Building Anthony Nolan around supporter engagement

Howard Lake | 6 June 2016 | Blogs

When I joined Anthony Nolan six years ago the Marketing and Communications department was very small – just a handful of people in a couple of teams. Since then the organisation has grown significantly, and now numbers 300 staff in offices, hospitals and research facilities across the country.
This is of course fantastic for being able to reach our goal of finding a stem cell donor for everyone who needs one – but expansion comes with challenges too. One of them is working out how to make sure that separate but closely related teams can work together effectively and avoid duplication and silo-working.

‘Many Ways’ approach

In the last few years we’ve taken steps towards integrating our supporter engagement through a ‘Many Ways’ approach. We know that many of our supporters have a personal link to the charity; perhaps one of their friends or family has experienced blood cancer, or they themselves have donated stem cells to a stranger. They often choose to do a variety of activities with Anthony Nolan to raise awareness and money: recruitment drives, being a media spokesperson, telling their story in a blog, running a marathon. Supporters interact with us in all kinds of ways, and our approach needed to change to reflect this.

Fundraising + marketing + communications = engagement

We’ve made good progress with this over the last few years, but last month we took an exciting step towards breaking down those barriers in supporter engagement even further. Following discussions with staff, we created a new Engagement Division to replace separate fundraising and marketing and communications departments, bringing them together under one director.
We hope the move will encourage different teams to be even more supporter-centric and to work closely when co-creating and planning events and campaigns, avoid duplication and overlap and capitalise on other teams’ activities. It will help avoid silo-working, give individuals exposure to different disciplines and encourage a ‘test and learn’ culture.

Anthony Nolan marathon runner

Marathon runner for Anthony Nolan

The move makes a lot of sense in the light of our Many Ways approach and it’s something we’ve seen work well in other charities, such as Plan UK and WaterAid.
When the Fundraising Director Catherine Miles announced that she was leaving Anthony Nolan after seven successful years, Henny Braund, the Chief Executive, took the decision to bring the two divisions together.
It is early days but so far the two divisions are working together well. We know it’s going to take time to change the working culture and create processes which reflect the new structure, but we’ve already started having conversations around how that can happen. We’re involving staff across the new division to help shape the culture and ways of working so that we can integrate further and build on our success.
We’re in the process of recruiting two new Associate Directors to join the divisional leadership team to aid the smooth running of the division. One of these will specialise in fundraising, to make sure that expertise isn’t lost.
Our supporters are an incredibly passionate and committed bunch and we need to structure ourselves to ensure we are best placed to support them. We’re confident that the introduction of the new division and the work we’re doing to co-create and jointly plan campaigns and activity will help Anthony Nolan achieve our ambitious targets to save and improve the lives of everyone in need of a stem cell transplant.
Our supporters deserve no less.
Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson is Director of Engagement at Anthony Nolan

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