Charity chiefs in Sheffield united to debate how they can better fight for the city’s people - together.
The Star brought together bosses from some of the city’s well-known local causes for a special round table discussion, including St Luke’s Hospice and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice representatives.
Chiefs spoke of challenges facing charities today - from cuts to local Government funding reducing statutory services to the cost of promoting events - and the importance of celebrating the value their good causes bring.
The discussion, part of The Star’s Pride in Sheffield campaign, also produced ideas on how charities could work collaboratively.
“There are already some things are going on where we’re working in partnership with others but we are probably not shouting about it that much”, said Samantha Kennedy, director of the Weston Park Hospital charity.
“Maybe what we do need to do is shout about them because that is what our supporters want to see, they want to see their pound being used as effectively as possible, like-minded charities not squabbling over the same fundraising so maybe it is a question of identifying those current initiatives and getting better at talking about those.
“If someone does something for one of our charities round the table we know we can tell them that that money will stay locally.
“There is so much going on locally that is adding such value to people’s lives, it is keeping that money here, and I think we need a more collaborative approach so we can demonstrate how that money is directly supporting people here, it’s not going into a head office in London.”
Chiefs called for more support from The Star for charities - particularly those without large teams of staff, and around key campaigns.
Recruiting more student volunteers from Sheffield’s two universities, and raising awareness around how people can become a trustee, was also discussed.
Chris Farell, chief executive of Cavendish Cancer Care, said there was already a good appetite for collaboration across sectors but that needed to be developed.
“The challenge is how do you translate that into action”, he added.
“To some extent we’ve already got opportunities to talk to each other if we choose to - but I’d be more keen to see an ongoing conversation rather than a once a month third sector catch up because I think that is already happening and it might be better focused on skills or talking about issues affecting the city.”
Among challenges brought up by chiefs was how they want to show local causes do not use the same fundraising methods as some national ones following the tragic death of poppy seller Oliver Cook, who had been inundated with letters from charities before her death.
David Vernon-Edwards, director of The Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Door to door and also the chuggers in town - I would hazard a guess there’s nobody here around the table who could afford to do it, and they wouldn’t do it, because it’s not their style.”
The meeting heard about difficulties of competing against national charities and spoke of the need to help the public recognise how money donated will be used.
Mr Vernon-Edwards added: “I think we need to upskill the public a bit more and make them a bit more savvy so they say what are you doing with the money. I know if they look at the children’s hospital it’s not a problem, I can tell them exactly what we’ve spent the money on.”
The meeting also heard how charities help by stepping in when stretched services cannot.
Tracey Jackson, deputy chief executive of Roundabout, said: “We work with young offenders and looked after children and the cost of the alternative, of them being in care or custody is phenomenal but also the quality of that, they’re not in custody, they are moving forward with their lives.”
Other ideas suggested by the chiefs included collaboration on events such as fundraising balls and looking at individual cases where a person may benefit from several different charities.
And there was also the suggestion of closer working to help people ‘in crisis’ after benefit sanctions or other cuts.
Ms Kennedy added: “There may be more value in us trying to tackle some of those subjects together.”
The Star is to launch a new charity feature, showcasing the work each does behind the scenes. in the coming weeks.
Charities interested in taking part can email firstname.lastname@example.org