Communication in times of pandemic: social organisations pull their socks up

The pandemic and social distancing have arrived with a bang in the Asilo de Luarca hospital in Asturias.
Continue Reading Communication in times of pandemic: social organisations pull their socks up

Communication in times of pandemic: social organisations pull their socks up

How social organisations deal with this crisis will define their survival in the medium and long term. Here we analyse how they are adapting their communication so as to reinforce the message and boost fundraising.

By Pilar Ballet  Stone Soup consultant specialised in strategic communication
and Angela Millan  Stone Soup consultant specialised in creativity and social innovation and fundraising
Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni
The pandemic and social distancing have arrived with a bang in the Asilo de Luarca hospital in Asturias. The residents are senior citizens whose lives, up to now,  have focused  on enjoying their visits,  taking part in outside activities and local life. However, nowadays they are isolated in the home with hardly any physical contact and afraid of contagion. “Before this it was very important for us to tell people  what a happy home it is and change the negative perception that people usually have of residences by talking about our daily life, anecdotes and life in general. With the corona virus we’ve lost that happiness and don’t know how to convey what we do and get it through to people” explains Sandra Cuesta, director of the home. This is one of the direct consequences of the pandemic  on a lot of social organisations in Spain. How to communicate when many of the organisations are still searching for their own new normal?
Something similar is happening with the organisation “Strides on Wheels” (Zancadas sobre Ruedas) in Murcia. Due to the impossibility of of carrying on with sporting activities for people who are dependent they have centred their work during the last few months on helping in the home and strengthening contacts between their clients through the social networks. Nevertheless, as their president Teresa P. Rodriguez says:”The kids need to get out again, do exercise and get back to their normal life but it’s difficult for us to overcome their fear of contagion if they can’t see from our social networking that things are back to normal and this is very difficult for us to transmit with our activity paralysed”.

The trouble is that the pandemic is especially harmful to the most vulnerable sectors. Social organisations are used to doing a lot with a Little and today require even more resilience to face up to this complicated time. Social distancing is jeopardising a lot of the pillars which sustain their work as well as their economic survival.

Adapting the message to the context is the key to the question

The estate of alarm meant a radical halt to activity by many social organisations so some of them, in accordance with their misión, have opted for redirecting their work. This is the case of Proactiva Open Arms which has adapted its rescue work in the Mediterranean to protect life on land too. Well-known for its agile and flexible communication, especially on social media, the organisation has fitted its message to the needs of its audience. By using what they know and supported by careful imagery they have persuaded  an objective public through calm and familiar messaging.

Other organisations have not had to redirect their activities  but have had to adapt their message to the new context. Such is the case of Grandes Amigos and their campaign “Covid Emergency. No Senior Citizen Alone.” which managed to quickly link their usual activity in support of the elderly to the confinement situation; or that of Faramundi, an NGO in cooperation and development  which uses a specific landing to present its usual activities under the prism of Covid 19.

What this pandemic has shown us is that you don’t have to be a genius in digital analysis  to get good results in communication and fundraising. With this in mind it is interesting to analyse the communications campaign of the social enterprise Agua Auara. Based on a crowdfunding campaign and by using Facebook and Instagram as their main communication channels, after 10 weeks and 10 publications on social media they made the most of the storytelling technique and raised more tan 168.000E from companies and private individuals.

What about fundraising?

A key point in any strategy is prioritising the messages depending on the purpose of the communication and this is even more so at the momento. It is not the same thing to look for donors as to look for volunteers, mobilise your people or raise awareness of a certain cause. Above all, in an emergency context it is indispensable to analyse the feeling in the Street so as to adapt your messages in an agile and flexible way. Sarah Sobron, marketing director of Educo,says that one of the lessons learned has been “ the importance of agility in the organisational response. Timing is crucial for people to see you as part of the solution”. In Spain alone the Educo campaign Free School Lunches (Becas Comedor) has managed to triple the amount invested and raised 1.5 million euros up to now.

The weeks pass and the médium and long-term future becomes more complicated. Standing still is not an option.It is time to reconnect with the audience, make the most of  circumstances to improve internal procedures, test new activities and search for a new public or for strategic partners. This is what the Boscan Foundation has done. It is a small organisation in Barcelona that has jumped into the digital swimming pool with an online fundraising campaign. Clara Millet who is in charge of fundraising didn’t hesitate: “We weren’t sure what was going to happen, whether this crisis was going to last a long time or whether this initiative was going to work but we saw an opportunity, took it and now we have to carry on with the work”. With an investment of less tan 500E their campaign Score a Goal Against Covid 19  (UnGolaCovid19) has managed to raise more tan 45,000E in a few months. Their secret? Involve all their social base and not be afraid of trying. They also worked on the long-term relationship with their donors treating them like partners to strengthen their commitment with the organisation and, consequently, its long-term economic sustainability.

We know that competition for  available resources will be greater than ever in the next few months. The initial emergency phase will dry up soon and there is an urgent need to strengthen organisations’social bases by refining communication, identifying new donors and adapting to new realities every day. How social organisations face up to this crisis in the field of communication too, will define their long-term survival. Ricardo Valls classifies these organisations as gazelles or elephants, a difference  that can also be applied to the communication strategies of social enterprises. Those who prove to be agile and flexible, like gazelles, will be less likely to end up in the sad elephant cemetery.

This article has been written in the framework of the Stone Soup Consulting probono project “Recipes for Impact” which has counted on the participation of 29 social entities.

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