Ep. 15, Featuring Rebecca Cowan from Good Friday Appeal

XWP Tonight Show feat. Rebecca Cowan from the Good Friday Appeal - Season 3, Episode 2

2021 marked the 90th anniversary of the Good Friday Appeal. Rebecca Cowan, Executive Director of the Good Friday Appeal and XWP’s Amit Sion look back on a remarkable year and its highlights, and talk about the importance of innovation for the future from a charity’s perspective.

Learn about how they overcame challenge of raising funds to support a children’s hospital during the constraints of a pandemic, with a brand new, modern, simple and UX-focused website to maximize and drive donations, delivered by XWP.

Transcript:

Amit

Since 1931, $399 million has been raised by the Good Friday Appeal to support brave kids at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Fundraising happens through so many wonderful activities in the community—from fun runs, bake sales, right up to an annual all-day telethon. With this great charity so many people want to help but in 2020, on their 89th year, COVID hits. Our city becomes the most locked down city in the world and none of the events can happen.

So Good Friday Appeal worked with XWP to focus fundraising energy on their digital presence. They managed to more than double the visits to their site on appeal day and raise the funds needed to support the hospital. Tonight I have the pleasure to speak with the executive director of Good Friday Appeal, Rebecca Cowan. Good evening, and welcome to the XWP Tonight Show.

Good evening, Rebecca. Welcome to the show. It’s great to have you here.

Rebecca

Thank you, Amit. It’s great to be here tonight.

Amit

With a 90 year anniversary, it must have been a massive year for the Good Friday Appeal. Working for such an awesome charity, what would you say is a particular highlight for the Good Friday Appeal this year?

Rebecca

Look, it is incredible, 90 years of Good Friday Appeal. It really represents 90 years of the community giving so generously to support sick children. For me, this was my first year working on the Good Friday Appeal, so I feel very fortunate to have been part of the 90 years and there were so many highlights. I think after the year that we’ve had coming out of COVID and actually being able to have an appeal, face to face fundraising and a lot of our events returned even though they were adapted and it was just to see the heart and the essence of what the appeal is about. It’s about people caring about others and giving back, so that was probably my highlight, seeing that in action and seeing all the hard work of so many come together on that particular day and raising a lot of money for The Royal Children’s Hospital. 

Amit

What was the impact of COVID and lockdowns and all that on the Good Friday Appeal’s fundraising activities?

Rebecca

You know, from 90 years ago when it first started, it was with people collecting coins and cash in tins, holding fundraisers, and the CFA getting their fire trucks and driving through the streets. So that’s what it’s predominantly been known for and we’re really proud of that, when people come together to do that. A lot of that got cancelled so all of a sudden, like every other business we were adapting. We were pivoting, that word that everyone knows. We were being as agile as we could, just to ensure that depending on the scenario and the restrictions at that time, that we were set up and prepared. I think like many businesses, we had sort of three different scenario plans going on at any one time. Things like restrictions, social distancing, and cashless have had a big impact. So for us, it’s all about still continuing to do the traditional ways of fundraising. But how do we bring digital into the piece and really maximize the digital channels so if COVID does hit us again, and we’re locked down, how we are we can still have a really great Good Friday Appeal?

Amit

With that, when you hit all this craziness of the COVID lockdowns and all that, why did you choose at that time to rebuild the Good Friday Appeal website?

Rebecca

For a couple of reasons. Our website has served its purpose for a period of time, but it was definitely time to rebuild. We wanted to ensure that it was modern, simple as well. A big focus, obviously the user experience to ensure that we can maximize and really drive donations. We needed it to be as simple as possible for our donors, so when they went to our website they would be able to find out exactly what we do, how we do it, but also the impact. Then if they’re moved by what we do and our why, they can easily donate as well. So it was very much about simplifying, streamlining, and automating our processes. Also from the backend, it was a quite clunky old system and we have limited resources in our team. We’re not-for-profit, we don’t have extra capability or capacity so we wanted to be as automated and as simple as possible for the team to be able to thrive and utilize it to its full potential.

Amit

For your site, you get the majority, like most of your activity, all that energy, into one day. What’s it like having so much energy of your organization focused towards one day of the year?

Rebecca

It keeps us on our toes, it keeps us very busy as well. Throughout the year we’re doing a lot of planning, we’re reviewing, and building systems. Especially over the last two years, it’s been very much around digital transformation as well where we can.

Amit

For XWP this really was a learning experience because we hadn’t done a lot of work with charities before. I mentioned that to start up, our experience was really with more commercial, for-profit organizations. My alignment always is to figure out what their business objectives are, and to connect to that. So for example, if it’s a publisher that wants to get more ad revenue, how can we change the design? How can we improve the performance? How can we get their ranking higher? How can we get more money to their site? Whatever they’re doing, how can we get a greatest return on investment? For us, this was really quite exciting to change and put that energy towards, how can we support a charity to get the most awareness and donations? What was your experience, I guess feedback to us for working with XWP?

Rebecca

I suppose I’d flip it around from our side as well. So when we met you and your team when you were in very good hands, that’s the first thing. What was really appealing was that you’d had a lot of experience working with big corporations, big brands. As I mentioned before, we don’t have the luxury of having a lot of resources unfortunately. I’d love to have more but we just don’t necessarily have all the digital skills in house, so it was really important that we partner with someone who had the solid experience and background, but really wanted to build a partnership with us.

That’s something when we met for the first time that you made that really really clear it was about yes, let’s build the website. But then how can we work with you in a true partnership perspective and really maximize what Good Friday Appeal can do? And then obviously, it’s a win-win for both organizations, and we’ve done that. We’ve built the website and we’ve just rebuilt the donation page. We streamed for the first time the telethon on our website, which was a brilliant idea from yourself, and there’s always other things that you’re bringing into play. You’re very much focused as an organization on best practice, on research, and that great experience. We feel we can learn a lot from the work that you’re doing with your other partners. You’re able to bring those insights into the work that we’re doing. So it’s just invaluable for us.

Amit

Thinking about that, I’m very curious from the perspective of a charity, how important is innovation for your future?

Rebecca

I feel like we’re not innovating and we’re not doing things differently. And we’re not trying and testing new things where possible. We can do either one or two things, we could stay the same or we will be left behind. Our donors and supporters expect the same digital experience from Good Friday Appeal as they do from any online business that they’re purchasing things from, so we need to keep up with innovation. We need to keep up with technology, which can be challenging, because as we know, it’s constantly evolving.

To keep up with those changes, for us, it’s about being really clear on our strategy, simplifying our solution, and knowing it’s one that we can implement. We can continue to enhance that and evolve it over time as well. Unfortunately, we can’t just keep building things and testing them. It’s got to be part of our architecture and our strategy, which we’re pretty clear on what that is. Part of it’s because we’re working with some really good partners like XWP to help us identify that roadmap forward.

Amit

I must say, having attended the telethon this year and seeing the volunteers, the people that contribute to this amazing charity, that’s where it all is. We’ll do everything we can to make it as easy as possible and reduce the friction to get people to connect with the charity, but the people love this charity that’s been around for 90 years. I think it’s just amazing and we’re proud to play a part in it all.

Rebecca

Thank you Amit, and just on that, it is our volunteers. There’s generations of volunteers. On Good Friday I met people that have been volunteering for 50 years in our money counting room. You can introduce all the innovation and technology, but at the end of the day, it comes back to people. It comes back to connections and it comes back to community. We know the community cares about sick children and they care about the hospitals. So for us, it’s about still retaining and maintaining those beautiful relationships that we have and then bringing that innovation in. So thank you to you and your wonderful team. We look forward to continuing to work with you into the future.

Amit

Rebecca, thank you so much for your time today. For those of you who are watching this, if you want to donate and support this amazing charity, please go to goodfridayappeal.com.au and support it.

Rebecca

Thanks Amit, thanks everyone.

Amit 

Thank you.