This year, for the first time, we selected a ‘Charity of the Year’ for our Aberdeen offices. We have always taken our commitment to CSR seriously and at the end of 2014 we decided the best approach for the year ahead was to focus our support on one charity, to maximise the benefits for them and the opportunities for our personnel to get involved.
We engaged with our personnel to establish which charities they felt we should support. After receiving many varied suggestions we narrowed the list down to five options, not an easy process in itself as all charities suggested were deserving of support. We engaged with personnel once more, asking them to vote for the charity they felt would most benefit from being our Charity of the Year.
In the end our personnel chose Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA), a charity providing support services, counselling and advice to people affected by challenges related to mental health and wellbeing. MHA had been suggested by one of our personnel whose friend had been helped by MHA, so they knew first-hand the support that they provide.
We approached MHA to establish how we could work with them. We were clear that we did not want to hand over a cheque in January and have no interaction with them for the rest of the year; we wanted to identify different ways we could support them throughout the year and get our personnel involved.
We agreed a programme of events and fundraising activity, recognising that a number of smaller events would have a bigger impact. And our personnel lent a hand where they could – most notably moving furniture and helping to paint the MHA offices in Aberdeen.
The impact on our personnel has been clear, particularly when hearing about the services that MHA provide and some examples of the support they have given to individuals. This has been very powerful and has helped to raise awareness of mental health challenges that we can all face, while at the same time tackling some of the perceptions and misconceptions that people hold (unfortunately mental health remains a taboo subject for far too many people).
An example comes from the first ever ADIL Ceilidh in September – an event our personnel organised specifically to raise funds for MHA. It was an excellent event, clearly enjoyed by all that attended and the biggest impact came from the real insight shared by MHA Chief Executive Astrid Whyte. Her powerful story demonstrated the invaluable work of MHA and the difference they make to so many people, young and old, and reminded everyone why they were there that night.
I believe that choosing our Charity of the Year has not only helped to raise awareness and change perceptions of mental health with our personnel, and in turn their friends and family, but in many cases it has also started to develop long term support for MHA. So looking ahead to 2016 I would encourage other organisations to look at supporting their own charity – one that their personnel can truly engage with.
Communications and Marketing Manager