Two cents blog

Farewell London

by Paul Cornwell on 11 March 2016

As we left Heathrow this morning, the first leg of our oOh! Media Million Dollar Pitch came to a close.  London was colourful, busy, exciting and stimulating.  We saw lots of high impact out of home media in categories like retail at Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, transit outdoor in the London Underground system, large format billboards on major arterial roads, and large format digital outdoor last night at the famous Piccadilly Circus, where McDonalds invited consumers to create their own character via ‘Little Picca’, and Hyundai offered free WiFi.

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LG’s flagship digital billboard showed just how far technology has moved, with HD-like quality you’d expect in your lounge room.

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But for me, a high point of the London part of our trip was my meeting on Friday with Sue Freeth who is the CEO of Combat Stress.  This organisation is the UK’s leading veteran’s mental health charity. Sue very kindly gave me two hours of her time discuss their organisation, its charter and its work. She explained their history, their challenges, their successes, and their business.  Thanks to Sue’s generosity, I learnt a great deal for our pro bono client Walking Wounded Australia.

So, what did I learn?

Firstly, trust is everything.  Sounds obvious right?  Yes, it is. But it did remind me of the importance of organisational structure that gives supporters, donors, staff, volunteers, corporates and, most importantly, ‘clients’ belief that the organisation’s values are sound, that it will ensure that every dollar possibly is focused on positive veteran outcomes, and that its capabilities are of the highest standard.  How does one build this trust?

Whilst it takes time to achieve a goal like this, some simple things can build trust with key stakeholders.  Like having a well-known and trustworthy patron.  Also a ‘board’ of trustees that represent all aspects of the organisation and its work, i.e. military, medical, veteran, business, etc.  And having a set of capabilities built on rock solid medical and psychological best practice will ensure stakeholders’ trust the organisation’s capacity to deliver the very highest standards of care.  For a fledging not-for-profit like Walking Wounded, this will be critical to success.

Secondly, veteran health should always be the number one priority and must be managed via health professionals who are qualified to deal with mental health, stress-related disorders, PTSD, and general medical and psychiatric care.  This crucial work cannot just be left to volunteers who are not qualified to handle this highly specialised and sensitive work.

Thirdly, the not-for-profit sector is now so intensely competitive that to achieve success, a well-meaning volunteer based solution just won’t cut it. Sue encouraged us to consider engaging paid professionals for most activities, when possible, as they’ll be more effective and more efficient than volunteers.  This is certainly something I’ll discuss with the Walking Wounded team.

Finally, funding is a multi-tiered process that requires differing approaches according to the source.  For example, Combat Stress generates significant income from government subsidies as part of the UK’s NHS (National Health Service). Other funding sources may include corporate sponsorship, but these are increasingly hard to secure with most corporate supporters offering ‘in kind’ support.  Community groups can be very valuable partners from a fund-raising viewpoint.  And individual donors are crucial to success, both from a bequeathment perspective, regular donations, as well as one-off support.   Sue mentioned that one of the most successful fund-raising mechanics, in her experience, are fund-raising events such as on-the-street collecting.

Plus I picked up a range of useful pieces of advice and guidance for Walking Wounded.

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So, as our out of home oOh! Media campaign continues back at home in Australia, I will debrief our WW team on my meeting with Combat Stress, and hopefully we can further drive the effectiveness of our efforts and of course, oOh!’s incredibly generous support of Walking Wounded.

Thanks again to Sue.

Next stop New York.  Stay tuned for the next update.

Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM.

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