Moving Forward In Times of Crisis - Supporting Students (Part 2)
Join us for this 1-hour webinar where we speak with Matthew Ingram, Student and Young Alumni Officer at the University of York and Chris Hartland, Regular Giving Officer at the University of Southampton.
In this webinar, we'll discuss how York and Southampton made the decision to move forward with their COVID-related student support appeal, the steps they took to ensure a successful launch and what next steps they'll be taking to engage donors with these appeals.
To watch the recording of this webinar, please click on the video (above) and register when prompted. All webinar recordings are free to view.
If you would prefer to read a transcript of the webinar recording, please find this below.
Matthew Ingram - Student and Young Alumni Officer, University of York
Chris Hartland - Regular Giving Officer, University of Southampton
Kat Carter - Head of Marketing & Digital Giving Specialist, Hubbub
Hi everyone, I'm Kat Carter head of marketing and a digital giving specialist here at Hubbub. Thank you so much for joining myself and our speakers for today's webinar. This is the second in a three part series where we will be hearing from educational institutions both here in the UK as well as in the US who are currently running appeals to support students during these very challenging times. While there is a tremendous amount of vitally important work happening right now to support our frontline workers as well as funding to aid research into finding a vaccine, there is also a need to ensure that our current and future students who attend our educational institutions have the ability to remain at these institutions in the months and years that follow the pandemic.
There are many institutions out there who are currently running student-related appeals and we hope that the experiences shared with you today will be helpful as you too consider the ways in which you may move forward with conducting your own student-focused appeals.
A worrying time for many
For many students and their families this will be a worrying time. Students who work to afford their education may find themselves worrying about how they will pay for their living costs while they are currently unable to work. Care for international students who are unable to travel home will become important for those institutions who still have students on campus at this time. Finally there may be a worry from parents who are concerned over being able to still afford the tuition for their children when they themselves are unable to work as a result of the current climate
As we've seen over the last few weeks, the generosity of our supportive communities has never been stronger. Alumni and others are coming forward in their droves to support these initiatives. From those Hubbub customers who are running COVID-19 related appeals we've seen a truly tremendous amount of support for a wide variety of projects that have brought our communities closer together in a united message of hope. Today we'll hear from Matthew Ingram, student and Young Alumni Officer at the University of York and Chris Hartland, Regular Giving Officer at the University of Southampton.Both Matt and Chris will share with us the experiences their institutions have had through running their emergency student support appeals, how those appeals were facilitated, the results they've seen and what's next for each.
The Univeristy of York
Presented by: Matthew Ingram, Student and Young Alumni Officer at the University of York
As a really quick introduction, just in case you wanted to put a face to the voice. My name is Matt Ingram. I am a student and Young Alumni Officer at the University of York, which basically means that I fundraise with, for and from student and recent graduate constituencies at the University. I do that through 3 principal channels: Crowdfunding, Community and events fundraising, Giving Days
We launched our crowdfunding site in summer 2014. We were the first UK Higher Education institution to have our own crowdfunding platform, beating Southampton back to the post just by a couple of weeks.
We've been crowdfunding for about 6 years now. In 2019 we took the step to diversify our crowdfunding platform so that in effect it does exactly the same thing as Just Giving does. Therefore, as well as students of York being able to fundraise for their own projects that are going on at the University, YuStart now allows students, staff, alumni and friends of the University to digitally fundraise for charitable causes at the University. Which is great. And with that move being taken, we thought that we would get together a whole load of events and opportunities for people to take part in and challenge themselves to fundraise for charitable causes at York. We did that to coincide with the launch of our £120 million fundraising campaign, York Unlimited. We also launched our flagship community fundraising event: The Great York Walk. As you can imagine, things were in a really great place, and we were looking to basically double the amount of income that we'd have seen into YuStart in 2019/2020 based on previous years' performances. And then all of this (COVID-19) happened.
Why They Took Action
At York, a Student Support Fund was our initial go to for a charitable giving fund. I know that universities like Oxford will have gone straight in with the research piece. For us, it's taken a little bit of time for our research pieces to emerge. It's taken a little bit of time for us to coordinate all of our civic mission activities, but a Student Support Fund was something that we went to straight away.
The reason why a Student Support Fund was our initial go to is that among Russell Group Universities, York is either the top university most years and they're bringing in pupils from a state, non-selective school type backgrounds. Or, we're up there at the very top and creating a diverse and inclusive kind of student community. That is something which has always sat right at the heart of what we do as a university. We knew that students were going to be experiencing the uncertainty of what was happening with their assessments and grades. We new students were going to see an adverse affect financially as a result of coronavirus, so we decided to do something to help. That’s when we decided to launch our Emergency Student Support Fund.
We launched it on the 25th of March, 2 days after lockdown was announced, and I think everyone was pleased I'd got it up and running so quickly. That fund had an initial total value of £270,000 which was made up of redirected funds from other charitable funds that we have to support students and student causes at the University. The awards that we offer are £500 each and they are awarded to students who in one way, shape or form are experiencing unexpected financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus and all of the restrictions that have come into play.
So we're talking loss of jobs. We're talking an increased requirement to purchase equipment to enable distance learning. We're talking an increase in utility bills because you're not using campus electricity anymore, you're using all of your own electricity. We're talking all of that kind of stuff. It's important to stress that we do prioritise access to that fund to people like care leaders, medics, nurses and people with disabilities or long term health conditions. The people and the demographics who are most vulnerable financially at the moment and who are most likely to be affected by coronavirus are the ones who get the priority on that fund. We received 795 applications in round one and we managed to make 341 awards, which is £170,500 that we have awarded from our initial pot.
We are sourcing all of the funds for the Emergency Student Support Fund from corporate bodies, trusts, foundations and higher level donors. But we thought two things:
1. We felt that it was important that we were asking anybody to give and that we were giving anybody the chance to offer the support they wanted to.
2. We saw this as a really great chance to build a sense of community and to encourage community giving amongst York alumni, staff and the University students, all of those people. As a result, we set up the Great York Pub Quiz.
The Great York Pub Quiz
I'm sure if you've been online for more than 10 minutes you'll have come across somebody either promoting a pub quiz or a screen grab of people who have done a virtual pub quiz. It's a really really popular community giving event at the moment. We thought, why not just do our own. and open it up across the whole York community. Our event was free to take part in and we encouraged donations right the way throughout. From the very start of the journey: from the second you land on the fundraising page, right the way through to the end of the quiz, we were encouraging donations (even though obviously we had free access to participation, which ethically felt like the best thing to do). But, also in terms of fundraising practice, we were really trying to model ourselves on a 'children in need' style event where you know if you want to you could sit in front of your telly from 7:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. and not give a penny and still receive great content, but you would be heavily encouraged to donate. It seemed like the best thing to do and the most effective tactic for us to take in order to make sure that we were toeing the line right with our fundraising messages. We had a page on YuStart which acted as our main landing page for the event and then from there we sent people across to register via Eventbrite.They just had to submit a couple of details. The really good thing about using Eventbrite, and it is our standard platform across events now, is Eventbrite sent automated reminder emails 48 hours before our pub quiz, two hours before the event and as the event started. All of that was directing people back to YuStart.
We found something really cool with the Hubbub platform.
For a long time, everybody's been able to take YouTube and Vimeo videos and embed them onto their fundraising pages. But, we like to experiment at York, and we found out that we didn't even need to change the technology in order to facilitate live web streams. We didn't need any extra technology in order to embed live video streams from YouTube onto our Hubbub page.
That means that basically you can run a live event on the left hand side of the screen whilst having your live total and your 'Donate' button right next to all of that content. We were hoping that that would have a really exciting element, almost a Giving Day element, to come to our event where people would be able to continually see how much we were fundraising live as those donations came in. We promoted the event over the course of five days. I think what's really interesting is now the fact that everybody's calendars have suddenly freed up, you don't need to give three months’ notice before an event. And actually that is compressed right the way down. We launched with five days to go until the pub quiz. We modelled that of Joe Wicks' exercise classes.
Joe Wicks announced that he'd be doing exercise classes five days before the first class happened. We thought, if it worked for Joe it could work for us, and that's what we did. The soft launch was the Tuesday after everybody came back from the Easter bank holiday. As you will see below, on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we sent out targeted communications to different demographics. These were mainly across staff, alumni and student constituencies.
What was really interesting is that actually 106 sign ups came over the weekend when we were doing no formal promotion and I'm still trying to figure out why that might have been. I think it might be because people were clicking onto the Eventbrite page and then leaving that tab in their browser while they decided if their friends or family were interested enough to be able to take part. Then when they knew people were interested, they had the tab there and they signed up. Like I say, with everybody needing so much less notice now to get involved, you're seeing people sign up around 48 hours before an event takes place. You can watch the full livestream if you want. It's available at: https://yustart.hubbub.net/p/york-pub-quiz/ It's really great, so please give it a watch. Please make a donation as well. It'd be rude of me not to ask. One really important thing to note if you are going to watch is that the livestream was live for just under an hour before the event actually started. The reason being that you want to make sure that everything is running really smoothly with the stream. Set it up with plenty of time to go and then you can accommodate any problem. Problem with your audio? You've got an hour to fix that for example or if your internet speed is a little bit low, you've got an hour to fix that.
Choosing a Host
Alex, our host, runs virtual pub quizzes every Friday night which is how I first heard of this. He's a young alum. He graduated in 2016 so I’ve seen what he's up to on social media and thought I need to get him to do one of these for us. And he's great. He's like a pro. I think there's two really important notes to take away from this. We chose an alum to front this first event from us. We felt that was really important for us to do. I could have sat down, read the questions out and done the whole thing and it would have been fine. But having Alex involved really gave the event an extra bit of authenticity. The second thing is if you can get somebody involved who is OK with the technology. Luckily, Alex is running streams like this every week so he knows how this runs, which took a lot of pressure off me actually.
I would quite like to learn how to do these sorts of things, and it's something that I'll have to do as we go into the future because the York Pub Quiz was a really great success. We want other people to do similar things.
If you don't want to watch the quiz right the way through the 90 minutes, here is a really quick overview of our format.
We delivered 5 rounds of 10 questions. We did Round 1 questions followed by Round 1 answers and then took a break. The breaks were really important because right before we'd go to a break we could make a light ask. We'd call the team captains to submit their scores so that they could go into a light leaderboard for example. That is when people are going to be donating ultimately because at the top, you know when they're answering questions they're answering questions. When they're marking answers they're marking answers. Ultimately you want to give time for people to donate, so those breaks are vital. You could also include some time at the top of every round to update on the leaderboard to find donors who had given and to interact with player tweets and comments as well.
We had some really fantastic responses. You want to be able to engage with those and respond to them. We were really lucky that out of 175 registered teams, 514 participants actually ended up getting involved from 152 teams. Really good spread across a range of constituencies and a really good fundraising total as well. We managed to raise just over £2,000. On top of all this really great quantitative stuff we've got some really nice qualitative feedback as well. Lots of people getting involved from different countries. Teams working across countries, which is amazing. I love these screen grabs of Zoom calls, which just illustrate that message of connectivity so well. And what's really nice to see as well is that people are asking us to do it again, which is what we will be doing.
The Quiz was a really nice moment for everyone. It's one of the things that I've been thinking about and it popped into my head really randomly a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to take a little detour here, not too much. There's an Academy Award winning short animation film called Logorama, which is a great film. The song at the close of that film, the lyrics are: 'I don't I don't want to start a fire. I just want to light a flame in your heart.' And I think that's what events like the Big York Quiz have helped us to do. We know that things like this aren't going to be the things that find the vaccine or the treatment for coronavirus. We're not saying that it's going to do that. What we want to do is bring people together and just do a little bit of good for people in our community in what is obviously understandably a really tricky time for so many people. We're going to keep on lighting flames in people's hearts, hopefully by building on the success of the Big York Pub Quiz, repeating that and hopefully trying to build a bit of a virtual quizzing community.
Diversifying our online community giving program
We'll be seeing more events and more virtual challenges. Everyone in the charity sector is talking about the 2.6 challenge at the moment, which has been set up by the team who normally run the London marathon before it got canceled. We might take part in that and get an iteration of that going for our community.
Hopefully we'll be able to introduce something like that as well as cook-alongs, sing alongs and readings. And all that great stuff. The reason that we want to do all of this is that we are raising money from it, we are building a community from it. We also want to make sure that our audience is kept warm and engaged, ready for the launch of a direct marketing appeal that we'll be doing in June. We're going to do a big direct mail appeal. We do one every summer.
Physical events cancelled = Loss of fundraising income
Because of the changes that we've seen and how we've needed to cancel or postpone some of our fundraising events, we're seeing a of loss of fundraising income and we're also seeing an increased demand from students (as you can see through the applications for the Emergency Student Support Fund). We know that actually this is going to be a really tricky time for the institution as a whole.
It's really important actually that we press ahead with our direct marketing appeal and hopefully events like this will keep the community nice and warm while we do those big fundraising pieces. First in June, hopefully everything will be back to normal-ish by Autumn term we pray because that's our telethon giving day. If we can keep our community warm and engaged and giving to students until then, we'll be happy.
The Univeristy of Southampton
Chris Hartland, Regular Giving Officer at the University of Southampton
I'm going to be talking to you today about our Southampton Coronavirus Response Fund, the work we're doing inside of that to support our students and also how we conceived and implemented that fund. The fund came about out of a few conversations, but particularly one I had with the Head of Student Services in Southampton. We were discussing e-mail fundraising activity that we were planning to be doing anyway, fundraising for our Student Hardship Fund and how we were going to slightly change that or tweak the messaging in light of the coronavirus crisis. What ended up happening was not really a small tweak but basically a whole snowball.
Why They Took Action
The idea was taken to our Development meeting, where it got combined with a whole bunch of other stuff, and what came out the other side of that was the Southampton Coronavirus Response Fund. It's a discretionary fund which is managed by a disbursement committee. That's the boring bit. Basically it's for anything Coronavirus-related at Southampton. It's not just for research and it's not just for students. It can be for anything that is helping tackle coronavirus or the effects of coronavirus in a Southampton context. I'll talk a little bit more about some of the projects that we have allocated it to in a moment.One of the big reasons why we wanted to launch a whole new fund (rather than just doing a one off appeal or a slightly smaller piece of work or just repurposing our planned activity) was that we as people felt helpless, as I think we all did and to some extent still do. We wanted to help but there didn't seem to be a way to help, apart from staying inside. But that doesn't really help the feeling of helplessness.
In times of crisis communities come together. They come together to do things and to make sure that the community survives. We can see that in all sorts of things that are going on at the moment. People going outside and clapping for the NHS every Thursday is a great example. It means that they feel a part of something and feel like they're supporting things.
We also see it right down to our kids, with things like Joe Wicks’ PE lessons for example. Everyone around the country now, it seems, gets together and does this fun thing every morning.
And that's another kind of community. As a university or as an educational institution we obviously have our own communities. We have our alumni, we have our supporters, we have our staff and our students. Those communities also need a way to express their help and to give real tangible help to people who have been badly affected by this crisis... and to support each other during this crisis.
Launching The Fund
We got this off the ground quite quickly for Southampton, or at least the length of time between actually getting the idea implemented - it was very very short. We got the green light for it on Monday. I got pulled into some emergency team meetings around Monday lunchtime at the end of March, and basically told that I needed to put together all of the digital infrastructure inside a week. After I'd picked my jaw back off of the ground, that was what we started doing and it really was an all hands on deck thing. We've got a team of about 35 at Southampton and literally everyone has been working on this.
There's a number of things that allowed us to get it off the ground really quickly. To start off with we needed the infrastructure to allow donations online. Obviously we can't accept cheques anymore, and we do still get quite a lot of cheques. That's fine normally, but right now it's not, as we're not in the office. We can't accept things that other people have handled. It's just not going to happen. Also our University Post team aren't working at full capacity at the moment.
A dedicated fund page
So we needed a dedicated fund page, and I will come on to that in a minute, but thanks very much Hubbub and Kat for getting that up so quickly. We were lucky in the fact that we have had to set this kind of thing up quite quickly in the past. There's been a couple of other instances where we've needed to have a public face for a fund really really quickly. Having that experience made it slightly less terrifying to get it altogether. Not much though.
We decided to go out by email
It was really the only option that was available to us that we knew would get to people individually. Social media is great but you can't Facebook message however many thousand alumni you have, so we went for email. The first thing we did was not segment.
So normally, as I'm sure for everyone else, we usually segment quite heavily. We cut out a whole bunch of alumni who we know don't really care about fundraising. We cut out people who have never donated, even though we've emailed them 35 million times. All that kind of thing.
Communicating to supporters
The only segmentation that was done was with our big U.S. based alumni community. We took them out of the general e-mail and we put them in with their own email. They got the same email but we direct US donations via the British Schools and Universities Foundation and also we didn't want our many thousand U.S. alumni to get the email at 3am in the morning, because, for obvious reasons, they're not going to be super inclined to read it. Everyone else was in the same bunch: major gifts donors, non alumni people who supported the university and anyone who we had an email address for. They might not have read it but they have been emailed.
This was also pretty important because it sped up data selection. When we're trying to email this many people, the idea of trying to put together 25 different segments in a week just isn't feasible. And then to have that data checked and everything else is just not a good idea. Simple segmentation got it off the ground quickly and then we could worry about everything else afterwards.
The next thing we did was that we had a vague idea of what the money was going to be used for but we didn't have impact stories and we didn't have case studies because the work hadn't happened yet. It's hard to say exactly what your money is going to do when the researchers who are doing research or the students who need help either:
a) don't know what their research is going to achieve, or b) don't know what help they're going to need.
We relied on the fact that we had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, and also our alumni are fairly used to seeing the kinds of things that we do with donations. They are used to seeing stuff about hardship. They are used to seeing stuff about medical research. And that was what we trusted. Basically we did provide some examples like, 'your money might go to help students who are in need right. Now they need your support'. But really focusing actually on the ask around the fact that it was something that you could do. That you could help. Rather than say exactly where or how the money would be spent. We also focused on getting the basics in place. When you're launching something this fast, it's quite easy to skip things that would have meant more cost later on. We're very very lucky in our Development team to have fantastic Operations and Data teams who do really amazing work keeping the whole ship afloat. For things like gifts administration; knowing that people were willing to put in the work to make sure there was the capacity to deal with hundreds of gifts at a time, was really important.
The next thing was gift acknowledgement, which for us is just making sure that we've got nice thank you's ready to send out to people when they donate.
We also used really inclusive messaging. What I mean by that is not saying, 'as an alumnus of the university,' or, 'as a supporter of university,' or, 'thank you for your previous gift'. It really ties back into us not doing segmentation. We are just saying, 'regardless of who you are, what your affiliation is with the university, you can help right now and we need your help right now to deal with this crisis'. And that really was as complicated as the asking got. One of the other things is that we didn't use ask amounts.
This is the email that we sent out to launch the fund. As you can see, it is all about what you can do. We had already sent out a little bit of information to our alumni and supporter community about what the University was doing to tackle coronavirus. What our researchers were thinking about doing and what students were doing etc. It was also written from the Vice Chancellor and we had a little bit of information about some very initial things that Medicine were doing. Then some information about particularly how medical students were getting involved in our work, but still needing support.
Then to come back to the ask amounts, we didn't use an ask amount. The ask is just ‘donate now’. It's not donate £5 now. We didn't segment, we didn't tailor ask amounts from people because, to be honest, there wasn't time. And we didn't have the option to do that.
The digital platform
This is the web landing page, and it was really amazing to be able to have just this simple functionality showing how many people like you have donated. This is how much they've raised and particularly the people who are coming on early already see that maybe 50, 60 or 100 people have already given, even though you only got this e-mail 10 minutes ago. That's really powerful. It demonstrates the immediacy of response to a really difficult situation. And, like I said earlier, reinforces that sense of community and being part of something larger, this coming together to tackle this crisis.
There's a bit on the landing page, which is basically a rundown and a secondary ask, to tell people about what fund is. When you scroll down we get a little bit of information at the bottom to contact our Associate Director Katherine if anyone wanted to make a gift of more than £10,000.
The Response So Far
So what's the response been like? It's somewhere between 40 and 60% of donors to the fund have not donated before. That is probably going to change as time goes on because we have probably peaked. Now we're on the downward slope now in terms of the weight of regular gifts coming in whereas the rate of major gifts coming in will increase as our face-to-face teams have more of a chance to develop relationships around this fund. There have been lots of new donors. That's been really interesting. I think it certainly demonstrates there is appetite in our community for donating to the University. It's just that they don't always feel like there is a need. That, in terms of our long term plan is certainly very interesting to think about. Right now, it's just great to see communities coming together to support us.
Need has also risen. The student-focused angle of this has become more and more important. They've needed the funding more as time has gone on. It has always been important but the need has increased. When I heard student services had launched their application process for emergency help. I think this was a couple of days before we launched the fund itself. It was because they had enough money that they were able to get it off the ground. By around 36 hours into that being open, 70 applications for help came in. Pretty much all of those were from students who were living paycheck-to-paycheck or not even living paycheck-to-paycheck. Instead, those living with overdrafts and those who had lost jobs and simply were not able to afford to pay rent or buy food or even get home to stay with their families. And that is an incredibly difficult situation to be in.
I only graduated recently myself and the idea of being in this situation is terrifying. The money the Student Services had for that fund was obviously finite; so is the money that we're getting from our donors obviously, but there's a lot more of it. The disbursement committee who manage this fund have allocated money to the student side of this quite strongly. Response has been pretty strongly tied to what we are putting out.
Getting the word out
The biggest spikes in donations come after we send an email. We sent one on the Friday that we launched and then we sent another one on Wednesday of the week after. We were basically saying, "You're amazing. We've already raised over a £100,000 from X number of donors. If you haven't already given, here's another chance". That is basically a lot like what you would do for a Giving Day or Crowdfunding project.
The other things that have been really important are Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), press releases, local news coverage. We have been really lucky to have coverage with the BBC and with a local newspaper. We're basically doing everything we can to create lots of noise to keep reminding people that this is happening and is something that they can help with. We're trying to keep that constantly in their minds. Even if we're not asking them every day, they are hopefully seeing something about coronavirus at Southampton somewhere in their lives during the day. It just keeps it top of mind, and if they are not sure about donating, hopefully that persuades them to do so.
Finally, and this is maybe a little bit more of an internal highlight, we sometimes struggle to get staff involved with some of our fundraising work. Our staff have been enormously supportive of things like the Centre of Cancer Immunology campaign, which closed a couple of years ago. We sometimes struggle a little bit more to get that support for student-focused work.Whereas, in this pandemic, people want to help regardless of whether or not it's for students or research. People just want to help.
The plan is to basically create more resources for the community, so we'll carry on fundraising. But we're also going to be trying to do things for the community as well.
So that's going to be through things like news articles, which is fairly normal stuff. We are also looking to do some video lectures, probably initially around coronavirus-related stuff, and also just things that people might find interesting. I think the first one of those is launching next week with Andy Tatem, who works in our Demography Department. He's been doing statistical global mapping related to coronavirus, so he will be talking about that.
Stewardship is obviously a really important thing. And rather than sticking to saying ‘thank you’ once a year, we are trying to update donors really regularly. Something we are keen to start saying, both to donors and non-donors, is:
“This is the impact that your community is having. Regardless of whether you're able to give.This is this success that you are a part of as an alumnus of this University, this is what you have achieved.”
It's important to remember that not all non-donors don't want to give. Maybe they just can't, particularly with people struggling during this current situation. And that type of messaging is something which we are going to be doing fairly regularly, probably on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. We're not over-egging the pudding but making sure that people are all buoyed up by the fact that they're a part of something greater.
Part of that is gathering case studies and impact stories to keep to the student side of things. It's really hard to do that before you launch a fund. I was emailing colleagues in Student Services asking if there was any chance I could have a quote or an image or a story. And they said to be honest we're flat out and we don't have time to write that right now. We can get it to you in a few days. They were just so busy making sure that students had a roof over their heads and food on the table, and that is more important than a case study or an impact story. We can tell those stories later. We can demonstrate that impact going forward, as students need to be helped first and foremost. And that is what they focused on.
The Student Services team have been amazingly good at getting the quotes and things as they've been able to. At the same time they’re keeping that working relationship and we understand that they're in incredible situations, and incredibly emotionally draining jobs right now doing front line social work with students affected by coronavirus during this time.
What We Would Do Differently
I think it's probably a little bit early for me to look back and say what we would do differently. But there are a few things which definitely need some work.
1. Don't be so worried.
It was terrifying. We had no idea if it was going to work. We thought it probably would. We just trusted that our alumni community were as lovely and generous as they are. And it's great. But it was scary to watch and I think we could have just trusted more that we knew what we were doing.
2. Thinking more about the user journey earlier on.
I don't think we've made it complicated but we've built some web pages, like the University-based fund page, which aren't super necessary right now. And there's been a little bit of duplication in webpage functionality, with some stuff our colleagues in Communications and Marketing have been doing, which could have possibly been avoided. It's hard to keep track of everything all the time.
3. We should have been planning for the future earlier on.
And I don't mean the long-term future. We have thought about the long-term future to be honest. For example, we know how we're going to deal with donors on this path going forward. But what will we do in the next three to six months? I guess it's hard to know that because I don't know what's going to happen in the next three to six months. But, I think a plan would be good.
Kat Carter: We really hope that what was said from both Chris and Matt today was really useful for those of you who are thinking about or are currently running student related COVID-19 appeals. It's interesting to see how the two institutions took very different approaches, which I think is something to look at, and also to really understand why they took those approaches.
You both started with a similar need in that you had students you knew would need support during this very challenging time. But, you went down two very different roads, doing and knowing what was right for your community. York, you have a very strong community giving presence and with your Giving Day, the Big York Walk and engagement with those audiences is really key for you. Therefore doing an event like the pub quiz makes a lot of sense for your community and where your culture is right now.
Then with Southampton, you're not far out from the Cancer Immunology Campaign, therefore it does make sense that this is something that is very similar because there is a research angle. However, you also have an opportunity to tell alumni and other donors about the student support angle and to wrap that up really nicely in a general fund.
All in all, I feel like the roads that you both travelled down were really important; especially important for your cultures. Therefore, it's about making those decisions of what was right for you. I guess what I want to say to anybody who's thinking about what they should do is have a little look back and think:
1. What do we know about our community?
2. What do we know that they like?
3. What do we know that works?
And then move forward from there to find the niche that your support or community would engage with at this current time.
Question: Did you already have a fund set up in place that supported students who found themselves needing hardship support?
Answer: Matt, University of York
The crude answer to it is no. Before all of this happened at York, we had two Flagship scholarships, which we still have. They were the York Opportunity Scholarship, which helps people as they come into university, and then we had a scholarship called the York Future Scholarships, which aids the promotion and pursuit of employability-enhancing activities. While people are at York, the Student Hardship Team was backed up by our Student Finance Support unit. In short, to answer that question the answer is ‘no’ - we didn't have a fund like we have now. But we did have other kinds of funds to support students from socio-economically diverse backgrounds.
Question: It was a decision to repurpose that money. Is that right?
Matt, University of York
Yes. A pretty large chunk of that money was due to be awarded over May and June. The York Future Scholarship for example was coming up to disbursement in May. Then in June, we were going to be disbursing grants to students through our Annual Fund. Obviously the future for both of those funds immediately was changed, pretty dramatically, and we knew that this was where the need would be better situated. Therefore, ‘yes’, it was about repurposing.
I think that's something that donors definitely understand (given the time period that we're in) if anybody is thinking about repurposing funds. As long as you communicate with your donors and you're really transparent about what the needs are, few of them will come back to say that they're not happy with that. I think we all understand the current situation and where we find ourselves. Chris, how about you guys?
Chris, University of Southampton
To answer that question, Southampton does have a dedicated Student Support Fund. The seed money for the new fund came from this existing fund through the Student Services team before we started getting fundraising income directly. I'd also just closed our telephone campaign before all this happened. We were fortunate to have a fair amount of money in that pot. That initial money has all gone now and we're starting to use some of the money from our Coronavirus Fund. We're just fundraising for it as the Coronavirus Response Fund. not fundraising for it as the Student Support Fund, which is part of a bigger piece.
Question: Do you feel that relationship that you had with your Student Support Colleagues (who run and manage the Fund through Student Services) helped you to move quickly when you needed to make a decision about what you were going to do?
Chris, University of Southampton
Yes, absolutely. That's been one of the things which I've really been working on since I started at Southampton - making sure we've got really strong professional links and friendships with colleagues across the university so that if things happen unexpectedly like this, we're able to respond really quickly to it. I was a little bit lucky I guess in that I already had a meeting in the diary with Florence, the Head of Student Services, for the first day that we were working from home. But equally, I talk to Florence most days at the moment by email or via teams, just keeping up to date with what they're doing. That's really helpful for something like this. She also sits with our Head of Widening Participation and Social Mobility, Gino, on the disbursement committee. They have a direct involvement in discussions about - where the money's going, when it's coming in, how much, at what time - all sorts of things like that.
Matt, University of York
I was just going to say I think you raised quite a personal point Chris. That, yes, obviously having a really great relationship with Student Support is vital, but I think it's really important to have a really quick triangulation of all of the different areas. I think it's important for that to be done. At York, our Head of Widening Participation sits within Student Recruitment. As such, there was a little bit of work that we needed to do to team up with Student Support and also make sure the Widening Participation team in Student Recruitment were all on board.
For anybody who is listening and thinking beforehand about the relationships that you have on campus and within your environment of your institution, one of the things on your to-do list when you get back is having a coffee with somebody in the University whom that relationship could benefit from just in general. I know that relationship at Southampton is always appreciated because they get great stories from students who are being supported through that team. But now, in this situation, that relationship has become even more important because you don't have to start from scratch. You can just move forward with the relationship you have, and this probably will strengthen it because of the nature of the situation we all find ourselves in.
Question: Particularly a question for York, it’s wonderful for the students who received their grants. However for those students who didn't get a grant, did you find that there was any backlash from that?
Matt, University of York
I don't have access to the inbox and I'm not answering queries directly regarding the Emergency Student Support Fund, but I haven't heard of anyone who's come back with a particularly angry response. Where we noticed that people weren't getting grants, we made sure that we were signposting to our local authority who have a grant scheme available and for emotional support. Also this is just round one. I think the plan is to open one round a month, so we are definitely inviting students to apply again if they feel that their circumstances have changed.
We did a webinar, which was the first webinar in this three part series, with South Dakota State University and they shared with us their application page. On the page was a list of things that would be considered for financial support and they also had a list of things that wouldn't be supported by the emergency relief. They were the kinds of things like bills - cell phone bills or mobile bills - but it was a good way to say at the very beginning before people apply that this is what we will accept and this is what we won't accept. Everything was made very clear from the start.
Question: Another question here from somebody who is getting ready to launch a similar appeal in terms of student support. They wanted to know why you went with the maximum of £500 for the award and, was there a conversation before that decision around a more flexible approach? If so, how did you come to that decision?
Matt, University of York
A couple of things would have informed our decision. First was looking at actually how much money we had to give out and thinking how we can make sure we are making the biggest impact with this money. And that we're reaching absolutely everybody who needs to be helped. We had no idea how many applications we were going to get in. We have a student body of about 18,000 students. With that initial pot of £270,000 that probably works out to 5400 students that we have been able to help with that money alone. First of all it was looking at how much we had and how much impact we felt we could make, without really knowing supply and demand. Secondly, the £500 is meant to cover somebody for a short period of time. Obviously where we are at the moment, we're re-evaluating the lockdown procedures every three weeks. Therefore, we wanted to make sure that we weren't giving awards of say £3,000,
One of the things that you could do is have that monthly round and saying that students can apply as many times as they want in these periods. But, it'll just be £500 and that should be enough for a student, looking at their living costs and what they need, to make sure that they can get by. It could be £500 for one month and then they can apply the next month and see where they are. If you're concerned about not being able to provide enough money maybe you could have rounds of funding, and students can apply more than one time. You could also look at things on a week-by-week, or biweekly, basis to see how the situation is moving and changing.
Matt, University of York
The other thing as well is that we have a really honest and constructive relationship with our Student Union. We trust that if our Student Union is saying this really isn't enough money to give somebody in one round, we'd react to that feedback. In short, £500 was an educated guess. However, if people came back and suddenly we were needing to hand out awards of up to £1,000, I think we'd listened to that feedback and take it on.
Question: Chris, you've had some major gifts into the fund. How are your Major Gifts team still connecting with those donors? Are they creating new relationships with anybody? And how are your Major Gifts teams still getting on when they can't have face to face meetings?
Chris, University of Southampton
They're on the phones all day, every day, talking to anyone who will be spoken to. About £150,000-ish now of the £280,000 (approx.) that we've raised has been from major gift donations. We've had some of that from private individuals and some of that, or at least one of those donations, has been a larger amount from a trust. It's hard for me to talk about exactly what they're doing day-to-day because I've been so busy and they've been so busy that I haven't really had much of a chance to catch up with them. But from what I've heard, people want to talk. A lot of people who they've been struggling to get into contact with are really pleased to take the call now because it's a chance to do something useful. Like I said, people want to help. Once you offer them the opportunity to do so it's gratefully received, and the donations are also gratefully received. I think we'll probably see quite a big uptick, not necessarily in major gift sized donations, but in donations from major gifts prospects in the next few weeks. I know that a lot of our face-to-face fundraisers are being quite careful about how they phrase the asks that they are making because people's finances, particularly if they are retirees, have probably taken quite a big hit if they're relying on investments or things like that. It is just something we are being careful around.
The big takeaway there that we're hearing from lots of people I ask this question to is that the conversations are still happening. They're not letting the fact that they can't speak with people face-to-face be a barrier to those conversations and Universities are just having a conversation with their donors at any level. If you're doing it en masse, it’s important to make sure that you're emailing them and keeping in touch, even on social media. But, if you have your major donors and your legacy donors pick up the phone, just giving them a call and not letting that lack of face to face ability right now stand in the way of that relationship is really important. You're very right to also say about having an appropriate conversation about the financial needs of the University, but also keeping in mind the financial needs of the individual. Regardless of if somebody is able to help, that reaching out in that phone call will be really valuable. Also asking their opinion about what they think, that could be really good feedback even if they're unable to make a gift at this time.
Question: Where do you think we will go from here in terms of how anticipating the need going forward for students?
Matt, University of York
We're going to see two really big needs that we're going to have to respond to. The first is around housing. A load of students are going to be at a point over the next three months where their tenancy is just about to come to an end. This means they will have to put their first payment down on their next house, which normally isn't covered by Student Finance anyway because you only get three payments a year. For that reason I think housing is going to be a really big one. The other thing that is important to stress is that I worry about banks and access to overdraft facilities for students. Obviously students get interest-free bank accounts. But, with the changes that the banks are currently having to make, I wonder if students are going to have to feel the brunt of some of those changes. Not in terms of having interest applied to their current overdraft but in terms of extending overdrafts that haven't already reached the maximum limit.
It's a really great insight for people who are still thinking if supporting students and setting up a fund or doing engagement activities around this is something we are too late for. It sounds like people aren't too late and if you set something up now in the next couple weeks there will still be needs in terms of what students at your institutions will come across and that support will be greatly appreciated when the time comes.
Chris, University of Southampton
I agree with everything Matt just said. I think we're probably going to see an increase in need, rather than a decrease, the longer this goes on. I think one of the things that we've been a little bit careful about is, although we've raised quite a lot of money, we're being quite careful not to disburse it all right now. We are keeping a little bit on the back burner so that if there is a second spike of applications for Student Support Staff or if we find a magic cure or whatever, we have money there that we can disburse. The Disbursement Committee will be meeting weekly to discuss where that money's going and we are trying to plan for the future as much as we can.