April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). Bowel Cancer UK chief executive Deborah Alsina MBE writes about taking full advantage of specific commemorative dates and why they should be pivotal in your organisation’s calendar.
It seems like every day is dedicated to raising awareness to a cause, just recently was World Poetry Day (21 March), National Skipping Day (22 March), The Great British Spring Clean Day (22 March) and on the 25 March was The Big Pedal. Awareness days, weeks and months are very popular and if used correctly they can provide a platform to increase your fundraising and reach.
If you are unsure whether you should prepare something for a commemorative/awareness day/week/month, here are our top five reasons to take full advantage, as we are doing this month with Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM):
It shines a light on your charity and cause
Your dedicated awareness month, week or day is a fantastic opportunity to launch a new service, poll results, asset or piece of research.
For example, during BCAM we generally launch a hard news story for national media, a soft news story for regional media, and pitch feature ideas and case studies to magazines. In 2017, we received just shy of 700 pieces of coverage in April, compared to a monthly average of 150 articles. In the months following on from April, we saw a record number of people sign up for a fundraising challenge and the team attributed this to the high number of national coverage we received during BCAM.
It’s also really well established in the national calendar so for example public health and health care professionals also use the month to highlight different aspects of the disease which is really helpful as we know that awareness of the disease remains stubbornly low.
An opportunity to ask your supporters to take action
Like most charities, we have dedicated and loyal supporters that want to help. Not everyone wants to fundraise, but they all want to be involved. At Bowel Cancer UK, we pride ourselves on our supporters being at the heart of everything we do, so we strive to create opportunities for them to help us drive positive change and BCAM gives us a good hook.
This can be through sharing their story in the media, putting our posters in areas of high footfall, sending them suggested messages to tweet, giving talks on the disease in their area, or asking their MP to be a Bowel Cancer Champion. What is the impact? It helps us build a cohesive community that can amplify our key messages and give people affected by the disease an opportunity to share their experiences directly.
We want our community to know just how much we value and appreciate them and to be able to demonstrate that they’re an integral part of the success of the charity.
BCAM helps us do that. One of our supporters tweeted that Bowel Cancer UK is like a second family, and that’s exactly how we want them to feel.
It encourages cross-organisational working
We have a cross-organisational strategy to make the most of BCAM, after all, it’s when the charity sees the most people visit our website and the highest number of articles in the media. We ask all the different departments what they want to get out of BCAM. For example, do the fundraising team want to hit a financial target, does our health promotion team want to receive more talk and volunteer requests, does our policy team want to reach out to new MPs? By coming together under a common theme, we can have many strings to our bow.
Some charities only have a week or a day to build and sustain momentum, we have a whole month and the last thing we want is to do is go heavy and launch lots of projects in the first week and then have nothing to talk about in the last remaining weeks. We create a calendar and fill it with key events and launches to help sustain excitement over the month.
A great way of recruiting new supporters
Every charity wants a large database, so one of our key objectives for BCAM is acquisition. How are we going to reach out to people with bowel cancer that don’t already know of us or engage with us? We don’t have any budget for advertising so we rely on creative thinking and sheer hard work.
In previous BCAMs, we held a donation day – the idea is simple, donate to the charity and receive a free pin badge. That way we receive donations and new supporters sign up to receive our communications.
It creates a buzz
We ensure that our colleagues are well informed about our plans for BCAM. We also ask colleagues with social media accounts to share our content and upload their own messages of support for BCAM. During the month, we’ll send out a weekly email about what has happened that week, including links to any national media, photos of our events, number of visits to our website, and the most shared/liked message on social media. This all helps to build excitement and sustain momentum for the whole month, not just externally but internally too.
BCAM is without question a lot of hard work but the results and impact we have give us a helpful launch pad for the whole year. It is definitely worthwhile.