IoF & Facebook Social Good Summit – London, 2 June 2017

This free one-day conference at Facebook’s office in London last Friday, run in association with the Institute of Fundraising, was a chance for charities to learn more about how to make the most of both Facebook and Instagram for their charities and communities – I was especially keen to hear about Instagram, as I have long been a fan and feel that charities could make more of this social network, while realising that it comes with some limitations.

I’ve Storified the event highlights here.

Of course, the past few months, and especially the past few days, have been overshadowed by horrific terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. While there are different schools of thought on how much the big tech and social media companies can or should do in the fight to prevent these atrocities, the defiant response, including bravery, hope, love, generosity and even humour, has been woven together and strengthened with the help of social media and digital tools such as JustGiving.

Social network users were able to alert people to what was happening, often faster than official breaking news sources (but obviously with the occasional confusion or misinformation that can come from that) – and social media, especially Facebook’s Safety Check tool, could help in the aftermath of the attacks, allowing users to announce if they’re safe and reassure friends and family… as well as allowing everyone to remember and honour the victims, fundraise to support people affected, and be part of defiantly carrying on with their own lives.

Safety Alert was originally developed as a response to natural disasters but in recent years has been used in response to terrorist attacks.

Early on in Friday’s event there was an unexpected moment of levity around this serious feature, when an automated safety announcement at Facebook’s London HQ interrupted the speaker just as he was talking about Safety Check… and as the announcements continued, despite them being introduced as a drill, there was a mounting communal sense of “Should we evacuate…?” – and with almost comic timing there was a pause before a final recording announcing the end of the drill, when the collective sigh of relief was as audible as the nervous laughter at what had just happened.

Of course, we couldn’t have known just how soon the feature would tragically be needed again, with the horrendous attack in London the following night, bringing it all the more close to home.

Here’s an interesting piece on what Facebook does with Safety Check data, and some more background info on the tool and how it has (and hasn’t) been deployed.


The Charity Digital Toolkit

Despite great progress made in the past 10 years or more, digital skills and strategy are still in short supply in the voluntary sector. To help to address this (and following her report on the state and implications of this shortfall last month), Zoe Amar and the Skills Platform have put together the Charity Digital Toolkit:

Building on the success of The Charity Social Media Toolkit, we decided to take a similar approach in giving charities a grounding in fundamentals by sharing expert advice, inspirational case studies and tips and tricks, but we wanted to tackle weighty topics, going in-depth where needed and asking big, challenging questions about what it takes to make digital work. We encourage you to use this toolkit to help your charity take the next step in its journey with digital.”

– from the Introduction, Charity Digital Toolkit

Each chapter provides insight from a range of contributors into different areas of digital trends and know-how, and I was happy to contribute a case study about how my charity, Diabetes UK, introduced Agile working in a very pragmatic way, through development projects such as our main website and – the featured case study – our online Know Your Risk test for the risk of Type 2 diabetes:

  • Foreword – from Martha Lane Fox
  • Chapter 1: What is digital? – from Zoe Amar
  • Chapter 2: Digital leadership – from Louise Macdonald and Simon Hopkins
  • Chapter 3: Digital audience and strategy – from Katie Taylor and Zoe Amar
  • Chapter 4: Digital channels – from Mandy Johnson, Donna Moore, Dave Evans and Jarrah Hemmant
  • Chapter 5: Measuring success – from Clare Bamberger and Matt Collins
  • Chapter 6: Digital fundraising – from Steve Armstrong
  • Chapter 7: Digital governance and risk – from Brian Shortern and Sarah Atkinson
  • Chapter 8: Digital service delivery – from me
  • Chapter 9: Digital behaviour and the future – from Beth Kanter and Paul de Gregorio
  • Chapter 10: Digital skills development – from Jo Wolfe.

The more I reflect on our online Know Your Risk project and our Agile approach to delivering this service through digital, the more I can see that the best way to achieve the digital skills that lead to digital transformation or maturity, and a more effective voluntary sector, is through doing – taking a hands-on approach and involving people across teams throughout your projects and activities.

I would love to hear any thoughts you have on this, or what you’ve tried that has or hasn’t worked, in any area of digital skills for non-profits.

Digital transformation for the charity sector; Manifesto event, 9 March 2017

One of the many good things about the charity digital world is how open people are to sharing their thoughts and experiences, often in the form of free events and presentations. One of the agencies we at Diabetes UK work with, Manifesto, runs events like these from time to time and their most recent one a couple of weeks ago was especially good.

The theme was ‘digital transformation for the charity sector’ and we heard from: Jo Wolfe, Assistant Director, Digital at Breast Cancer Care; Pat Shone, Technology Director at Manifesto; and Julie Dodd, Director of Digital Transformation & Communication at Parkinson’s UK, and author of The New Reality. Here are some of my key takeaways from what they told us.

Jo Wolfe

Maturity index
Have to measure and benchmark in the different areas. RAG not enough. Then set targets in those areas to help set strategy and plans and resources.
MSF blew her away. Team really mature. Poss because same stable team for six years

Pat Shone

– model, four phases of devt
– could look at for review and retirement too
– stat eval, weighting important
Try before you buy?

Julie Dodd

New reality
100+ days of putting theory into practice
Scale of dying out -> embracing
P not halfway to e yet but made big steps by creating her role and directorate
SMT have a WhatsApp group
Good to make people excited and a little uncomfortable
6 areas of focus – tech funding culture?? And…??
Very much both internal and external transformation – not sure I’ve seen as much/equal focus on ext in my own or other charities
Came up with a statement on what DT is for P
Longer and shorter versions
Talk about it over and over
Make it more interesting for diff audiences – diff formats, e.g. Video for trustees.
Bring in external speakers, lunch and learn etc
Digital competencies – 3? Levels – everyone has to be up to level 1 by end of this year.
Make it visible by making visual, e.g. Screen in reception, simple hack to show sessions graph, top search terms and pages visited
Things still move slowly – budget cycles
Less need to focus on digital comms, most have got a grip on that. Look more at supporting new tech, e.g. New apps devices sites – open but with critical eye, need a framework before recommending any
Digital strategy/electricity strategy
Umbrella room – again visual, prompts questions just by being there – really need to get our digital testing room in shape, whiteboard paint? Proper screens, camera and lighting.
ICO clampdown and new regs – see as an opportunity and a good thing. If we can weather the dip then it will force us to think more about our comms with supporters – more based on what they want, where we ask for data because we’ll make good use of it, promise to keep it safe. Better retention strategy. Before, we just lost people to churn.

2016 highlights – autumn – fruitful (but far from mellow. Or misty)

A final post on my highlights from 2016 and it feels like I’ve saved the busiest season till last.

Autumn 2016
– a new (work) home, events, diabetes in the media, brand changes, a VIP visit, and World Diabetes Day

Maybe because it’s fresh in my mind but autumn (and the start of the next winter) seemed especially busy this year.

Still stepping

September (and, for me, the first week or so of October too 😊) was the final month of my 1 Million Step challenge for Diabetes UK. And because I was playing catch-up, it was one of my busiest ever months for walking in my three years of tracking.

This was helped by our office move. We’d outgrown our old home of 12+ years in Camden and been priced out of an increasingly gentrified, relatively central location. The old office was less than 30 minutes’ walk from home so I tended to commute on foot. Our eventual new office in Whitechapel is about two hours’ walk away, so understandably I didn’t plan to keep to my old Tube-free ways. But for the rest of my 1 Million Steps and whenever I can since then, I get off the Tube 25/30 minutes away from the office and walk the rest. It minimises my packed commute and maximises my physical activity … and my step count.

Events – at home and away

So many excellent events at the end of last year.


NFP Tweetup

Google for Non-profits

We Are Social

Third Sector Digital Leaders

Adloox digital ad security seminar

Barcamp NFP

Charity Social CEOs

Together We’re Better – user-centred transformation seminar



2016 highlights – summer – I *did* walk 500 miles

Summer 2016
– the 1 Million Step Challenge

When I was two months in to the three-month 1 Million Step fundraising challenge that my charity, Diabetes UK, launched this summer, I blogged about my progress on the charity’s blog site and shared some tips with my fellow walkers.

I’m proud to say I did complete the challenge, though it took me an extra week or so to do it! And thanks to the generosity of my family and friends, I raised £230 – 115% of my target.

What it was like to take part

I found it interesting that, even though I had already been tracking my steps for nearly three years, and had taken part in other walking challenges in that time, something about this particular challenge really motivated me to reach the overall target of 1 million steps.It was a significant challenge, since the average UK adult is said to walk only 5,000 steps a day, and my average tended to be 7-8,000 a day.

It was a significant challenge, since the average UK adult is said to walk only 5,000 steps a day, and my average tended to be 7-8,000 a day.

Since I started step tracking in November 2013 it has motivated me to walk more than I ever did before. I find myself taking the long way around where possible, and trying to walk rather than hop on a bus or tube – to the extent that 2014 was the last year that I bought an annual season ticket and from 2015 I started walking as much as possible.

Both my Dad and his Mum had Type 2 diabetes and I know that a combination of this family history of the condition, plus our ethnicity (South Asian on that side of my family) as well as my age and gender mean that I’m at increased risk of developing the condition myself. Those are the factors I can’t change. But the factors I do have control over are my weight and waist size, so making walking part of my day seemed like a good way of reducing my risk of Type 2.

Despite all the health benefits, it can still be hard to make sure you walk 10,000 steps a day, and my average tends to be closer to 7,000. So, seeking some extra motivation, I was really happy when we at Diabetes UK launched our new 1 Million Step Challenge this summer. More cause to walk, while also fundraising for a good cause.

It takes me about 10,000 steps to cover five miles. 10,000 x 100 = 1,000,000 steps, which = five miles x 100, which = 500 miles. Hence “I will walk 500 miles” became my earworm for the summer. (Sorry for passing it on to you too.)

I had a combination of different motivations and practical steps to keep me going towards 1 million. See if any of them could work for you.

I found these practical steps helped:

  • Walk for my whole lunchbreak – and schedule these walks into my calendar so that they’re less likely to get sidelined.Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.
  • Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.
  • Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.
  • I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.
  • I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • Make friends with other Fitbit/fitness tracker users – apparently on average Fitbit users walk an extra 1,000 steps a day for every Fitbit friend they have.

And I had various things to motivate me:

  • The challenge itself provided motivation – to complete a big personal goal – especially one that you have shared with lots of people.
  • Staying healthy, for me and for my family – including improving my chances of avoiding Type 2 diabetes.
  • Fundraising in memory of my Dad, for a good cause and a charity which not only employs me but has helped my family and so many others affected by all types of diabetes.
  • It’s a nice little reward when you get a 1m Step Challenge or Fitbit badge for doing a lot of steps in a day or reaching the latest equivalent distance – such as the Great Wall of China – and it helps you push on towards the next milestone.
  • And it spurs you on when you see how well other participants and Fitbit friends are doing, through the 1 Million Step Challenge website, the Fitbit app and social media.

It was so nice seeing people sharing their steps and milestones on social media. How do you motivate yourself or make walking – or any physical activity – part of your day? Please share your suggestions and experiences in the blog comments, on social media with the hashtag #1millionsteps. It would be great to hear from you.

What it was like behind the scenes

Although we don’t have a formal innovation team or group at Diabetes UK, in recent years we have tried to come up with new ways of providing support and services, and new ways of fundraising to make it possible.

Back in 2013 our then Events Fundraising Manager, Mark Fox, came up with Swim 22, a fundraising challenge where participants swim 22 miles – the equivalent to a Channel crossing – across three months in the relative comfort of their local pool.

Swim 22 has been a great success. Taking the Agile approach that I had introduced, we started with a minimum viable product in 2013 on our main website without agency involvement. Building on the success of the first year, in 2014 we worked with our agency Manifesto to build dedicated sign-up forms, a distance tracker and shareable content such as progress badges, all based on the Acquia platform.

For the 1 Million Step challenge, we were able to go from a moment of inspiration early in 2016, for an event that wasn’t even in our original plans for the year, to build and launch for 1 July. This included registration and recording functionality along with progress badges – again all through Agile, taking the decision to launch with a minimum viable product based on the Swim 22 platform and requiring very little adaptation.

It allowed us to launch another effective fundraising product, supporting our prevention and healthy lifestyle message – with minimal budget and with our comms focused online and therefore with relatively low costs. We have been able to tap into the fitness tracking trend of the past few years, provide a mass participation fundraising event with a low barrier to entry than some sporting events – requiring no specialist equipment other than a pedometer and no facilities other than a place to walk.

Despite a fairly low barrier to entry, all along I have been conscious that despite the simplicity of the concept, the step target could be offputting for people who are less able to walk, so as part of our review and plans for development, I will be advocating different levels of target reflecting different levels of ability and achievement – in the hope of starting and encouraging more people to take their first steps to positive behaviour change.


2016 highlights – spring – homegrown UX for a new homepage (and beyond…)

Continuing my review of some professional highlights from 2016.

Spring 2016
– homegrown user testing

In early 2016 we began running in-house user testing/user experience (UX) work for digital products at Diabetes UK.

We’d had some great training from David Travis at UserFocus. We also invested in some software to allow us to run testing remotely online: Optimal Workshop, which includes Optimal Sort for card-sorting exercises, and Treejack, which allows you to set tasks based on navigating through menu structures to test groupings, hierarchies and section/page names.

We also established a dedicated digital testing room at our new office when we moved in September – and had a makeshift one at our previous office in the meantime, which doubled up as our media interview recording/ISDN room. We bought one further piece of software, Morae, that allows you to track and record user behaviour when you’re doing 1-1 user testing in person.

With just some of these basic bits of kit, you could start your own DIY user testing too.