Headlining Mental Health helped me to find a supportive network

Posted 25 August 2022

Based in Nottingham, Jennie is the Fundraising and Communications Officer for Improving Lives. She took part in Media Trust's Headlining Mental Health Programme to grow her charity's media coverage, and ended up coming away with a powerful network of charity peers.

Improving Lives works together with people in Nottingham living with mental health issues and other problems, enabling them to believe that life can change for the better. We provide one-to-one tailored support, as well as group experiences. Our support workers impart practical help ranging from liaising with local housing, to giving advice on making simple, nutritious meals. We also have an excellent group of volunteers who provide befriending services. 

Prior to beginning the programme, we had very little experience and knowledge in comms, trying our best to create a presence on social media, as well revamping our website. We knew other small charities locally had staff in post with a specific skillset and we felt it was quite difficult to compete, especially when it came to finding new corporate partners or people in the community who would fundraise for us. 

We had hoped that the Headlining Mental Health Programme would give us some ‘quick wins’ so that we could see immediate changes. In particular, we wanted to grow our reach and improve local recognition, through followers, newsletter sign-ups and website visits. We needed to be able to tell people about who we were, what we did and the impact our work was having. Furthermore, we hoped to gain more in-depth knowledge and skills to helps us be more strategic with our approach to comms. We were looking to become more proactive and sustainable in this area of our work, ensuring success for years to come. 

For me one of the biggest highlights of the Headlining Mental Health programme was realising that I was not alone! I knew that there were many more small charities out there doing fantastic things on a shoestring budget, but it is not often that you meet people in a role just like yours, trying to do a bit of everything to the best of their ability.  

Everyone on the course had different abilities and experiences, but we were able to support each other, share our knowledge and celebrate together in our successes – it really felt like a safe place to be yourself and ask questions. It’s been invaluable to connect – and stay connected – with likeminded people through the Media Trust Alumni network. 

A group of people standing by a canal, smiling.

Service users from Improving Lives.

It would be difficult to pinpoint just one thing that has had the most impact from Headlining Mental Health.  

Our media coverage is a world away from what it used to be – we have featured twice on local and national BBC News, in our local newspaper, on the radio and in multiple online publications. Initially we were seeking coverage proactively, but now journalists approach us for a feature or comments on a topical issue. Obviously, talking to the media is still a bit nerve-wracking, but we were provided with a great toolkit to help us be prepared and be clear on our message. Our CEO particularly benefited from this media training and has embraced the opportunities that have come their way, which has resulted in increased funding and support for Improving Lives. 

Our social media has continued to steadily grow in terms of the numbers, and now our reach is bigger than ever before. We have branched out into video and Instagram Reels, which has given our message another dimension. Furthermore, we have started exploring ads and fundraising tools on social media. 

To build on our success, we used Media Trust’s Volunteer Platform to find an expert with the knowledge on these tools, and they’ve helped us to set them up and get things running – it has been so useful and timesaving!

Improving Lives logo

The support we received has really benefited the people we work with. The programme taught us how to empower them – with care and consideration – to share their own journeys publicly, confidently and comfortably. This is not only a milestone for them but, crucially, it also helps us to demonstrate our impact. 

We have also started new relationships with a variety of corporate partners, who found us via our improved website, social media, and our brand-new corporate fundraising pack (which was sent out on the advice of another charity taking part in the course!). We have also had members of the public fundriase for us, discovering us through these enhanced communications channels. 

Because of Headlining Mental Health, and my increased confidence in communicating our mission, we have been able to secure an additional 3-years of funding, as well as increasing our unrestricted funds from smaller grants and trusts, allowing us to assist more people than ever before. The support from Media Trust has not ended with the course, as they have continued to provide us with new opportunities for learning. The sense of community that they have achieved amongst the participants and other supporters has been priceless! 

I would recommend Media Trust and Headlining Mental Health to anyone. Wherever you are in your charity career, there is always something to learn. Improving Lives will continue to grow from the experience. This year we celebrated 10 years of charitable status, a huge milestone for a small charity. We are all pleased we can continue with our small yet vital service for the people of Nottingham and are excited about all the possibilities the future holds. 

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