For a few years, we’ve worked on several projects without being paid. We always find it difficult to publicise some of this work as we don’t like to brag or show off. We know there is a difference between simply stating what we have done and blowing a trumpet about it, but it is a hard balance to strike. Given this, we often simply say nothing. We would rather say nothing than try to find a way to awkwardly put it out there, as it gives us too much anxiety that it will come across in the wrong way!
As a result of this, we don’t get credit for what we do. That isn’t a big deal for us, but recently we did realise that there were other knock-on effects. If we don’t talk about what we do, then others will be less likely to know about our work either. And those ‘others’ could include organisations we might be able to help in similar ways.
In terms of what we do, whether you call it creating shared value (CSV), corporate social responsibility (CSR) or community work, we don’t think it matters too much. We’re not really into labels – each member of our team will happily vouch for our fairly flat hierarchical structure. So when we discuss the projects we do we’re going to stick to describing them as ‘community projects’. This is mostly because this kind of work is very focused locally.
Coggeshall Youth Project
The first community project we worked on a few years ago was with a local charity called Coggeshall Youth Project. This is something I am involved in during my spare time, as I sit on a committee helping to run it, by providing fundraising support. We developed a WordPress website free of charge for the charity and also paid for a mobile phone for the youth worker. The charity relies on external funding from local churches, grants and events to keep it going so when an unexpected expense comes up, they really have to look hard at the budget to decide what to do and how to cover it. By being proactive and offering a new website to help showcase what they do, it will hopefully improve the visibility of the charity, get more children to the clubs and also support grant applications.
With the phone, this came up during a meeting and we were able to quickly and simply say, send us an invoice. It’s not a big thing but it was easy enough for us and something we are hopefully going to be able to do more of in the future. The after school clubs have a tech zone so we would love to help them get some new equipment for that. That is the kind of thing that got some of our team interested in tech or gaming leading them to where they are now with us!
Coggeshall Big Park Project Fundraising Group
Another local group we have supported is the Coggeshall Big Park Project Fundraising Group. Again, I am involved in this and act as Secretary for the group. We created a website that would be able to take donations through Stripe and PayPal, sell tickets for fundraising events and generally provide information on the group and its activities. In a number of grant applications, we found there were questions around how the group would showcase the grant and the donation given and having a great looking website is a key part of this. Since then we have helped to pay for a number of items, such as leaflets, banners and posters – all of these we have also designed.
Furthermore, the website performs fairly well when it comes to keywords around playgrounds and fundraising. As a result, a group in another area in the country got in touch to ask us for advice. We were able to explain the process we went through with the local Parish Council, funding sources we used and also some of our marketing work. This helped them to get started with their own playground project. Without the website, this sharing of knowledge would never have happened.
For the wider local community, we established a new platform called Love Coggeshall. This is a website that can support businesses, community groups as well as advertising events, acting as a sort of directory. Unlike many other community websites, it is completely free to use and add a listing to. As many businesses in the local area are relatively small, it gives them additional visibility. It is also now used to advertise the annual Coggeshall Christmas events, which always draws large crowds but has never had its own website; instead, it has had to rely on Facebook and word of mouth. Having a wider public platform helps with the administration of the event, getting new sponsors and also increasing footfall.
A project we began working on during the COVID pandemic was for Coggeshall Museum. This came about completely unexpectedly and was unplanned, for them and us. Unfortunately, their domain expired and was snapped up by someone else, and they didn’t have backups for the site. As a result, they lost everything. We had quickly spotted the issue and purchased a new domain for them, but quickly realised that they would need a new site.
We offered to create this for free, using our Lark WordPress theme, which is a bespoke starter theme created using flexible content blocks. As the previous website had been fairly outdated anyway, this was an opportunity to create a website that would allow the museum committee to do a lot more. They only have a small museum, but some of their exhibits are fantastic and people get in touch with them from around the world, due to local connections or interests.
With the blocks we created, we allowed for content to be added in a variety of ways. This high level of customisation ensures that the vast amounts of information could be presented in an engaging way, rather than appearing fairly repetitive.
The committee lacked technical knowledge of using websites, but through some socially distanced outdoor meetings (on in torrential rain!), guidance and training were also provided on using the site. We still provide ongoing support going forward so whenever a question comes up or help is needed, we continue to give this free of charge.
Friends of St Peter's School
Another organisation that we have recently started supporting is Friends of St Peter’s School – the PTA for St Peter’s Primary School. This group does an incredible job through social media in advertising what they do. However, with the pandemic, their fundraising got hit. COVID made it harder to hold events but also to manage some of their activities that they could continue. For example, taking and handling cash.
We got in touch to suggest creating a new website for them where people could pay online for various activities, make donations, purchase merchandise, find out more about events (which is helpful for those not on social media) and generally share their news. We listed donations as ‘products’ in their online shop, as many people wanted to donate for more specific items but there was no method for doing so. Now they can ‘purchase’ a donation for a specific year group and this can then be passed on to the school to be spent appropriately.
The site will be launching soon and will hopefully be a useful central reference point going forward, allowing them to gain more support, which is so valuable to the school.
We believe that social value or community work is important for all businesses to consider and we are exploring ways to do more. As we have started to talk more about the sustainability side of our work we do, we want to expand the various ways our agency can make a contribution. So if you have an idea or project you think we could help with, then get in touch. We are anticipating the next year being another difficult one for so many people and if there’s something we can do to lessen the pressure or burden on an organisation or group then we would be delighted to get involved.
(Post first published in 2020 but updated to include 2021 projects)