7th December 2018

Transforming the way charities use digital to recruit, educate and seek donations

My local Foodbank wasn’t using the full range online communication tools to reach out to local people – volunteers, donors and customers.

The charity sector is fierce in its fight for donations and constantly innovating to find new ways to engage with people.

I’ll steer clear of discussing food poverty in the UK and why I decided to work with these guys – only to say, I have popped a link on this page to enable to you donate if you wish – we need food and funds I’m afraid – plea over.

The Trussell Trust Foodbank activity is more complex than one might think, it’s not a simple drop-in and collect free food. There is a carefully managed process, to protect, support and maintain absolute confidentiality of Foodbank customers. That’s right, we call the people we give emergency food parcels to, customers. Self respect plays a vital role.

I couldn’t just wade in and flood them with ideas and expect that to end well – same for any organisation. See what one of our customers, Eddie Curry, has to say about our approach in that regard.

I spent time with the local leadership learning as much as possible and meeting as many people as possible, to understand the culture, the need and where the risks might lay. I invested in networking and learning from other Foodbanks.

As a charity that relies massively on volunteers, they don’t all have someone to help with their digital activity and I as I found out, not everyone trusts it either. That’s an education issue as well as a ‘how can it help me personally’ issue – is was worth the time investment.

To start, we set up the social accounts, deployed some delivery software and slowly started to push out information. I took the time understand how information may be interpreted and how timing might adversely or positively effect it, using insights.

Foodbank volunteers tend to be slightly older, often in retirement; but internet and social media users are all young right? Only young people buy online, only young people use social platforms or use the web for news and content? We all know that’s wrong and it’s used often by blockers.

For this case study, I would like to focus on volunteer recruitment. There are concerns centred around the assumption of the types of people that use social media. “We really don’t want the type of people who use Facebook to work here”.

Many people would respond rather disparagingly to that, but that’s not how Digital Transformation works, ever! You can never bring people along with you by simply telling them. Proof is the only way, so we did.

We have five locations and need ‘committed’ volunteers for various roles, driving, sorting, packing, stacking and of course front of house, working directly with our customers. We picked one location to start with and built some posts across Instagram and Facebook and attracted three perfect profile volunteers whom all now work with us. Yet, for the other locations, we still face resistance. Over time, working with the leadership, we’ll help them and prove that digital activity can make their lives easier. From that point on the direction of traffic will change.

This case study doesn’t suggest in any way that the people who might be slightly resistant to introducing something new, do not care. Quite the opposite in fact, the volunteers and trustees are absolutely committed to helping vulnerable people and they want to ensure that this is done is the very best way possible. Social media and digital communications will play a pivotal role in driving that ambition – but the responsibility has to be shared, agreed and executed appropriately at the right pace and with the right tone. Anyone would like it to move faster, always – rushing it will only lead to failure.

To learn more about Foodbanks or if you would like to donate, you can do so here: