I thought I would reflect on my 18 months as a Trustee at the West Hampstead Women’s Centre and explain why I think everyone should be a Trustee.

The West Hampstead Women’s Centre is a bright gem in the centre of the borough of Camden and has been doing amazing work for over 30 years. The Centre provides holistic services for women; dealing with mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. The Centre is one of the safest places I have ever visited, from the way it’s decorated to the smiling faces of the volunteers, to the atmosphere itself; it creates a feeling of welcoming and beginning.

The Centre is incredibly unique in London; it is one of the few women-only centres left, who serves women of all cultures and ages. We offer over 21 different services from cancer support groups to NVQ and Employment Support to Pilates,osteopathy and CAB Outreach.

I was first drawn to the Centre when I saw their ethos of ‘Supporting all women under one roof’ this inclusive message really struck me and I was intrigued to see what happened behind those doors to support some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged women in my community.

“I walked through the doors in my hour of need and was given a lifeline.” West Hampstead Women’s Centre, Service User

The Centre is run by a phenomenal woman, Rukhsana Chishti, who has done a brilliant job at keeping the Centre running through tough times and good in the past couple of decades. The Centre is run by an amazing number of volunteers,over 70, who ensure our services and helpdesk remain open Monday to Friday.


The Trustee board are an incredibly likeable and diverse range of women who all share the commitment to making the Centre a safe, friendly, welcoming space for women whilst providing much-needed care and support.

My time as a Trustee has been incredible, I have learnt so much from the people around me and it’s been fantastic seeing the Centre flourish and grow. With the cuts on their way across the Camden Borough, now is the time for the Trustees to really look to how we can protect the Centre and ensure its 30-year legacy continues for the future generation of girls and women who need the Centre.

It is in tough times that you are reminded how important your role as Trustee is and the responsibility you have to ensure that your service continues and your beneficiaries are supported.

I can’t wait for our Festive Celebration this December where I will see a number of women graduate with their NVQs and I can join all the women of the Centre from service user to volunteer to celebrate the amazing work in 2015 and the year ahead.


If you live in North London please do consider becoming a member of the Centre (only £6), it has amazing services and you certainly won’t regret it. And it would be remiss of me not to mention donating to the Centre or if you’re looking for a new volunteering opportunity, take a look here.

And for any talented community fundraisers out there, if you fancy offering me some pro-bono advice on how to continue raising money for the Centre I would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, I cannot say enough that everyone should become a Trustee, no matter your age. You will get out of it as much as you put in, and there are small charities all over the UK that could hugely benefit from your expertise (especially if you’re a fundraiser). So get out and do, help make a difference in your local community.