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‘Sick children still need The Grand Appeal and we must rise to the challenge’

By nicola masters, Wednesday Apr 1, 2020

We have all found ourselves in a situation we never imagined, one which has brought on challenges we had no time to prepare for.

Many of us have family, friends, colleagues and neighbours who are dependent on us, to protect and help them.

For charities, the level of dependency stretches much wider. We are society’s lifeline, millions of people, in many cases the most vulnerable, rely on us to support them. Now, more than ever before.

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In our case at The Grand Appeal, that’s the sickest babies and children across the South West, their families and the frontline NHS workers who are fighting to save their lives under unprecedented pressure.

Yet, while the need for our services has exponentially grown, we find ourselves in the same position as so many other businesses – our forecast income streams have been pulled from under our feet with no warning and our resources are being stretched like never before.

It is not an option to feel hopeless, our beneficiaries – sick babies and children – need us and we must rise to the challenge.

Every cloud does have a silver lining. It is in times like this, we come together, more than ever before because every single one of us is affected by this pandemic one way or another.

We have already seen, in just a few short weeks an uprising of community Samaritans – a movement of social solidarity. These networks are our new volunteers, our workforce that we never knew existed.

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In addition, our existing supporter network are suddenly finding their lives have been turned upside down, they may have more time, their plans for fundraising activity may have been scuppered but above all they’re desperate to channel some positive energy amongst all of this doom.

Voluntary resource and desire to do good is at an all-time high and we must harness this.

In order to do so, we must first radically rethink how we deliver our services and challenge ourselves to still provide the support those who rely on us need.

Remember, while this pandemic is changing and developing rapidly, we do not need to be in the same hurry.

Our plans must be strategic and carefully thought-through. Responding quickly now will simply mean our plans are out of date before we’ve even started. Monitoring the temperature of the situation to know when we make our play is key to our success.

The Grand Appeal raise money to support the work of Bristol Children’s Hospital

First and foremost our job over the last few weeks has been to ensure we are doing everything possible to make sure our staff and services, that support the dedicated doctors and nurses working at the frontline of our NHS, are running at optimal capacity.

And while doing this, is has been essential that we provide reassurance to our beneficiaries and our supporters that this is the case.

In the background we are re-imagining and further diversifying our income streams with a clear focus on digital platforms and grants.

  • Our shop is now online only and we have further developed the offer by becoming the new home of all Aardman merchandise.
  • Our events portfolio has fallen off a cliff, so our incredible fundraising teams are coming up with new campaigns and ideas that can be done within lockdown to mitigate against some of that loss.
  • Our philanthropy team are focussed on revising funding agreements and researching and submitting grant applications that are applicable to us.
  • Our community team is also working closely with individual fundraisers to see how they can still complete their challenges in new, safe and creative ways.  A number of our runners plan to compete from the confines of their own home or local neighbourhood, while other supporters are planning virtual film nights, coffee mornings and dinner parties to help combat social isolation. Just these few examples show how much positive energy is still out there despite all of this and how it is still possible to fundraise in these uncertain times for the life-saving provisions we support.

The Grand Appeal’s Becky Davy with Wallace – photo by Martin Booth

In terms of our services, we are revising our business plans to ensure we focus our attention on those that will make a substantial difference to the patients, families and the staff at the Bristol Children’s Hospital. These include:

  • Our three family accommodation buildings. We have around 29 families staying with us from across Bristol, the South West and South Wales so they can be close to their sick children while adhering to isolation guidance and visiting restrictions.
  • We are continuing to support doctors and nurses in the hospital at the frontline of NHS care through our wellbeing support package as we have for the last few years.
  • Our family support team are guiding families with desperately sick babies and children through this unprecedented situation.
  • Our research nurses continue to work on the frontline in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
  • Our cardiac 3D bio-printing team are working flat out to provide a business-as-usual service to patients.
  • Our play team are helping to bring some light to the young patients who are in hospital for many months at a time and undoubtedly noticing changes around them.
  • While this is a testing time and we are all focussed on our fight to maintain the care our patients, staff and families need in this time of crisis, we must also not get too caught up in the present.
  • There will be limits to what we can achieve while we’re in the eye of the storm. Our vision needs to look beyond the immediate few months in front of us and plan our comeback.

Above all, its times like this that people can truly rise to the challenge. With an engaged supporter base and an unprecedented level of willingness to do good from the wider public, that comeback is our opportunity to shine and be stronger than ever.

Nicola Masters is the co-founder and director of The Grand Appeal, the charity for Bristol Children’s Hospital

Main photo courtesy of The Grand Appeal

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