Charity Digital 2019

Dan Papworth-Smyth
Dec 20, 2019 · 7 min read

This year has been pretty quiet on Medium for me, mostly because it’s been anything but quiet professionally. Having started the year at Breast Cancer Care as Digital Engagement Manager with a team of two, to finishing the year at Breast Cancer Now following our merger, as Head of Digital Engagement leading a team of seven! It’s also a year that’s seen our team pick up multiple awards, but one that’s also been really draining emotionally and physically.

All that considered, I’m really keen to continue this tradition (2016, 2017, 2018) and share with you a selection of my favourite digital activity from across the charity and non-profit space from the past year, excluding things I’ve had the pleasure of working on myself. Here we go…

Refuge reversible poetry

My Husband, My Lover, a poem by Refuge

Looking back through my previous editions of these round-ups I couldn’t believe I hadn’t previously mentioned the hugely powerful reversible poems from Refuge. Well, this year they were back with further poems for Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day.

Continuing their work with McCann Bristol they’ve built on the simple but striking concept with clever copy, while making them particularly pertinent and relevant to topical conversations this year.

Remembering My Father, a poem by Refuge

Leukaemia Care UK and Roman Reigns

In February WWE wrestler Roman Reigns announced he was in remission following his treatment for leukaemia, after having to take a step back from the ring in October 2018.

Roman Reigns has a huge 3.9m followers on Twitter who, together with the wider wrestling community, were asking a lot of questions about his treatment and the disease in general. Leukaemia Care UK saw an opportunity to reach out to this community, share their expertise, and hopefully raise awareness. What came next was the most brilliant Twitter thread, which hit the nail on the head with its tone and created a lot of interest and engagement for the charity with a following of less than 0.2% the size of Roman Reigns’. It certainly shows follower size is no barrier when you’re topical and keep an eye out for a conversation to be had.

Do take some time to read through the thread and see how the charity embraced the loud theatricality of wrestling while striking a serious tone when it came to educating fans about the facts.

Mapping impact

One of the loveliest things I regularly see on Twitter are people’s reactions to the texts they receive after giving blood, letting them know where their donation has been used…

‘whoever thought up these texts is a genius’

‘Donated blood for the first time a couple of weeks ago and received this text today, it really is the most amazing feeling.’

‘It’s always good to know where blood goes after a donation, I hope whoever has received it is doing well’

This year NHS Blood and Transplant started trialling emailing donors with maps to show the actual route of their blood, from where it was processed to where it was used.

Example map from NHS Blood and Transplant

This level of post-donation impact communication is something all organisations would love to be able to do I’m sure. It’s great to see the NHS Blood and Transplant team increasing that transparency and pushing what’s possible to share.


Give me a sign

Our supporters are great at advocating for what we do. Yet, for so much of the time we’re completely focused on our own channels, without considering the scale of our supporters own channels and the authenticity that comes with it.

Designer Oli Frost created these brilliantly tongue in cheek posters as part of the October Extinction Rebellion protests in London. They were to be shared across social, printed out and taken on rallies, whatever you wanted really. While this isn’t coming directly from the organisation themselves, it is helping supporters and protesters to increase their involvement.

Posters by Oli Frost — olifro.st/posters

The tone of the copy is absolutely brilliant and the choice of colours particularly stand out. It leans in to the existing humour of homemade protest signage and executes it brilliantly.


Podcasting patrons

The popularity of podcasts has soared over these past few years. Many charities have their own (shout out to own our Breast Cancer Now podcast), and some even advertise on them. The next level though is coming from established podcasters using their platforms to directly benefit charities.

Podcaster, rapper and actor Scroobius Pip hosts a podcast called Distraction Pieces. It’s a conversational podcast now in its fifth year with a huge variety of guests and topics covered with everyone from Richard E Grant to Mary J Blige joining him.

Photo: Scroobius Pip’s Twitter

For this year’s International Stammer Awareness Day, Pip, who has a stammer himself and is a patron of The British Stammering Association, invited others with stammers to his podcast to chat about their experiences. It’s a really insightful listen, with the guests opening my eyes to a lot of the realities of living with a speech impediment. What a great use of his platform to elevate the charity and raise understanding as well as awareness. Well worth a listen if you have some time:


I’m still me

I’ll always have a soft spot for Teenage Cancer Trust, where I worked for six and a half years, and the amazing work they do for young people with cancer. This year’s Still Me campaign really caught my eye though. Image and identity can be everything to young people, especially at a time when you’re discovering and shaping who you are. Having that stripped away can be particularly unsettling so this campaign aimed to rebuild that confidence and self love through tips and shared stories from other young people with cancer.

We’re here to support you while your relationship with your body changes. We want you to feel able to look in the mirror and say: ‘How I’m feeling is ok. I’m not alone. And I’m still me.’

As well as the above video, there’s a whole series of great videos with young people talking about various aspects of body image (check out the YouTube playlist of them) including dealing with the impact of treatments to your nails, hair and skin. Several of which were done in partnership with one of the charity’s corporate partners: Tangle Teezer — a great way of adding extra value to that partnership.


We’re going on an adventure

Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories are nothing new. They’ve been around in books for years, and recently even in interactive TV too. This year has seen a big jump in their popularity on Twitter though with many charities and non-profits (and Beyoncé fans) getting in on the action to drive deeper engagement in their feed.

Here’s a great one from The Tower of London, but also check out this one from The Trussell Trust too.


‘Grab life, and squeeze plenty’

I first saw Coppafeel’s latest campaign at the cinema earlier this year. It’s a beautiful campaign full of real people going through real life and how easily checking their breasts and chests was part of that. Not a separate chore, or awkward, just normal.

To have something like this conveyed so well, and to have it seen by such a large audience through cinemas, TV and online, using real breasts is fantastic to see. It was particularly brilliant to see such broad representation in the video too.


Texting To Change

Sometimes the simplest concepts can drive the biggest response, and never was that more proven this year than with this video from Time To Change. Designed to replicate familiar conversations over text, it was something we could all relate to.

Time To Change’s then Digital Manager Seb Baird shared that in its first two days it had been viewed 800,000 times (it’s now at over 2m views) and they received 3 months worth of new followers on the platform in that time too.

Saving lives at sea (at Christmas)

This year’s Christmas video from the RNLI shows the blunt reality of Christmas for its volunteer teams around the country. There’s no knowing when your pager will go off, even on Christmas day, and dropping your own plans like when you’re just about to tuck into a delicious Christmas dinner to go out and save someone’s life.

Bit of a shame there’s no subtitles, but otherwise a hugely powerful story about life for the heroes of the RNLI.


Thank you for coming back and reading this after my unintentional hiatus, it means a lot that you still enjoy reading these round-ups.

It’s been another great year for digital across the sector, let’s see what we can achieve in 2020!

Dan Papworth-Smyth

Written by

Head of Digital Engagement at @BCCare and @BreastCancerNow, formerly of @TeenageCancer. Sometimes I take photos too. Views are my own.

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