THURSDAY 27 JUL 2017 9:40 AM


For a charity that was designed to be a short-term solution to homelessness, Crisis is facing its second half-century of existence. How has a digital and brand refresh helped the organisation prepare it for the next 50 years? Amy Sandys

Challenge: “When Crisis was set up as a charity, we weren’t meant to be a permanent organisation,” says Kate Nightingale, marketing director for the UK’s largest homelessness charity, Crisis UK. Founded 50 years ago in 1967, it was credited as being a short-term solution to a homelessness crisis many assumed would resolve within a few years. Sadly, however, this wasn’t the case; Crisis centres continue to span 12 regions in the UK.

Aiming to educate and provide support for the homeless, or those at risk of becoming so, Crisis offers education, training and support with housing, employment and health through personal interaction and drop-in centres, such as its Skylight scheme. But, says Nightingale, the once short-term solution has been in place for far too long. “It’s our 50th anniversary this year. We wanted to look forward and say, how can we make sure we’re not still needed in 50 years?”

Crisis works toward spreading research and knowledge about homelessness and its associated issues, and encourages people to seek help. However, a major barrier to this plan was the charity’s archaic website and lack of digital organisation and functionality. It also harboured a total inability to cater for a generation that increasingly seeks its information in mobile format. “Our website was eight years old,” says Nightingale. “Because it had fell out of date, it wasn’t mobile friendly at all, it had become a bit of a dumping ground for content rather than anyone thinking about how to make user journeys through the website really seamless.”

Strategy: Changing the charity’s online presence and overall user experience was therefore crucial in moving Crisis forward, ensuring its varied audience was on board to deliver its mission and values. In the organisation’s 50th year, change was also needed to ease donating, and provide information on homelessness as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The digital update, carried out by user-experienced focused digital design agency DAM Digital, focused largely on ensuring Crisis’ many stakeholders were delivered a pleasant digital experience. And, explains Nightingale, the focus on a new generation of users coincided with Crisis refreshing its brand. “The whole focus of our 50th year and refreshed brand is about how we can end homelessness for good, so we wanted to make sure our website really reflected that brand position and provided an effective platform for supporter engagement,” says Nightingale. “Our new strapline and the idea behind our brand is ‘Together we will end homelessness’, so with the website we wanted to make sure everyone could get involved in a really easy and engaging way.”

For Peter Cameron, managing director of DAM Digital, the regional nature of Crisis and its work across England, Scotland and Wales meant a commitment to gathering numerous views on how the platform could be developed. “We did 38 stakeholder interviews all over the country at Crisis, with Crisis members, with third parties who support Crisis with housing,” says Cameron. “We went to quite a few of the Skylight homeless service centres, really understanding the stakeholders and what their requirements were.” It was vital for both Crisis and DAM Digital that the focus was not solely on fundraising. While generating income is an important and necessary aspect of Crisis’ work, careful collaboration between the agency and charity ensured the website now emphasises Crisis’ user journeys. This includes how its donations will be, or are
being, spent.

Nightingale adds, “We wanted to have a more holistic approach to supporters as well – it’s very much about putting all the opportunities in front of people, making sure they see all the ways they can support Crisis and making sure the user journeys are where we thank people, where we follow up with people and let them know about all the other things they can do as well – it’s trying to get our supporters as engaged as possible.”

Results: The new site has only been live since April 2017. However, a clear enhancement to user experience has already been noted – particularly regarding the charity’s integrated brand offering and increased visits to the site via Crisis’ social channels. “One thing we were aware of is driving a lot more traffic to the site from social; there’s so much fantastic content on there that we’re now really able to do that through content marketing,” says Nightingale.

For DAM Digital, being handed control of a website with limited functionality and an urgent need for an updated brand experience also provided the perfect opportunity for the agency to craft a platform entirely of its own design. Cameron says, “It’s rare that you get to start from zero and come up with the whole user experience and user design from a completely clean slate. That’s probably our favourite aspect, that we could produce something both in keeping with the brand, in keeping with the 50th year objectives.”

And, Cameron says, transferring Crisis’ support suite to a primarily digital offering has made life easier for employees and users who rely on the charity’s regional support centres. “One of the best features of functionality is the timetables for Skylight. Before, if you wanted to access services, staff printed out diaries of all the courses for the weeks ahead. Now each Skylight can manage that themselves online, they’re accessible and viewable by mobile,” says Cameron.

Another noted improvement is an increase in efficiency of communication among the charity’s dedicated yet disparate workforce. From marketers to academics, enhanced usability sees increased internal engagement and a wider sharing of the resources Crisis provides to help end homelessness sooner. “It’s making our internal marketing team much more efficient in terms of how they can use our resources,” says Nightingale. “We have also created the ‘homelessness knowledge hub’ to showcase the latest research and evidence. Our aspiration is that other organisations, other academics see the hub as the place they want their research to be.”

Since 1967, Crisis has undoubtedly helped thousands of people vulnerable to being homeless. Conversely, however, in 2017 the charity shouldn’t really exist. Now, 50 years after being established, the charity’s holistic approach to its charitable endeavours should equip a wider breadth of people with the tools to tackle a situation facing almost 250,000 in the UK’s population. With this approach, in 50 years’ time, Crisis’ work will hopefully be long since complete.


THUR 26 Sep 2019 3:32 PM
Cycling chic
THUR 21 Mar 2019 2:11 PM
Independents’ day
THUR 18 Oct 2018 3:37 PM
Mediations on monochrome
THUR 9 Jul 2018 10:35 AM
A scholar and a stakeholder