Last week I attended the FSI skills conference that gave various training sessions specifically designed for small charities. This week’s blog talks about the tips and lessons taken from the day.

FSI is a charity that provide a range of skills and training workshops aimed at supporting small charities achieve their vision. Last week they ran a skills conference that gave charities the opportunity to take part in various sessions with a wide range of topic choice. As Online Communications Officer, the sessions I took part in focused on different ways to broaden our audience reach and it was fantastic to learn from experts keen to pass on their knowledge!

The first session, ‘Using Social Media’ was run by Susheila Juggapah from CharityComms, an organisation that champions the role of communications in the charity sector. We started the session by discussing inspiring social media campaigns. Sushi shared one of her favourite campaigns, #FindMike, where Jonny Benjamin launched a campaign to find the man who stopped him from taking his own life. The campaign soon went viral, raising the profile of mental health around the world. The group talked about other campaigns that had inspired them, #nomakeselfie#icebucketchallenge#povertyissexist#timetotalk and #livebelowtheline were just some of the campaigns discussed. The discussion really highlighted the power of social media in getting your message out to the world. It’s pretty amazing to see the power of sharing a personal story!

A representative from Chilterns MS Centre shared their success story, as Downton Abbey’s Rob J. Collier signed up to run the London marathon to raise funds for the centre. Not only did he raise a lot of money, he also raised awareness on a global scale, with his fundraising efforts retweeted all over the world. Keen to replicate this success story, we will be keeping our eyes peeled for local celebrities who could be persuaded to fundraise for the AKU Society!

The second session of the day focused on ‘Working with the Media’ and was run by Katie Rose from Bright One. We shared common challenges we’d experienced when working with the media, including broken promises, incorrect information, not enough interest and lack of time and resources. Katie shared her top tips for making a great story and emphasised the power of personal stories with an emotional struggle. Making the story relevant is also vital and with rare disease day coming up, it is the perfect time for our patients to share their stories on the Rare Disease Day website!

The next session was run by Becky Slack from Slack Communications. Becky noted how important it is to know and understand your audience. She talked about sending questionnaires to supporters to understand their communication preferences and developing a targeted strategy based on this audience insight. Last year we conducted our first quality of life survey to better understand our patients and supporters need and preferences. We were delighted to receive so many responses to our survey and will be using these insights to continue to improve our services.

The final session was run by Christopher Whalen from Torchbox who discussed ‘Website Optimisation and Analytics’. Chris shared several useful tips for how to make our website rank highly on Google and also pointed out some useful online tracking devices to better understand the user journey.

The whole day was really valuable in giving us an opportunity to network with other small charity representatives, share challenges and successes and learn from communications experts, passionate about championing the small charities sector!