Tag: charity


Cause related marketing

Whether you believe that charity begins at home or that we should all be more mindful of the bigger picture, when it comes to giving, we all have an opinion.

Over the years it has become expected that brands will contribute to good causes. This could be a local charity or a very specific fund that has personal ramifications for those involved. At the same time, it has meant that businesses need to be more mindful of cause related marketing.

Since the launch of Open Comms back in 2008, we have supported many different organisations for the simple purpose of giving back.

Most of these are based within the Yorkshire region and we have chosen them as they are relevant to the business and our wider team. At the same time, we have also supported our clients to do the same. In some instances, this has meant setting a strategy which allows these companies to put cause related marketing into practice.

Finding a cause

How a business chooses a cause is the first step. It may be that there is a shortlist of initiatives and organisations that employees can choose from. The benefit to this being that a company gets the support of its colleagues.

Alternatively, there may be someone with a very personal reason for proposing an initiative and the company agrees for this to become the charity of the year.

Many organisations have a specific schedule in place when it comes to charitable donations. This means they can raise donations and offer support over a given timeframe. As well as creating focus, this provides a chance to review the partnerships.

Some third sector organisations have very structured programmes in place, whereas others are less formal. The best approach for all depends on what each brand wants to achieve as a result of the association.

What contribution to make

There are organisations that will donate a percentage of takings or associated resource from staff to their chosen cause.

We’ve noticed a shift over the years. Once upon a time, companies would give employees the chance to offer their services for free. Now, more than ever, a financial contribution or help with a specific project have become more beneficial.

Like many things in business, it goes back to setting objectives. Although giving to charity can create a warm buzz, it also needs to deliver a result. Working with the right charities means organisations can have a longer-lasting impact for that cause.

Communication surrounding cause related marketing

There is no doubt that when it is right, a partnership between a private company and charity should be communicated. Where this becomes a problem is when the shift is clearly more about promotion than genuine philanthropy.

Any organisation that wants to get involved in cause related marketing needs to do so for the right reasons. If making a real difference to the charity is what the activity is about then the PR will follow. Genuine and honest communication always delivers greater results than forced associations and stories.

Not only do journalists see through giving for the wrong reasons, but consumers do too. The last thing a business needs is to give to a charity and lose customers as a consequence.

This is why planning is so important, starting with choosing the right cause for all involved. The biggest mistake we see from brands is jumping on the band wagon. It is dangerous and often a knee-jerk reaction to something that has already run its course.

Being mindful of these pitfalls is a must when putting cause related marketing into practice.

Getting the messaging right

During the planning stages being specific about the messaging for each audience will help. This gives people a clear understanding of why a business is getting involved in cause related marketing. It will set out the rationale, objectives and what the company hopes to achieve at each stage. Also, whether the partnership is longer term or a one-off.

Providing a context for internal colleagues, stakeholders and customers will create focus for each.

It is likely the messaging will change slightly for each audience, but the objectives should remain the same. The tone will also need some consideration as it will change from more general comms that are shared. Often we find the tone is lighter when it comes to charitable giving and community based work.

Leveraging PR around cause related marketing

When we work with our clients, we create a strand of activity that focuses on community work and charitable giving. This sits very squarely within cause related marketing. It means that when the brands we work with are involved in a charitable activity, we ensure everyone involved gets the profile they deserve.

A number of years ago I met with a charity that explained they were struggling because businesses were scared to promote their associations. The feeling being that if they were to secure coverage then customers would think this was the only purpose behind their partnership.

We supported the charity with a document which they shared with all corporate partners. It made the point that many third sector companies struggle to put the resource in place that will generate regular PR. As such, they rely on associated coverage from partners.

Far from PR being a negative when it comes to charitable giving, it was a positive for all involved.

What goes around comes around

We’ve always felt that giving was the right thing to do. This will continue at Open Comms as it is one of the values of our business. As just two examples, we are a corporate partner of the Theatre Royal Wakefield and we donate to St Catherine’s in Wakefield each Christmas. We have even been known to take to the fields and to roll in mud for a good cause (picture attached from an event a number of years ago).

As well as knowing that we are doing our part, we make it our mission to encourage others to do the same.

If you are a business and you want to think about how you can give back, then give us a call. We can discuss what causes align with your brand and how you can leverage this to the benefit of all involved.


100strong Ho Ho Homeless

From the very start, here at Open Communications, we have always taken the opportunity to give something back. Not because we want to be seen to be ‘doing our bit’ necessarily but because we believe that it is important that when we can, we help out and have a positive impact on the local community and those less fortunate.

Christmas is always a great example of this and for the last three years we have donated to a very worthy cause Ho, Ho, Homeless, which provides festive packages including clothing, food, sanitary products and treats for rough sleepers throughout Yorkshire.

Taking a step back, the initiative was the brainchild of a friend and client, Geoff Shepherd, who had a chance encounter with a homeless person on a bridge in Leeds. Offering the chap some money, he was surprised to be handed the notes back. After some discussion, he insisted the money was taken and the rough sleeper produced a Christmas card as thanks.

Children should be seen and heard

That could, like many similar interactions that happen every day, have been the end of his encounter but Geoff’s young son asked why there was nothing more that could be done for people that have no home and no one to care about them.

A very interesting comment and a shining festive example of why we should listen to children and consider how their ideas can become a reality.

As a result of this, Geoff created Ho, Ho, Homeless and asked businesses to donate money, clothes, toiletries and any other items that would be of use to a rough sleeper during the winter months. Better still, he asked that treats also be considered, not just everyday items so that the recipient would also realise that they are not forgotten and that it is Christmas, a time for special gestures.


Ongoing support

We have been privileged to offer body warmers and money over the years but as we embark on our third-year things have changed slightly. This year the campaign message was #100Strong. The idea is simple; 100 businesses donate 100 pounds. This would generate £10,000 which would then support the homeless in Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and York.

So, as well as contributing as an agency – I believe we were seventh – we also asked others within our network to do the same. Headed up this year by Bob Proctor, we received regular updates of the fantastic work that had been done and the products that helped individuals and service delivery partners throughout Yorkshire.

It is no simple task to engage with rough sleepers, nor to spend time purchasing items, engaging with retailers, packing bags and making the deliveries but the team did an amazing job and it just goes to show that we are ‘stronger together’.

Homelessness isn’t just about Christmas  

Now that we are in the new year, and looking back over the campaign, I can’t be the only person who is astonished by the number of visible rough sleepers in Leeds and let’s not forget, there are always those that we don’t see too! There must be something more we can do than refuse their requests for money?

It’s at times like this that I am most proud of Open Communications and all that we stand for. I know lots of businesses and agencies that are similar, so I would ask that rather than just donating at Christmas we all think about the many ways that we can show our support throughout the year.

For updates on the progress of the campaign please follow @MafiaYorkshire or search for the hashtag #100strong.

Ho, Ho, Homelessv2


Kevin card front Kevin card

It was just like any other day, nothing untoward, an early start and I was on the train down to London for a meeting. There was nothing particularly unusual about it and as I sat looking at my laptop and wondering where to start with my to do list I decided that first and foremost I needed a coffee.

This is where my day turned from non-descript to a nightmare. I realised with absolute horror that I had left my wallet in my gym bag, which was on the passenger seat of my car… at the train station in Leeds!

Rather than scream and shout I thought about the situation and decided that actually it wasn’t such a big deal. I could do without a coffee and I had no real need to purchase anything else while I was in London so it would be fine.

This was my first major mistake.

I called my husband who said that he would arrange for me to pick up some money from a cash machine. All I had to do was find an RBS, Natwest or Tesco cashpoint.

Sorted. Or so I thought.

At this point a fellow passenger who had overheard my conversation handed me £5. I was really moved that she had gone to the trouble to hand me money, knowing that she would never get it back and also that I was a complete stranger. This small act restored my faith in humans and the kindness that they can show.

I explained to the lady that my husband had arranged for me to get access to some money and handed her the note back.

Second mistake.

Believing that there would be a cashpoint at Kings Cross I carried on regardless, laughing at my utter stupidity and promising that moving forward I would put some money in my bag so that I would never be in this position again.

On arriving into Kings Cross I went on a mission to find a cashpoint. There wasn’t a single branded cashpoint in or around the station. Panic started to set in. What was I going to do? I went across the road to a bank and asked the clerk where the nearest Natwest or RBS was.

His response was nothing short of baffling. Despite explaining that I had no money, he suggested I get a bus. I must have looked a little confused and reiterated that I had no money. He then said ‘Well use what god gave you. You’re a woman, just charm the driver’.

Needless to say, I walked out knowing that this was never going to happen not least because I have some self-respect.

So, angry and becoming increasingly nervous, I realised I needed the toilet. And that’s when it dawned on me. I couldn’t go anywhere – not even the station – without money. I didn’t have 40p and that meant I couldn’t access a toilet.

It was at this point I realised with absolute clarity that I had never really considered what having money, even small amounts, allows you to do. Without it you simply don’t have access to the very basic of facilities.

I then started to think about the homeless. I’ve been involved with charities that support rough sleepers in Leeds and have always considered myself to be relatively well informed but this experience left me shaken.

It took me more than an hour to find a Tesco and to access some cash but what about the homeless. They don’t have a husband to send them a code, which gives them access to money and therefore all of the things that we take for granted.

I often give money to rough sleepers but for the first time I realised that they need more than that. They need help and support. They need to break a cycle and they need to be acknowledged. I see the homeless but I’ve never really seen life through their eyes.

I will never forget the feeling that I got when I realised that because I didn’t have money, I didn’t really exist. People weren’t willing to help me and I didn’t have the necessary funds to help my situation.

This year, as a business, we will be showing our support for Ho, Ho, Homeless, a charity initiative which was started last year by a friend and client, Geoff Shepherd. The idea came to Geoff when he was Christmas shopping with his two young sons.

On walking past a homeless man on a bridge, Geoff’s son asked why the man was sitting there and why he was begging. He then asked if there was anything they could do to make his situation better. Geoff handed the man some money and in response he wrote a Christmas card and passed it to his son.

This simple gesture, and his son’s innocent but relevant questions, was enough for Geoff to realise that he did want to do more and so he called upon the business community to donate cash, clothes and gifts.

We provided 200 body warmers last year and will be doing something similar this year however the difference will be that I will appreciate just how difficult life is for those who don’t just find themselves stranded in London for a day but in a world of ignorance and isolation for the foreseeable future.

That day taught me two lessons. Not only did I learn to check that I have my wallet with me when travelling but also to appreciate just how fortunate I am. I will never take what I have for granted again.

Nurture new talent with the Youth Association

Here is the second in our series of blogs from the Buy Yorkshire Conference.

I have to claim a particular interest in the Youth Association, which is the next business we will focus on. I was introduced to the charity by our client the Coalfields Regeneration Trust who have invested in the organisation and its Young Upstarts programme, which Andy Clow has since evolved.

The Youth Association were an exhibitor at this year’s event and have what I believe to be a unique proposition for businesses in the Yorkshire region.
Read on for more information about the amazing work they are doing and please do take the time to watch the video, it really does bring to life the impact that they make on young people.

If there is one thing that the Buy Yorkshire Conference cannot be accused of it’s having 180 exhibitors within the same sector. You know the kind of event where there’s a bank or a legal team round every corner, a stand-off between two shell schemes that go back to back but just happen to be competitors – well, you don’t get that here.

The variety of exhibitors is one of the reasons that the show is so popular and attracts the 4,000 delegates that it does from Yorkshire and beyond.

Today, during the second day of the show, we came across the Youth Association, an organisation which runs a programme called Young Upstarts which professes to ‘turn day dreams into day jobs’. We caught up with Andy Clow to hear more about the organisation and exactly what it has to offer.

So what makes the Young Upstarts programme different?

Recently as an organisation we have launched a youth programme, which gives businesses the chance to ‘choose’ a young person who they would like to support financially to achieve their dreams. These young people have come to us with a viable business idea, we have given them our support, practical advice and encouragement and now they need the funding to make it happen.

Why would businesses choose to do this?

As well as sitting within the CSR policy of many companies, we found that businesses actually wanted to invest in something they could follow and be a part of. It’s not about writing a cheque, it’s about knowing that your money will make a real and lasting impact on a young person’s life.

Why wouldn’t they just go to a bank?

Young Upstarts gives these people an alternative. Many of the young people we work with are from hard to reach backgrounds, they may have dropped out of school with no qualifications or had a difficult time but want to make steps to change that. They need a chance and whereas the banks are in most instances unlikely to help them we have launched a programme that will.

It’s also about an investment rather than a loan. Many young people can be put off by the thought of interest payments and having a loan before they even start – with our programme and corporate support they can put their efforts into launching a business that they are genuinely passionate about.

Is there anything else like this out there?

Not that we are aware of. The ironic thing is that you can pay to ‘adopt’ or support almost anything but one thing that we seem to forget is that young people, the talent of tomorrow, are ready and waiting to start their own businesses and their barrier to doing so is having someone believe in them enough to want to offer some financial start-up capital.

It all sounds great but must be expensive

It’s not expensive at all. You can invest as much or as little as you want. We are hoping to develop almost a crowd funding model that will mean that each young person has several backers, all of whom can follow their journey.

There must be some risks involved

The risks are like any business – that it doesn’t work. The one thing to remember is that without this funding these young people wouldn’t have the opportunities to proceed with their ideas – or it would be significantly more difficult. You also have to remember that some of these organisations and entrepreneurs will be a success and that those have invested will always be a part of their journey.

So how many people have you actually engaged with

In the last three years, since we launched the programme, we have captured the attention and imagination of 5,000 young people. In the last 12 months along 2,500 have attended our enterprise workshops and 84 aspiring entrepreneurs have completed the Young Upstarts course, which in turn secures them a qualification that they can use and be proud of.

Can’t young people just go to College or take a vocational course?

From our research we have found that 60% of 18-30 year olds would like to start a business but only 8% are actually becoming start-ups. 67% of people say that the fear of failure stops them becoming entrepreneurs while just 28% of young people think they know where to go for information about start-ups. With figures like these we know that there is a gap in the market for something different, which meets with the diverse and sometimes challenging needs of young people. We are committed to giving them the support and guidance that THEY need. This programme is flexible enough to allow us to do that, unlike many others out there.

How do you keep in touch

We have just launched a new website www.startwithyes.org with all information included. As organisations invest we will make sure that they have regular updates with regards to each young person and their business. In addition, it may be that companies become mentors, taking even more of a role in the individuals they choose to work with.

Do you have any real life examples or success stories to share

We have just had a podcast commissioned which showcases just two of the many young people we have supported. It not only shows that we make a real and lasting difference to these people but also the variety of ideas that they come to us with.

For more information about the Youth Association and Young Upstarts programme and the fantastic work that they do please visit www.startwithyes.org or call Andy on tel. 01924 333400.


A different kind of creative

Working in the creative industry can be confusing; there are so many different specialisms and disciplines that there is no single sentence that can describe what encompasses being a creative, it is as vast as the minds of those involved within it.

Just recently I have had the absolute pleasure of working with a creative contemporary photographer, Nigel Tooby. What I get most satisfaction from at Open Communications is the range of clients that we have. Their businesses, brands, objectives and markets are so contrasting that it makes every day a ‘school day’ – you learn something new.

Working with Nigel and his wife Elaine was no different.

Our first meeting was back in August when we hosted an Open Strategy Session with the team. Not only did we all find the session enlightening, it was engaging and a real sharing of insights, beliefs and values. Nigel approaches his specialism, photography, very differently from how I would PR and that made for some great conversations and debate.

Fast forward a month and I took a call to ask if we would support the team with a project and exhibition they are working on, Eye Spy. Needless to say, having seen some of the works I couldn’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in.

All in the aid of Simon on the Streets, Nigel was originally tasked with creating a series of images for a charity calendar for the organisation, thanks to a referral from Red Media, the local design, print and marketing agency.

Rather than stick to the traditional, which isn’t really Nigel’s way, he chose to take the project one-step further and to recommend that the images were not only taken through the eyes of the homeless but also that they become an artistic installation, using materials from the streets to give the subject deeper context.

I was lucky enough to get a preview of the final pieces and a complete contradiction in terms is the best way I can find to describe them; they make for the most uncomfortable viewing but in the most positive and thought provoking way.

And so, here’s where we came in, it was our job to take Nigel’s creative talents and showcase them within the media. The first challenge was that the subject is interesting but also uncomfortable and the second is that some of the images were definitely unsuitable for print, simply due to the brutal truth behind them.

So, we got to work. A press call, invitations, press releases, media relations… and repeat… PR can be a little bit like a recipe for Yorkshire puddings sometimes, if you get it wrong it will all go flat but if you get it right… well, next time you have a Sunday lunch and you bite into your fluffy, light Yorkshire puddings that’s how PR feels when you get it right!

Thankfully we did. Working closely with Nigel and Elaine we were able to secure coverage in Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Wakefield Express, Wetherby News, Harrogate Advertiser, Ripon Today, North Yorkshire News, BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Look North.

Not only is the work deserving of the coverage it achieved but I am so pleased to see that Nigel’s creative talent is being recognised. I have never met a photographer with such a vision for story-telling.

I have learnt a great deal in the short time I have worked with the team at Mogul Image and I expect that they don’t even realise it, knowing how unassuming and modest they are. Nigel has taught me to see behind an image and to look deeper as there are always things that you miss first time around.

As I said at the start of this blog, the way he approaches his art is very different to how I handle PR for our clients at Open Communications despite us working in the same creative industry. We are all about facts and figures, stories and angles, headlines and news, whereas Nigel deals with perspective, depth, contrast, controversy and creating debate.

The results for us both are similar; we raise the profile of a subject to encourage people to talk about it. The ultimate goal is word of mouth but our skills couldn’t be more dissimilar.

I will be attending the launch event of the Eye Spy exhibition this evening, which takes place at the Workhouse Modern in Harrogate from 6.30pm. I would encourage anyone who isn’t your typical lover of all things photography or arty to come along.

I will certainly be raising a glass to an exhibition well done and hope that people will take the time not only to better understand the plight of the homeless in our region but also to get their hands in their pocket and support Simon on the Streets, which is a very worthy and deserving cause.

Here is a small and very select sample of the images that will be on show at the exhibition, which will run until Monday 6 October. Please do remember that some of these images feature on crates and paving slabs… I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil it but it is certainly worth going to see.

End of beginningsml

SOTS Untitled 6sml

The Company I keepsml

A surprisingly ‘souper’ evening

My nerves were getting the better of me, what had I let myself in for this time? Why do I do it when I already have so much going on? Turning into Leeds, I could see the city before me, it looked peaceful and calm, if a little dark, but the lights were twinkling in the distance making it look pretty and inviting.

That’s the last thing I was expecting from the latest experience I’d signed up to – inviting was certainly not what was on the agenda this evening! You see, as many of you know, when I’m offered the chance to experience something new, I always think it’s important that you take it.

As an active member of the Yorkshire Mafia, I find that there are many opportunities to meet new people and to offer advice and support. In particular, you may have heard of something called Skill Will; it is the organisation which matches private and public sector businesses with third sector charities.

The concept behind Skill Will is simple; if you’re a painter and decorator then offer that skill to a charity, if you’re a lawyer however then it would be more worthwhile to provide legal services and advice to these companies, who are not often in the position to pay for them.

So, back to my story, I had been given the opportunity as a member of the Yorkshire Mafia to try out something new – but not all experiences can be categorised as positive and I was starting to fear the worst on my journey into Leeds City Centre. I had put my name down for a soup kitchen with Simon on the Streets, the charity that provides outreach services for the most vulnerable – and often homeless people – in West Yorkshire.

In all honesty I have been wanting to get involved in something similar for a while and tried at Christmas but learnt that you can’t just show up – you have to be a registered volunteer and you need to go through a process – so this was my chance to see what it was all about.

I scurried up the road, feeling a little anxious and if I’m honest unsafe. I don’t walk around Leeds a lot on my own at night and for some reason the thought of infiltrating a world I know very little about really unnerved me.

I met with Helen, General Manager for the charity and Jenny the Treasurer, along with another first time volunteer Sam. We met for a quick coffee in McDonalds for a catch up before getting out and into the thick of it.

I was aware that I had lots of questions; how do people end up on the streets, how are they meant to learn what’s right from wrong, why can’t society play a better role in helping them, surely there are resources available, where does the money come from, what can people do to help, why does this happen…

Once I’d got one or two things off my chest we were on our way and the butterflies returned. We had a better idea of what to expect and rather than handing out soup in doorways to people who barely graced you with a grunt, as I was expecting, we rounded the corner to a collective of around 20 people enjoying soup and a roll.

They were laughing, shouting, biking around and telling jokes. Some were singing and others just keeping themselves to themselves but what struck me was that in the crudest sense of the word this was a community. It may be a dysfunctional one but a community none-the-less.

Just like the regulars down our local pub, my Dad would say they were there to ‘tell some jokes and swap some lies’ and that was exactly what it looked like. It wasn’t scary at all. We stood a little away from the group and I have to admit to feeling a little ashamed. I was there to see what goes on, yet felt like I was ‘observing’ these people – as if that was my right, which of course it isn’t.


I needn’t have worried, soon enough a young chap called Tommy* came over and introduced himself. He held out his hand and said I looked like a Russian doll – my coat is red and he mentioned his Mum had a figure that wore a similar outfit.

He then proceeded to make us laugh with his dry sense of humour for the proceeding 10 minutes with his anecdotes and warnings of ‘don’t step back – there’s something behind you and it’s not great. I’ve just moonwalked through it. Never one to miss an opportunity to perform!’.

He then explained, very matter-of-factly that he was going to be spending a couple of hours with a man he had recently met who was sleeping on the streets at the other side of Leeds; ‘he doesn’t know anyone you see’, he explained, ‘he doesn’t have a blanket, so I’m going to help him get one’.

I believe that Tommy is an exception to the rule when you’re trying to engage with people who have such complex needs. The basic principle is that it’s every man for himself but I was taken by this young man and his eagerness to engage and to help someone else.

Then came Stuart*. Well, what a character! He approached a little cautiously at first and then held his hand out and said ‘hello, miss’. He continued to call me ‘miss’ despite knowing my name, it was a very gentlemanly gesture. At one point he seemed to go off into his own world and relive some tragedy, which made him cry, before coming back to the conversation and telling me that I should listen to Led Zeppelin.

Looking around the group of people I didn’t feel nervous or scared, I just felt compassion and a very deep sympathy – but not the sadness I expected. I didn’t want to cry, I just wanted to let them know that for that brief moment, I think I understood. Many of these people have little choice but to end up in the situations they do – it’s no surprise when you listen to their stories but then again, the same can be said for anyone.

I wouldn’t wish this situation on my worst enemy – to end up reliant on drugs or drink to get you through the day and help you to forget about the awful things you have experienced, before tucking yourself up on the cold steps of a shop doorway at the end of a long day in preparation for another night on the streets.

What I was so thankful for was the wonderful work that the team at Simon on the Streets deliver. It was about more than soup and a bun, it was about companionship and the closest thing to friendship these people may ever experience. Most importantly it was about listening. As simple as that. Listening without judgement.

Like many others I go through my day worrying about many things that in the grand scheme are trivial by comparison to the worries that these people have.

When I fall asleep tonight, tucked up in my warm bed, cup of tea in hand and hot water bottle by my side I will think about Tommy and Stuart and hope that they are ok, because thanks to them, I had a great night out and an experience that I will pass on to others in the hope that we can all do more to support the people in the system who for one reason or another just don’t fit.

Good night all.

*The names of those I met have been changed in order to protect their identity.


Christmas v2

In the countdown to Christmas, we decided that this year we would literally turn the dosh that we would typically invest in gifts for our clients into dinners for the Districts most needy.

With pleas from food banks in the local area increasing in the run up to the festive season (a shocking reality for most of us), we decided that the money which would traditionally be spent on treats for clients would be better invested in ensuring that local people have something tasty to eat during the winter months.

The combined average cost of presents that we purchase year on year has meant that we have been able to donate a pile of delicious food including filling soups, pasta, sauces, chocolate, sugar, tea, potatoes and canned vegetables, along with some every day necessities such as soap and toothpaste.

We decided to support St Catherine’s Church and Centre in Belle Vue, Wakefield as it is the food bank closest to our offices at Nostell Priory Estate Yard. You can find out more about what they are doing by following them on twitter @StCathsChurch or visiting their Facebook page www.facebook.com/StCaths.

The team at the Centre work so hard to make sure that food parcels are put together for those who need them and although it is nothing short of devastating to think that there is an increasing demand for their services these people are a real inspiration.

St Catherine's

It wasn’t until visiting the food bank that we learnt that some businesses, like us, has chosen to support the cause but they had donated gifts rather than food. This means that when adults come to collect their parcels they will also get a small present for their children this Christmas. What a wonderful gesture.

It was during the visit that we also found out that the Community Centre works with a further organisation, Community Awareness Programme, or CAP for short. This organisation provides hot meals for people who are unable to provide for themselves. I was absolutely stunned to hear that in ONE single day the charity had served no fewer than 80 hot meals!

Here at Open Communications we are calling on other local businesses large and small to speak to their clients and think about the real meaning of Christmas; to give back to the community and help those most in need who will otherwise go without.

I can’t believe that we are living in a society where food banks are becoming increasingly common. We have to do something to make sure that people are at the very least fed and watered, not just because it’s Christmas but because it’s the right thing to do.

We are very fortunate that our clients will think none the less of us for choosing to do this and we know that they will support our decision to give a large trolley of produce to the food bank. Many businesses are unable to accept gifts from third party suppliers anyway and often hampers and expensive treats simply go into a raffle. I would urge other agencies and businesses to consider spending the money or a proportion of it on produce that will give a family a decent meal this Christmas time.

I don’t mind admitting that I had a little cry on the way back from the food bank – why are we living in a society where we can’t provide enough food for those who need it most? We are not a third world country and while we all spend far too much on things we don’t need this Christmas, and eat so much we are fit to burst, let’s all share a thought for those who have nothing and will go hungry.

I’m pleased that we have been in a position to donate the food that we did to the bank and although this is not going to have the impact that we would like – it will be used to support some of the people from the local community who are unable to feed themselves and their families. Better still if more businesses do the same then we know that we can have an even greater impact.

I am very proud that the team came together to give something back and would like to personally thank those working at St Catherine’s for doing what they do each and every day. The ladies at the Centre were getting particularly excited by a Christmas party that they are arranging for the young children in the area and it was great to see something so positive coming out of a situation that is so devastating.  They are a real example of the true value and meaning of Christmas, which in the most part revolves around sharing, caring and most importantly of all, a smile!

Merry Christmas from all at Open Comms.

Christmas v1


Where there’s a Skill Will there’s a way

It’s that time of year again… comfy sofa, glass of wine in hand, fire on, the family sat around wide eyed ready for the evening’s entertainment, wondering if this year ‘they’ will beat the target of last year, watching as people do a host of ridiculous stunts to try and raise just that little bit more for a worthwhile cause, giggles, smiles and then… it gets to 9pm and you find yourself sat, cheque book in one hand, phone in the other explaining to the family that presents are off this Christmas because we all have more than enough and should recognise the fact, our problems are nothing like those of others and for one year we can all just go without – it will do us some good. We then fall collectively (the women mostly) into a sniffling heap, promising the world to be a better person, to love our family more and to appreciate our children and step children even when they do all the things that make our blood boil every morning – yes folks, it’s Children In Need time!

I have to admit that despite my often hard exterior, I am one of those people. I will be sat sniffling in the corner, explaining to my long suffering husband that it’s just not fair and can’t we do a bit more and just live in a smaller house and do without wine – while he tops up my glass.

We both give to charities that are close to us on a regular basis (me Cancer Research UK and my hubby Barnardos) and we aren’t averse to helping out and volunteering when needed, in fact far from it, so I don’t harbour any guilt towards our philanthropic efforts – geez I even gave more than the usual £1 for a poppy this year, deciding that actually folding money would probably do more good.

However I often wonder, like most people, where the money really goes. Does it actually get to the people who matter? After working for a charity I completely understand the need to run these organisations like a business, otherwise they just don’t work, but it would be good to know how much of the donated pound we give, gets to those who matter.

More importantly I have found myself wondering more and more if there are other ways that people can do their bit without having to dig deep – especially when during difficult times every penny counts. Just because people don’t have a huge disposable income it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help and that they have nothing to offer.

I notice that recent reports on the news have announced that there has been an increase in the number of local organisations offering food parcels to those who need them most, which I think is a great idea. If those who are able can add an item or two to the weekly grocery shop to donate to a food bank then we know that we are doing our bit. It may not change the world but it will give someone a meal for the evening.  What I like all the more is that you know that your donation will help someone locally.

I do think that supermarkets are missing a trick though. Why hasn’t one of the top four created a charity or worked with an existing organisation to simply ask that if people want to donate a tin or a jar of something that they pass it to the customer service counter. Would this be so difficult to administer? It seems like a wasted opportunity. Part of the reason people won’t donate to a food bank is that they won’t have the time to visit, so make it easier for them. You are also communicating with those who can donate at the point of purchase, what could be better?

Supermarkets may ask what they will get out of it but let’s be honest, they could do nothing and have a fantastic PR story that would support the food bank, raise the profile of the retailer and ensure that someone who needs it most is fed and watered.  All good.

And so, now on to business.

Yes, my thoughts about charitable giving didn’t stop at individual giving but also at business. As a member of the Yorkshire Mafia, a local networking group with more than 12,000 approved members, I was aware of a concept called Skill Will. At first I wasn’t so sure what it was all about but the idea is really simple; rather than giving money you give time.

As a small business there are lots of things that we would like to do for charity but the problem is who do you give to, where will your pound make most difference and how can you decide just how much is enough?  Also, unlike large corporate businesses we don’t have the big budgets to donate but what we do have is our skill.

Skill Will asks that businesses and charities come together to spend time providing advice and guidance to those who can benefit from it. Going back to my earlier point, charities have better things to do with their budgets than pay for PR, marketing, finance and legal costs, so if there are organisations who can offer these services for free everyone is happy.

As a business this idea works perfectly for us. We give our time out of hours, so that our commitment doesn’t impact on clients, and away we go. Not only can we offer professional advice but we can know that we are doing something that will add value and help.

So in the spirit of charitable giving and knowing that for today at least charity is at the forefront of people’s minds, can I please ask that all those businesses who feel that they have a skill to offer speak to the Yorkshire Mafia about how they can help? It would be fantastic if we could use this opportunity to make Yorkshire a shining example of how working together can make a genuine and very real difference.

Ok, so that’s my thoughts. Now for one final word and this time it’s advice, get your hankies at the ready folks, Pudsey the bear may look cuddly but he’s going to make you cry!