FirstGroup helps to raise profile of prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer UK values its three-year partnership with the transport operator at £1.5m, if free advertising and media coverage is included

FirstGroup's Evie Carroll talks to passengers in Portsmouth
FirstGroup's Evie Carroll talks to passengers in Portsmouth

Prostate Cancer UK’s corporate partnership with the transport operator FirstGroup generated a level of awareness many charities can only dream about.

The three-year initiative enabled Prostate Cancer UK to produce one million pocket guides containing basic information about this particular type of cancer, including risk factors and symptoms. It also generated widespread advertising on buses and at railway stations.

The tie-up began in 2015 after FirstGroup’s 30,000 staff were balloted on whether to adopt Prostate Cancer UK, Action for Children, Diabetes UK or the Stroke Association as their charity. PCUK won with 39 per cent of the vote.  Thus began three years of fundraising initiatives by employees at FirstGroup depots that initially aimed to generate in-kind value of £1m.

Among the most popular ideas were brew and bake days, where staff sold cups of tea and home-made cakes. Other ideas included a coast-to-coast cycle ride and an excursion up Ben Nevis. Royalties from a book called Felix the Railway Cat were donated. Staff fundraising, plus company donations and matched funding, secured £350,000.

The charity calculates that this, combined with free advertising and media coverage, which reached a readership of 5.8 million, values the partnership at £1.5m – £500,000 more than the target. The initiative is due to end in April.

James Beeby, director of fundraising at PCUK, says that although the fundraising was successful, the real benefit to the charity was awareness because the guides enabled it to get key messages about symptoms and the importance of check-ups to a huge audience.

Beeby says the charity’s previous corporate partnership, which was with Royal Mail, taught it the value of working with companies that have large workforces.  In this case, it was able not only to benefit from numerous fundraising initiatives, but also to run awareness courses for FirstGroup staff.

"The whole thing was all about awareness," says Beeby. "Our pitch to the company was that it could help us produce a million guides, and we did that."

Beeby says it was important regularly to feed back the impact of the partnership to FirstGroup and to provide case studies so that staff knew their efforts were making a difference. Thus the initiative could maintain its impetus for the entire three years.

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