Making reading in prisons less of a lottery

As the steward of the UK’s National Lottery, for more than 20 years Camelot has been changing lives; making thousands of millionaires and raising billions for good causes.

Camelot is a Media Trust corporate member, and was looking for a way to engage their staff and help a charity that needed support.  As soon as we presented them with the challenge of supporting Shannon Trust with their communications strategy, Camelot staff were eager to step up. We invited the two organisations to get together for a Charity Challenge day in February 2017.

Shannon Trust’s vision is to make every prisoner a reader. They want to engage with every non-reading prisoner early in their sentence, to open up new avenues of opportunity and give them hope for a new and better life. By providing learners with opportunities to develop life skills, prisoners are better equipped to live as contributing members of society.

Shannon Trust volunteer with service user

Shannon Trust have around 125 volunteers working across 124 prisons in England

Starting a new page

Shannon Trust is an organisation with a small team of staff and around 125 volunteers.

Working across 124 prisons in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Shannon Trust supports and inspires over 4,000 prisoners a year to start learning to read with the help of a fellow prisoner.

Within prisons their work is widely known and they have an excellent reputation, but outside of prisons it is a very different story. The charity wanted to change the way they are seen by the public to coincide with the release of their reading programme, ‘Turning Pages’; a fantastic resource not just for prisoners but for all adults who are learning to read.

Shannon Trust wanted support from Camelot to change the way they are seen by the public to coincide with the release of their reading programme, ‘Turning Pages’

The charity found it very difficult to promote their impact because, as they work with prisoners, they can’t use images, videos and sound recordings of their beneficiaries. They wanted to find another way to show how effective they are and to promote the charity’s services.

They were eager to use Camelot’s expertise to reach out to new audiences, creating a new two year corporate strategy.

We needed to raise awareness of our work in a different way

Angela Cairns, CEO of Shannon Trust

Reading the signs

Angela Cairns, CEO of Shannon Trust, said: “Before Camelot came to our offices we had reached everyone in our network and we needed to raise awareness of our work in a different way.

Sara, Rhian and Jane from Camelot really ‘got’ Shannon Trust. They had done so much preparation beforehand and had great suggestions and food for thought that we could take forward”.

The Camelot team suggested to Shannon Trust that they were limiting their audience by just talking about prisons. Their tagline and vision: ‘Every prisoner a reader’, singled out prisoners as the only beneficiaries to the charity. Camelot advised that by talking about reading instead they would broaden their engagement.

They proposed that the team should use the phrase, ‘Unlocking the power of reading,’ as messaging that is universally accessible; yet it still hints at the work that Shannon Trust does with prisoners.


Camelot and Shannon Trust together at the Shannon Trust offices

Sara, Rhian and Jane from Camelot with the Shannon Trust team

Hitting the headlines

The charity had also wanted to learn more about how they could use social media to promote themselves, so the team at Camelot set up an additional meeting for them to speak to Charles Stanton, Camelot’s Social Media Manager. As a result, Shannon Trust set up their own LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.

Since the Charity Challenge, Shannon Trust have been presented with an ‘Action for Equity’ Award which they attribute in part to the change of approach in their communications strategy, advised by the Camelot team.

As part of the award they were given the opportunity to work with a filmmaker to make a short film about their organisation and have received coverage of their work in The Guardian and the Lush Times.

The charity have noticed that their vacancies for volunteers is the lowest it has ever been, and although they can’t credit the Camelot team for this directly, they feel that it is partly down to the changes in their monthly newsletter ‘Bookmark’, which has been edited down and is consistent with their other communications. It is now more accessible and opportunities are easier to spot.

To top all of this off they have also found out that they have been successful in securing a Radio 4 appeal slot for April 2018.

It is great to be able to see firsthand what Shannon Trust has done so far in such a short amount of time

Rhian Sturdy, Strategy and Innovation Manager at Camelot

Unlocking the power of reading

Addressing the Camelot team, Angela Cairns said, “Your input really helped us to think about the way we tell our stories, the messages we want to give people and how we can widen our reach. As such, you’ve been a part of supporting our mentors and learners to change lives and unlock the power of reading. Thank you all for doing this – it has been immeasurably beneficial to us.”

Rhian Sturdy, Strategy and Innovation Manager at Camelot commented: “I volunteered to work with Shannon Trust because it was close to my heart.

“Media Trust provided us with a variety of charities to choose from. When I read about Shannon Trust it made me want to work with them – there was an immediate fit.

“Camelot supports Shannon Trust through the National Lottery Fund. It is great to be able to see firsthand what Shannon Trust has done so far in such a short amount of time.”

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