Jon Barrick explains how The Stroke Association is enabling its beneficiaries to get involved with fundraising and community engagement for a new project
The Stroke Association has been working to provide specialist support services to stroke sufferers, their families and carers in the UK for more than 20 years. To meet the ever changing expectations of our beneficiaries we have recently developed a new model of long-term care, Life After Stroke. This will include a Midlands-based support centre, for which we need to raise £2.2m. The building itself was funded by a generous legacy in 2010.
Activities within the centre will be driven by our beneficiariesí needs and will include stroke clubs, art therapy, rehabilitation, exercise, access to life assistance aids, products and equipment, and training for survivors and carers.
Our challenge now lies in renovating the premises (making it fit for purpose) and ensuring we can raise the necessary funds. As weíre all aware, the current economic climate means we have to work harder to secure each pound and ensure our donors can see the impact of a project of this magnitude.
We have developed bespoke web pages, which include guidelines for becoming a local fundraiser, personal testaments and video podcasts of me discussing the centre with our beneficiaries. Filming with this group reinforced how much of an immediate affect this project could have on the local stroke community. In addition, their willingness to champion our local fundraising appeal was inspirational.
Having spent time with some stroke survivors and carers and been touched by their enthusiasm, I realised that there was no better audience to sell to. Our relatively small network of fundraising volunteers has a significant influence on our voluntary income. So, we need to involve more volunteers from a range of backgrounds with the Life After Stroke Centre Appeal.
A different approach
Working closely with our Stroke Services team in the West Midlands, we have identified an enthusiastic group of people who have not only helped with our filming, but have proactively offered to become involved in fundraising. Their passion and dedication to the cause enhances our ask, as well as providing first-hand testimonial about the charityís work.
We have also invited the local residentís association to the site (prior to its transformation) to ensure it is on board, and have had positive feedback and offers of support so far.
These volunteers will eventually help deliver talks and Q&A sessions to demonstrate the impact the centre will have and encourage other donors to support the project. Collaborating with beneficiaries in this way is a first for us and has proved popular in terms of building community spirit and enabling them to give something back to the charity. However, it mustnít be taken for granted that beneficiaries will be able to sell your cause on their own.
Beneficiary volunteers are now involved in different fundraising initiatives, from holding local events to supporting our fundraisers in approaching national corporate supporters. Therefore, our community fundraising team in the West Midlands is working closely with them as fundraising volunteers and ambassadors.
Our fundraising and volunteer development staff will provide these people with technological support and guidance for presentations and talks, ensuring they remain motivated and passionate. We will also provide updated news on developments in stroke care and treatment, support and training for carers, and information on other opportunities to get involved with the organisation. We value the contribution our volunteers make and always thank them for their time and effort, whether itís a phone call or greetings card.
As this project proceeds, we will look to expand our work with beneficiary fundraisers across the organisation. With the help of local and regional communities, we hope to achieve our goal of the first (of a few) Life After Stroke Centres. Hopefully the support for model of fundraising will lead to ongoing development of beneficiary support groups for The Stroke Association over time.
Jon Barrick is chief executive at The Stroke Association