PM Forum in the community

Being the chosen charity at the PM Forum’s 2018 Christmas community session has sparked off some great thoughts and areas for development for Dementia UK and Admiral Nurses.

The December 2018 London event began way back in June, when members were asked which charity they wanted to offer their skills and expertise to, in order to ‘give back’ through their time and ideas. The response was resounding, with more than one-third choosing Dementia UK.

‘Like a lighthouse in a storm’ – that is how many of the families that we support describe Dementia UK’s specialist dementia nurses, known as Admiral Nurses. The nurses were named by the family who founded the charity, in honour of their father and grandfather, ‘Admiral Joe’ Levy.

Dementia UK aims to provide specialist support for families of the over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. We currently have 261 Admiral Nurses, including 40 who work on our seven-day-a-week national Helpline. However this just isn’t enough for us to be there for every family that needs us, and with the number of people living with dementia set to rise to over one million by 2021, we need to raise more funds to provide this vital service.

We have grown significantly over recent years, following a change in CEO (also our Chief Admiral Nurse) five years ago, and a rebrand at the end of 2015. With more families being affected by dementia it is also more prevalent in the media; which has increased public awareness of the condition, leading to even more people coming to Dementia UK for advice and support.

As we have grown more quickly than anyone could have envisioned, there were, and are, a number of issues which have presented some obstacles to our progress. So we were thrilled to have the chance to have industry professionals offer their advice and expertise on some of these issues.

We came up with three key areas for discussion: having two brands; ideas for new product development; how to raise awareness and attract new supporters to the charity.

There were groups assigned to each area of discussion, with the Dementia UK team to support and answer questions. We were joined by Admiral Nurse Paulette, who was able to answer more specific questions about dementia, Admiral Nursing and some of the ways that they support families. All groups then fed back and some common themes started to emerge.

Dual brand
Though our Admiral Nurses are our dementia specialists, the fact that they aren’t linked to Dementia UK or dementia by a shared name means we have two brands (although Dementia UK does appear in the Admiral Nurse brand). People who are passionate and care fiercely about the support that they are given by Admiral Nurses – their ‘lighthouses’ – don’t necessarily connect with Dementia UK. This means that we miss out on the chance for them to support us, and in turn, support more families like them. Similarly, people who support Dementia UK might not immediately know about our Admiral Nurses.

After many of the attendees spoke with Paulette, a recurrent theme in their feedback was just how specialist and knowledgeable our nurses are. It was suggested to emphasise that feeling of specialism, and take a warm, empowering approach, not a clinical one.

Another key piece of feedback was to embrace the term Admiral Nurses more, and to worry less about the two brands; it is a positive that the charity is so closely linked to the family that established it. We were advised to develop our elevator pitch to tell the story behind the name of the nurses more succinctly.

New product
While we have one flagship community product, we’re keen to develop another to diversify our offering. It was fantastic to have a group of marketing professionals taking the time to consider our audience and what will appeal to them. A fresh set of eyes really does go a long way! We had some brilliant brainstorms on potential ideas to develop – many of which were around the ideas of memory, childhood and music. Another theme that ran throughout was to ensure that any new product links back to the cause as much as possible.

Raising awareness and attracting people
What came through during many discussions was the specialist nature of the work the nurses do: the huge difference they make to families who sometimes face really challenging situations. Although we are a small charity, and share a crowded space in the charity sector, we have the USP of specialist dementia nurses. It was felt that if we aim to raise more money, we need to really hone in on this key detail and make more of it. We hope to build on this to develop an acquisition product, linked to our nurses’ experience and knowledge.

We left bursting with ideas, feeling empowered to take them further. We headed back to the office to catch up with other staff about the ideas from the session, and are looking at developing these during some innovation work in 2019.

Being the chosen charity at the PM Forum’s 2018 Christmas community session has sparked off some great thoughts and areas for development this year and beyond, and will help inform the continued growth of Dementia UK and Admiral Nurses.

Sarah Austin is Head of Community and Events Fundraising at Dementia UK.