Contra Agency

Significant Campaign Success for homeless charity Bench Outreach - Contra Agency

1 Jun 2018 - 16:11 |

Significant Campaign Success for homeless charity Bench Outreach

A little goes a long way.

Contra Agency love to support local charities. This year, our own Head of Film ran the London Marathon for Bench Outreach. As part of the campaign we produced a range of content from social videos, client testimonials as well as a short brand video featuring one of their success stories.

As with all clients, we asked Declan Flynn (CEO Bench Outreach) for a short testimonial. We were so blown away by his response, we thought we'd share it to celebrate our campaign success. Here it is in full:

"He walked up to me and said “I am going to run the Marathon for Bench. I had a dream. I was running the London Marathon and I finished last because I was helping homeless people as I ran round.” This did not surprise me. My friend John Ford has a big heart. Finishing last did not surprise me either. His shock of red hair is not the only difference between him and Mo Farah. He has never been described as slim and athletic.

I manage an organisation called Bench Outreach - a charity working with homeless people in South East London. We are small but well respected nationally. We were one of the first charities in England to provide “Housing First” to people who have experienced long term homelessness. Housing First is seen as an innovative and novel way of working with entrenched rough sleepers, although in practice it is such an obviously common sense approach it is surprising that local authorities haven’t been doing it for years.

Like all small charities, Bench lives in a twilight zone of financial uncertainty. We rely mainly on grant making trusts for funding and as local government shrinks – the London Borough of Lewisham by over 60% since 2010 – the burden on the charitable sector increases as the funding streams diminish. We need to become “sustainable.” This word is the bane of every charity CEO’s life. What does it mean? Surely our job is to become redundant, not to expand: however, if we want to be able to help people in need, we must as Yeats so graphically described, “Fumble in a greasy till and add the halfpence to the pence.” However much we desire to shy away from the notion of commerce, we need to adopt business models to survive.

So, say you, what has this got to do with running a marathon? When John first suggested he run for Bench I was happy but not overly excited. John and his wife Donna have been long term supporters of Bench and I thought he would raise a few hundred quid extra, have a party and that would be that. I was wrong.

John is one of the partners at the award winning Contra Agency. Contra is a creative digital agency, web design agency, video production company and software company. At our first meeting to discuss his run he said “Of course we will need to film this.” “Whatever makes you happy, John,” I thought. He started speaking a language I didn’t understand. “Search engine optimisation, content strategy, shareable content, branded content, content marketing.” I nodded sagely while thinking “What is he on about?” The next 16 weeks involved lots of running and a crash course on bringing our communications into the 21st century. Contra’s team made two short films that we are so proud of, but more importantly they created a plan that will help us to make the most of not just the films but the stories we have to tell our supporters, the knowledge we have gained through our work and the influence we can bring to bear on a system that is not designed to help vulnerable and homeless people.

So as well as £3,000 cash from the run and two great films that say more in three minutes about the real impact of our work than a thousand words could ever say in a funding application, Bench ended up with a much greater on-line profile, a plan to develop our website, a communications strategy and an awareness of the importance of telling our story to supporters and potential supporters. Our comms strategy is now part of a three year £1 million income generation plan and we are already 10% of the way there.

The money from John’s marathon heroics was very welcome. It can be accounted for in this year’s balance sheet: however the learning from our journey through the world of marketing and communications that Contra took us on has been priceless and will hopefully add to the sustainability of the organisation for many years to come."

From all at Contra - we're very glad to help and sincerely hope that many lives are transformed by the great work of Bench Outreach.

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