How other charities do… end-of-year roundups

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For many people, the period around Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection on the past year. Folks in the media know this very well, and fill newspaper supplements and TV schedules with ‘end of year’ lists. So it’s also a great opportunity to be sharing the charity’s achievements with your supporters and followers.

However, coming at the end of a busy year and before a well-deserved break, it’s totally understandable that charities might end up throwing together their end-of-year roundups at the last minute (if they do one at all).

But if you don’t shout loud about your charity’s achievements, who will? With a little effort, I think it’s possible to make end-of-year roundups really interesting and inspiring, giving your supporters and charity colleagues a warm fuzzy feeling that will last well into the new year.

Below I share a few ideas of how other charities have done this. As always, these examples are from the medical research charities, but many of the ideas will be relevant to other charities too.

Stick to the highlights

A lot of the advice I shared in my blog about achievements webpages is relevant to end-of-year roundups too.

One key similarity is that the end-of-year roundup isn’t the place to list everything you’ve done. Share the highlights, the things you’re especially proud of, and use it as an opportunity to highlight different areas of work.

In 2018, Prostate Cancer UK gave their top ten achievements, and Cancer Research UK somehow managed to condense their year into just five stories.

screenshot of Prostate Cancer UK's 2018 roundup

What about ‘other things’ that happened – things you can’t really call ‘your charity achievements’, but which you still want people to remember? Maybe you’d like to celebrate a person who did something amazing to raise money? Or highlight different events that your charity has been a part of?

Whatever it is, it’s your end-of-year roundup, so it’s up to you! I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to do this.

As an example, the Institute for Cancer Research in London had two roundups in 2018 – one was their scientific achievements, and the second was for ‘other’ achievements (many of which were still research related). Separating them out in this way is a clever way to get around the problem of ‘we can’t talk about everything’. Could you consider doing a few different roundups to celebrate different areas of your work?

screenshot of the Institute for Cancer Research's 2018 roundup

Snappy format

Listicles work well as a format for end-of-year roundups – think of all the “Top films / albums / TV shows of the year” lists in magazines. Alzheimer’s Society’s roundup of their top 10 developments from 2018 is a good example of this.

screenshot of Alzheimer's Society's 2018 roundup

Whatever format you use, the key is to keep it easy to read. Use short and punchy summaries of each achievement, with links to full stories if people want to find out more. Breaking up a wall of text using headings, images, and videos can help people scan through easier. And ALWAYS make clear the impact for your charity’s ‘beneficiaries’, whoever that may be.

Breast Cancer Now’s lovely round-up from 2018 used some nice GIFs and clear headings to break up the text.

GIF from Breast Cancer Now's 2018 roundup

Other charities take a different approach, such as the “letter from our CEO” format (sort of like the ‘round robin’ letters that some families send each other with the Christmas cards). Personally, I’m not a huge fan of these – the ‘letter’ format can lend itself to be a bit waffly, and though it might seem more personal, I don’t think anyone believes that these are actually written by the CEO (even if they did!)

Consider a sensitive tone

In the wider world, the festive season is a time for celebration. But for many supporters of medical research charities, the end of the year can be a time of sadness. For example, it might be another Christmas without a loved one, or could come after a difficult year of health problems.

When it comes all external communications towards the end of the calendar year, it is important to strike the right balance between ‘celebration’ vs ‘remembrance’. For end-of-year roundups specifically, most charities appear to opt for a positive tone overall, which makes sense – they are celebrating their proud achievements.

Having said that, I think it is possible in these roundups to also be sensitive to the sadness some people might be feeling. No matter how great a year it’s been for your charity, there will always be more work to do.

The main message – THANKYOU

There’s one message that sticks out in a lot of the end-of-year roundups, and it’s “thankyou for your support this year – look at what we achievement together”.

Your charity is funded by the generosity of the public. Your work would not be possible without them – your achievements are in fact their achievements. So be certain to thank your supporters!

This sense of “we did this together” can be achieved using inclusive language. CICRA’s roundup from 2018 is a great example of this. To show the impact they had for children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, they used headings like “we helped children and families with information and support”, and “we worked with health professionals to improve care”.

screenshot of CICRA's 2018 roundup

Bringing “other voices” in

A nice way that some charities have injected some variety into their end-of-year roundup is have other people contribute. Here are a few examples of this in action:

  • In 2018, Parkinson’s UK put out their top five achievements of the year. They also asked their Parkinson’s Research Support Network (a group of people living with Parkinson’s disease who are involved in research) to contribute their own highlights. It’s great to hear from people affected by the condition about what they’re excited about in research:
Screenshot of the 2018 roundup from Parkinson's UK, including a quote from someone called Carroll, which reads: “In this last year, I have realised computers make a great difference in all areas of Parkinson’s research. Such as speeding up the search for drugs for repurposing, in stem cell therapy and immunotherapy.

“After attending a recent conference on artificial intelligence, I’ve learnt that machine learning algorithms will allow these computer systems to predict the best outcome for Parkinson’s treatment.”
screenshot of a 2018 roundup from Bloodwise
  • Autistica had a ‘12 days of Christmas’ style social media campaign, with daily videos from staff and supporters. Some of these videos can be found on Twitter here; see below for one example:
  • For their fab 2018 roundup, Versus Arthritis included nice quotes dotted throughout, from staff, supporters, and people affected by arthritis, commenting on the various achievements.
Screenshot from Versus Arthritis' 2018 roundup, including a quote from Francesca, who had arthritis, which reads: “I’m very lucky with my friends and family and the university, and the support I have. I made it very clear when I went back to university for the second time that I might struggle, and they’ve been amazing, which has made a huge difference.”
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