Public Relations: Charity begins at home

By Kevin Taylor,

This year’s CIPR Excellence Awards have just finished in a night of glory and glamour inside London’s poshest temporary marquee. I had two roles at the event this year.  One was to be there in my capacity as judge to present an award. The second was to round up a group of CIPR Presidents (past and future) to make our way around the dinner tables selling the fun casino money for actual cash; with the cash going to iprovision, the benevolent fund for the CIPR.

It was a good night and we raised more than £3,000 for the charity from PR people out to celebrate their successes – a sum of money that gave us a very good return against the cost we incurred providing the casino. You can read Colin’s story below to see how we use the money we raise – and I say ‘we’ because I am one of the Trustees of the charity charged with taking care of the money and using it wisely.

This year I judged the ‘low budget’ category, which was won by the team from MacMillan Cancer research, and I presented the award for the best campaign by a not-for-profit organisation to the Farm Safety Foundation.

During my judging of the Excellence awards over the years – across many categories – it is always good to see how many PR consultancies are willing to give up some time and resource to work ‘pro-bono’ for good causes. Usually these charities are chosen because someone in the consultancy has a connection with a charity or a favourite good cause.

This year, for example, one of those entries shortlisted in the low-budget campaign featured an agency with a personal connection to a campaign looking to raise enough funds to get specialist treatment for a young cancer victim.

That personal connection is very understandable, and it no doubt helps to galvanise the team who re-double their efforts and stretch their creative minds for the cause.  It’s not surprising therefore that so many of these entries end up being shortlisted or winning awards.

With that in mind, I’d like to encourage some consultancies to look even more inwardly for some inspiration.  Start by taking a read of Colin’s story and see whether you could ever imagine that situation applying within your own organisation.  I’m sure most people reading this will have worked with someone who has suffered some misfortune – maybe a colleague whose partner has had a bad cancer diagnosis, a co-worker debilitated by depression or someone struggling to cope with the aftermath of serious trauma.

Most of us will be able to think of someone or something like that – I once had a colleague whose teenage son committed suicide and I still can’t comprehend how she coped with that event.

I didn’t know back then about iprovision.  But those are exactly the types of circumstances that led to the establishment of the benevolent fund. It exists to help CIPR members, and their dependents, get through difficult circumstances. The charity can provide practical, emotional and financial support. As Trustees we consider all the applications and determine how to help people – maybe pay for some treatment, re-training, specialist counselling or make introductions to other organisations that can help.

But here’s the thing. We don’t really get enough applications. And going around the tables this year and last at the Excellence awards tells me that we are a PR charity that doesn’t get enough PR and therefore lacks awareness within the industry. We are also a benevolent fund that doesn’t have a big enough fund to spend much money on its own marketing.

So, we need some help. We need a PR consultancy – or more than one – to step forward and do some pro-bono work for iprovision. To recognise that charity begins at home, and that the support iprovision provides could be needed by any one of our colleagues or partners.

Put simply, iprovision needs more CIPR members to sign up to its voluntary donation which is added to the annual membership fee on renewal. It’s just a tick in a box to opt-in and add £10 to the renewal fee and it would make an enormous difference if more members took that simple step. On top of that, iprovision needs more one-off fundraising drives, and it needs more applications for support and more stories of how it has helped.

If you’d like to help email administrator@iprovision.org.uk.

Why it matters: Colin’s story:

“My wife and I both ran our own businesses when she became ill with what turned out to be terminal cancer – and the impact on our household finances was both swift and dramatic. 

We have two young boys, and things were very difficult as we were forced to manage on a reducing income. As my wife’s condition deteriorated it was not long before I too had to give up work to care for the family. 

My wife was a member of the CIPR and we contacted iprovision to see if there was any help they could provide.  I have to say that from the first contact with the administrator, and subsequent meetings with her, we received very sympathetic care and felt as if nothing was too much trouble. 

With iprovision’s help, we were able to make the best of things and enjoy the short time we had left together as a family.  Up until the sad passing of my wife, and in the weeks that followed, iprovision took away, or vastly reduced, our money worries at a time when there were more important things to concentrate on. 

Since then, my sons and I are slowly rebuilding our lives, but we will never forget the help that iprovision gave us when it was so badly needed and that helped us all to get through an incredibly difficult time.”

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