I joined NICE in January 2022, just over a year ago and in the midst of our 35th anniversary year. Although it’s hard to think back to, it was also in the midst of the pandemic, with restrictions still in place on centres like ours and on fundraising events. Despite this, it was a really important year for NICE and we had a lot of successes.
It was really important that NICE celebrated our 35th anniversary, for a number of reasons:
- To celebrate the work of NICE to date and our achievements as an organisation.
- Enable us to look to the future, outline our objectives and reiterate our purpose.
- Help us expand our reach so we can help more families in need of our services.
- Reigniting excitement around our unique organisation.
- Allow us to shape Organisational and Fundraising strategy and assist with planning events and campaigns for the year.
Having worked for national charities for the previous seven years, joining a smaller local charity like NICE was a real breath of fresh air. What immediately hit me was how dedicated and willing to get involved with fundraising all of the staff and supporters were. I couldn’t believe it when I realised there were staff still at NICE who had been around when the organisation was first started back in 1986! After years of working from home, it was also fantastic to be back in a busy building, and see the benefits of my team’s fundraising efforts first hand. I had never heard of Conductive Education previously, so observing sessions and getting to know the fundamentals behind it was really important. I learned a lot in my first couple of months, whilst also trying to bring some of my expertise from fundraising for a variety of charities.
I’d missed the launch of our 35th anniversary launch, which was held in December 2021, but I understood it hadn’t gone exactly to plan. The announcement of an imminent lockdown had come just prior to the event, which led to a lot of last-minute cancellations. We’d planned to launch our 35th Anniversary NICE Champions scheme at this event, so we had to think of additional ways to promote this and include more supporters.
Across the year, we had to adapt a lot to current situations and change fundraising plans accordingly. Luckily, all of the fundraising team and the wider organisation were really flexible and remained strong in the face of adversity. We had our highs and lows throughout the year – no sooner did Covid-19 restrictions subside, than the war in Ukraine began and the cost of living and energy crisis hit. Donations were down, and uncertainty around holding events and asking for support were at a high. We had to hire in to the fundraising team three times, so there’s been a lot of change for the department, but it’s brought new skills and expertise as well as fresh perspectives.
The fundraising team also look after all of the marketing for NICE, which means we are able to develop thorough communication plans, and share important messages about supporting the charity quickly and succinctly. We tied the anniversary in to all of our communications and events throughout the year and were really lucky that people were so responsive. We made sure that we were offering a range of events to cater for different types of supporters. There’s no point asking a child from NICE’s school group to attend a Golf Day, they’d quickly get bored!
We achieved so many amazing things over the year, from the Golf Day at Little Aston, to our Big Give campaign, and opening up our car park for a record amount of dates during the Commonwealth cricket games at Edgbaston. You can see some of our amazing supporters from across the year on our NICE Champions page, and I’ve highlighted a few of my favourite events here:
The idea for a ‘35’ challenge was already in place, so I worked with the team to refine the offering and make sure we were ready to launch in time for CE Awareness Week in March. At the charity I’d worked for previously, I’d organised a 77 challenge to celebrate their anniversary, so I had a good starting point. We came up with the three categories – Get Moving, Get Learning, Get Creative – to keep the challenge inclusive for supporters of all ages and abilities. I quickly learned how engaged and loyal our staff and supporters are by the types of challenges people were coming up with. The pre-school team and a dedicated parent took on an incredible 35 challenges over the month and some of the children who attend NICE achieved amazing things! The fantastic uptake meant that we smashed our fundraising target for the event, which was a much-needed boost for NICE income in the spring!
Our summer fayre is traditionally attended by our NICE families and is a great opportunity for us to celebrate all of their hard work by injecting a bit of fun! As a team, we like to brainstorm when we’re planning for an event or campaign so we can make sure we’re considering all possibilities and everyone’s voices are heard. We came up with an 80’s theme as a way to travel back in time to where it all began. This allowed us to come up with some great branding and ideas for activities. Some of us got very involved with the theme and we even had a choir singing songs from the 80s! On the day of the fayre, we again had to adapt plans last minute, as it turned out to be one of the hottest days on record, and we didn’t want any melted visitors on our hands as well as all the melted ice cream!
If I had to pick just one highlight from our anniversary year, it would be the Ball! The planning that went in to this from the committee behind it was astounding, and the generosity of donors, sponsors and attendees is unrivalled by any campaigns I’ve worked on previously. We set a target of £35k for our 35th anniversary and opted to hold it at the truly spectacular Grand Hotel in Birmingham City Centre. We held three auctions on the night and gave people plenty of opportunity to make donations. We raised well over our expected total for the event and attendees had such a glamorous evening. We even had actor Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh and auctioneer Charles Hanson in attendance!
The last few years have been a really tough time for charities, NICE included, so it was amazing to have our 35th anniversary as an opportunity to boost our fundraising. I really hope we can continue the momentum we built up – if only we could celebrate an anniversary every year!!
You can support NICE by making a one-off or regular donation here or find out more about our upcoming events and other ways to get involved.