The response of charities to coronavirus lockdown has been inspirational. Demand is up and the government is not supporting the setor at the time of writing.

We caught up with Toni Skidmore, Head of Marketing and Communications at The Mix, a charity supporting young people with any issue they’re facing, to hear how they have adapted their working practices and services.  

Like every other charitable organisation, they are adapting to a brave new world. Unlike many charities, they are in a unique position in that they were already delivering all their services online and by phone. 

Working from home

We made the decision on Monday 16 March, after the government announcement that all staff should work at home if they could. 

We had a plan in place: 

  • we had already secured the equipment, and asked all staff to take their laptops home a few days before
  • we developed a new internal communication system 
  • we responded to increased demand from young people who desperately needed our help in coping with the impact of a major global pandemic, by offering even more counselling sessions 

Some staff members still needed to come in and collect what they needed. So it was a frantic and stressful time. 

Despite the huge upheaval, we managed to close the office in 24 hours and set all staff up remotely. 

Looking after ourselves

One of our biggest challenges is making sure that staff pace themselves and practice self care. 

We are in this for the long haul and we need to ensure we all continue to look after ourselves. 

  • We’ve started organising wellness activities, which are available for all staff, such as online meditation and yoga sessions.
  • We developed a brand new working at home policy, with support from other similar organisations in the mental health and youth sector. 
  • We have set up all our internal communications, using Microsoft Teams to run our meetings via video calls, so we can continue to work effectively together, even if we can’t all be together. 

Delivering our services

Our biggest challenge was how we deliver our services to young people and respond to increased need.

This was easier for us as large parts of our high quality service were already delivered remotely: 

  • our counselling service is phone based
  • our online community is moderated by remote volunteers
  • we have over 2,000 articles on our website to support young people. 

We were starting a strategy to deliver our helpline remotely with staff and volunteers. We managed to roll that out in under two weeks, a much shorter timescale than originally planned. 

Our helpline team usually supports volunteers in person, at our offices. Now the helpline team are supporting volunteers remotely. So we needed to get them laptops, headsets and keyboards and mice where needed, and fast. We also need to adapt to remote support and the challenges that brings.

We have a new tranche of volunteers ready to go to meet the increased demand. 

All of this has been possible thanks to the hard work of our counselling team.

Thanks to the hard work of the team (one of whom only started their role two weeks ago!), the roll out was successful. We have increased our contacts by 20% since the lockdown and our online community has seen a 90% increase in activity. 

Creating content for coronavirus

The Mix is a charity that is for and supported by young people. 

So our youth participation team reached out to our young people to get their thoughts and ideas on what we need to focus on. 

We will use this to inform all of our web, social and video content, in the hope that it helps address the current situation and all the anxiety that it brings for young people.. 

Fundraising during lockdown

Like every other charity, we need funds to deliver our service, and indeed to upscale, 

In the last two weeks, our fundraising team has 

  • reached out to all our donors
  • worked with all our existing partnerships
  • created new ones to apply for funding

The marketing and communications team have launched an individual giving campaign within a week, called Space to Breathe. The aim is to keep our essential services running and give young people space to breathe and seek support at this incredibly difficult time. You can donate to it here. 

Every day has brought another problem to be solved. Every day, staff have risen to the occasion, as have people all over the country. 

We hope with secured funding we will be able to continue to meet the increased demand for young people in their time of need.

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