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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E142 - Navigating COVID-19 and Beyond with Sam Butler and Kevin Mounce

“Now is the time for systematic change. If you want to do something transformational there’s probably never been a bigger opportunity.” - Kevin Mounce

In this episode, we speak with Sam Butler, Head of Fundraising and Kevin Mounce Head of Partnerships & Philanthropy, at Starlight Children’s Foundation. The Foundation is a national children’s charity that champions the importance of play for seriously ill children. They aim to improve the hospital experience, create moments of social connection and amplify the voices of parents, carers and children.

In this episode we discuss how Starlight Children’s Foundation has navigated the pandemic, their empowering organisational culture and future vision.

1. Successes over the last 12 months

As a result of the pandemic, Starlight Children’s Foundation has responded to new challenges in a number of ways. Sam explains that their new donation portal has helped to develop relationships with key external companies. They also repurposed an upcoming appeal to an emergency appeal which enabled them to quickly turn around their previous donation campaign.

The organisation utilised a feedback platform to ensure they reach the hidden voices, meeting the needs of the children and families at the heart of their charitable mission. As a result of their feedback, Starlight has introduced a sensory box. Starlight Children’s Foundation has also developed new services such as VR on the hospital wards.

Internally, the organisation organised a Christmas social and an award ceremony to recognise the contribution individuals had made. Sam thought this was touching and showed the human-side of the organisation, each individual is more than just your role.

Sam details a change in work process at the organisation to encourage diverse thought and innovation. Following a sprint process workshop, junior staff were encouraged to come up with suggestions on how the organisation could improve or change. Using sprint-style working groups they would share the problem and solution at all staff ‘huddles’.

2. Fostering an empowering organisational culture

Sam speaks about the significance of the can-do mentality of the senior management team (SMT) which positively influenced the whole organisation. Everyone in the organisation had a key role in the transformation of Starlight’s work during the pandemic. The way in which the team were able to innovate and reflect their work externally with authentic messaging for their beneficiaries.

Sam adds that the framework set in place by SMT, including the induction and recruitment of new staff led to healthy relationships within the organisation. There was clear investment and energy dedicated to developing staff such as the Clifton training course. In the summer the organisation re-focussed and reviewed what was working well and what they should do in the lead up to Christmas.

Additionally, for Kevin who joined the team two weeks into the pandemic, the authenticity at Starlight Children’s Foundation was “immediately clear”. This has been really important during the pandemic as children were isolated more than ever, therefore needed even more support from the organisation.

Kevin also highlights that the Board of Trustees also stepped up at this time and created important connections for the charity in hospitals and the wider health sector.

SMT at Starlight Children’s Foundation created space for everyone in the organisation to contribute to key conversations with recent important “challenges of thought” such as Charity So White and Show the Salary. With everyone’s involvement in these discussions, it has meant that the strategic models created by SMT have had the “buy in from the off” - Kevin Mounce.

Kevin also explains the value that the 5-6 new members of staff from the Charityworks scheme has brought to Starlight over the last 12 months. Kevin has been blown away by the level of work they produce and they bring diversity of thought to the organisation. Some of the staff on the Charityworks programme also contribute to the organisation’s EDI group. Kevin feels that the way the EDI group has contributed to the wider work at Starlight Children’s Foundation is a testament to how much the organisation “get’s right”.

3. Starlight Children’s Foundation’s vision for the future and key opportunities for charities post-pandemic

One of the key components of Starlight Children’s Foundation vision for sustainable support is shared experience. They are creating an alumni of children and families to facilitate interaction between families who have been through or are experiencing similar situations.

In terms of fundraising, Starlight Children’s Foundation encourages continuous innovation. They feel that innovation is not always practiced in the charity sector but is vital for the sector. The team has been utilising the ‘Big Tech’ tools available such as Facebook’s fundraising tool, explaining that Facebook has the data to understand where and how people will donate.

Reviewing your budgeting process should be a key priority during challenging times, such as the pandemic. Sam shared that the team at Starlight Children’s Foundation created a new iterative budget with five different scenarios of what was going to happen according to the various outcomes of the pandemic. This has allowed them to respond in the best way possible.

Kevin views Starlight as “a start up with history”. Despite the pandemic affecting their work, the team has forged strong partnerships with the NHS, philanthropists and corporate partners. Kevin thinks it’s important for charities to keep a long-term plan in mind, even through the day-to-day challenges.

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

This episode is brought to you by our platinum sponsor Charity People.

For more about responses to the pandemic and tools to do so, you may be interested in:

E129 - The Charity Digital Code of Practice with Zoe Amar and Graeme Manuel-Jones

E116: Team Resilience with Anne Hughes

E138 – Fundraising Through The Pandemic With Howard Lake


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