Christmas is always a busy time of year at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Amid all the festivities and fun, seriously ill children still need to receive treatment.
It’s also a busy time for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, which supports the hospital, as it puts on patient parties and raises funds throughout the period.
Although Christmas has historically been a successful time for the charity, last year it realised that to elevate its fundraising and awareness-raising work in December, it needed a single unifying theme.
“After a brainstorming session, we hit on the idea of ‘Home for Christmas’,” says Nick Radmore, deputy director of brand and content marketing at the charity.
“The hospital does everything it can to get kids home so they can have that Christmas Eve and Christmas morning experience at home, or to create a home-from-home in the hospital if leaving isn’t possible.”
The theme was chosen long before Covid-19 arrived in the UK – and Radmore and his team had no idea how pertinent it would be for Christmas 2020.
“We did think about whether it would be right to run the theme this year,” he says, but the team ultimately decided that their idea of a single, unifying theme would be crucial in this difficult time for fundraising.
“It is such a tough year and we’re very, very conscious about the fact that people’s household budgets have been stretched.
“We do still need funding, that is critical to ensure the hospital can do all of the wonderful things it does and continue the support it provides to families and patients and staff.
“So we still wanted to have a fundraising ask – but equally, we wanted to tell a really engaging story in an engaging way.”
To tell that story, the campaign centres on a short animated film (see below) about a young GOSH patient named Mia, as her hospital bed, and those of other patients, begin to move through the hospital and out of the front doors, taking all the children home on Christmas Eve while they sleep.
The film ends with footage of the real Mia, and her sister Amy, who have both been treated at GOSH for chronic demyelinating polyneuropathy, opening their presents at home on Christmas day.
The aim of the campaign is to “give people the opportunity to support us – and that can be in as small amounts as people can afford – or to just engage with the story and hopefully share it with their friends and family so it just puts the cause uppermost in people’s minds”, Radmore says.
Some of the charity’s traditional fundraising activities have been able to continue despite the pandemic – for example, its Christmas Stocking appeal, where it asks people to write a message to staff or patients at the hospital and make a donation. But like other charities, it has had to cancel and make changes to many of its usual fundraising events, such as transforming its annual carol service into an online event.
But, Radmore says, in a way, the shift to integrate all fundraising and communications messages has been the biggest change.
“We’re still actively running what we’ve done in previous years, but it’s under the ‘Home for Christmas’ theme,” he says.
“What we hope is that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts – actually, if we come together as an organisation and talk about that one theme under that one banner, we might be able to generate more interest and more engagement, and that results in more support.”
Given that coronavirus restrictions have made something many people take for granted – the idea of families being together for Christmas – incredibly precarious this year, it’s possible that the campaign will strike a chord with the public in a way it might not have done in previous years.
Radmore reckons it’s too early to tell.
“We’ll see once the campaign has run its course,” he says.
“But the feedback we’ve had so far has been overwhelmingly positive – so the idea that children should be able to have a normal, even magical, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, that has clearly rung true.”