This week I’m excited to share that we are coming to the end of a very busy and successful Autumn for the Pilotlight Direction programme, run in partnership between Pilotlight and Barclays.

A child on her dad's shoulder with her fingers over her eyes


Since the start of September, 50 senior leaders from Barclays have joined forces with 10 charities from across the UK to address some of the key challenges they are facing as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

This included working with Doorstep Library and the Child Brain Injury Trust to consider the implications of using new digital technologies as part of their delivery models, and with the Ascension Centre, Visyon and Care and Repair Cymru to explore how best to create commercial income streams for their organisations.

We recognise that there are many recommendations emerging from these projects that will be relevant to a number of charities across the sector who are wrestling with the impact of the pandemic. I’ve captured some of these reflections below, and hope they are of use to you and your charity over the next few months:

Developing a new programme

When developing a new programme, it’s worth considering:

  1. Your core purpose as a charity. The saying “be famous for doing one thing and do it beautifully” can really help to ensure your new programme fits your organisation.
  2. Leaving an ‘empty chair’ at your meetings when making decisions. This chair represents your beneficiaries who all your work is aimed at and ensures they’re a part of all decision making.
  3. Always iterate, pilot, and test to refine your ideas before releasing anything
  4. Look into the potential risks involved in the new project ahead of time, and find the right tools to mitigate the risks you have defined
  5. As you’re developing the project, think about how you’re going to demonstrate impact
  6. What the new post-Covid world will mean for this project (and your current programmes). This will probably involve more digital delivery, possibly less emphasis on delivering work in large cities like London, and will allow projects to be more time efficient

Partnerships and relationship building

Collaboration is essential for all businesses and charities, especially when building new partnerships. Think about:

  1. Local businesses, universities and charities as partners first – draw a circle on a map with a one- or two-mile radius around your charity and start there
  2. Joining your local Chamber of Commerce (if your charity is interested in engaging with business). Even if you don’t find any immediate donors or partners, the conversations you’ll have and the network you’ll build will serve you well in the long run.
  3. Challenging preconceptions you may have around what a potential business partner could offer: many businesses aren’t aware of the lack of resources charities have to work with, and conversely charities aren’t aware that there is more to business than just making money
  4. Using your existing relationships and contacts as the starting point for engaging with businesses: your board and existing stakeholders will know many more people that you think
  5. ‘Key person risk’ (when engaging with corporates). Many companies will be unwilling to engage with your charity if there is a risk around who will manage the relationship and deliver the project.

Marketing and selling your services

This is an area that has commonly come up in projects. When exploring this:

  1. Be confident about your value, and don’t undersell yourself! All partnerships are mutually beneficial, and where you are selling a service to e.g. a corporate don’t be scared to propose a market-comparable offer
  2. Bring your project to life with elevator pitches and models like the business model framework
  3. Ask family, friends and those that don’t know your organisation to give you honest feedback about your website and marketing materials
  4. Be authentic in your communications: this is the best way to engage new supporters

Looking ahead, our next cohort of charities and Pilotlighters for Pilotlight Direction starts in early 2021. I’m eager to see how Barclays colleagues will tackle some new charity challenges.

Written by
Profile picture for user Liora Wulf
Liora Wulf
Project Manager - Pilotlight