COVID-19 has certainly given a huge new impetus to the video age, with lift-off for Zoom, Team, Facetime, Houseparty et al.
Not a problem for young people brought up on games consoles, who adapt seamlessly to regular on-screen conversations with granny and grandpa. Instead of opening a front door with a welcoming smile, they start and end discussions with relatives and friends at the click of a mouse, as real and virtual become easily interchangeable. But it has also given an impetus to millions of older people to overcome their natural aversion to “new-fangled” technology, and get used to the computer screen becoming an – admittedly poor – substitute for a hug.
For charities, this brings a new challenge as they survey the shattered landscape of cancelled fundraising events and shuttered shops. One charity boss I spoke to just after the start of the lockdown summed it up well. “We are brainstorming a new strategy”, she said “around ‘HandsFree Fundraising” – a neat phrase with a convenient subliminal link to the government’s persistent “Wash Your Hands” mantra.
In other words, their best and least costly chance of replacing at least some of their lost funds was to reach out to volunteers, supporters and potential donors through social media and emails, trying to make use of powerful video images as much as possible – not least because those isolated in their homes have more time to view them. And more time to watch television channels as well, where dramatic falls in advertising revenue have left gaps that seem to have been filled with charity appeals much more than usual.
For me it has presented an opportunity to bring together the two main strands of my life – my 32 years in television news and 37 years (and counting) in the voluntary sector, where my time as Chair of NCVO gave me a splendid helicopter view of the world of giving and delivering.
I recently formed a company called Your Big Day, drawing on the film and TV archives of ITN and Reuters to produce personalised video gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or any special occasion. Six minutes of memories for whatever date and year you are remembering, including celebrities, royalty, news, fashion, cars - even house prices - with your personal message on screen at the start. Presciently, all our edited material is organised in the Amazon cloud, so our videos are ordered and delivered on the date of your choice entirely online via an email link. There is no touching of any packaging; no doorstep deliveries!
It was inconceivable that I should start a company without having a CSR policy in place. So, with our videos selling for the relatively low price of £19.50, I have decided to offer charities a hefty £6 of that for each Your Big Day video bought by their supporters.
Here’s how it works. Every charity or voluntary organisation that signs up with us will be given its own simple, unique code, and when any video customer enters this code at the time of their online purchase, £6 (+VAT) of that purchase price will be earmarked for the charity. The codes are automatically recorded by the Stripe payment system, so it is easy to add up the money raised by supporters’ purchases and pay it across on a regular basis.
Several charities are already on board – most recently the Royal British Legion and Diabetes UK – but any charity is welcome to apply for a unique code (my technical team tell me there is no limit to the number we can create). The offering is an easy addition to the straight donation pitches; supporters help their charity while at the same time getting something new and unique for themselves. If any Chartered Institute of Fundraising members are interested, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll give you a call, and we can agree your code and have it operational within hours.