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Behind the Scenes with Ashleigh Milson, #GivingTuesdayUK

14 Aug 2018 by GivingTuesday

This week, we sat down with Ashleigh Milson, one of the leaders behind #GivingTuesdayUK. Here’s what Ashleigh had to say about her experience so far championing #GivingTuesdayUK.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?

Ashleigh: I’m originally from Cambridge in the UK. I went to university in London where, true to student ways, I was politicised and developed my passion for doing good. I decided I wanted to work in the charity sector after graduating, and through attending various talks I came across campaigning as a potential career path. I found it interesting to think about the difference campaigning, policy and advocacy could have on the world. I began working with the charity Guide Dogs where I stayed for five years, working on campaigns on issues relating to disability rights and promoting independence for those affected by sight loss. I eventually saw the role come up for Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and recognized the positive work they do for promoting civil society, and a part of the role was the #GivingTuesday campaign which had real appeal for me.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?

Ashleigh: I was aware of the movement, but when I joined CAF I got involved by supporting Kim, the project lead for the campaign in the UK at the time. I was working on content and the network and really got to know the campaign and I loved its aims. So when my colleague went on her maternity leave I jumped at the idea of taking over managing the #GivingTuesday project for CAF.

Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in the UK so far?

Ashleigh: We have a big focus on corporate partnerships and promoting #GivingTuesday through those channels. We work with corporates on how they can work the movement into their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and promote it with their customers, and that’s been really successful. RBS for example are a key partner of ours, and have taken on this campaign as a central part of their CSR program. Their Chief Operating Officer spoke at the #GivingTuesday UK launch event in June which demonstrates the high level of buy-in for the campaign. They do a lot of internal promotion with their staff with payroll giving and matching funds given by staff on that day. They’re great social media ambassadors as well.

Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday off the ground or scaling it?

Ashleigh: A lot of it is capacity issues. We’re always trying to balance wanting to get to know all of our partners individually (and we have over 2,000) and providing larger-scale support to them. Keeping track of all of the case studies and the evidence for that many partners is tricky! It’s a decentralized movement and it’s great to have partners doing their own work and contributing to the growth of the movement in the UK, but sometimes we wish we had a bit more of a lens on things. It’s just one part of my role as well, much like other organisations around the world championing #GivingTuesday movements.

Q: What’s the potential or impact of the movement in the UK?

Ashleigh: Each year we’re seeing a significant amount of growth in giving in the UK on #GivingTuesday in terms of the online giving data. With our partners, the conversations are changing from us recruiting nonprofit partners to them coming to us with well thought-out plans for their involvement in #GivingTuesday and how they can improve and scale their plans each year, and it’s really powerful to see that shift. We’re really seeing organisations using #GivingTuesday in a more strategic way.

Q: What is one of your favourite #GivingTuesday stories?

Ashleigh: there are so many, it’s hard to choose! We have so many wonderful partners. One of my favourites would have to be the partnership between bag company Radley and the charity Dogs Trust – they celebrate their partnership on #GivingTuesday with a bespoke bag made for dog owners where the profits go straight to the charity. By engaging their customers with #GivingTuesday, it helps the charity reach more potential supporters, and of course, who wouldn’t want such a cute bag?

Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?

Ashleigh: I love hearing the various stories and plans from our partners. They trickle in throughout the year especially as we get closer to the date and it’s just great to learn about how individual organisations are going to use the campaign. I’m looking forward to watching the social media feed and how all of the good stories come in throughout the day too – that’s the best feeling ever!

Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?

Ashleigh: To me, I feel like my role is to be an ambassador to promote #GivingTuesday as a movement including how important giving is whether you’re an individual, a corporate, or a charity. Having that role helps to give focus in places that it may not otherwise be without someone promoting social good amongst people who might not otherwise have this agenda front-of-mind.

Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?

Ashleigh: Absolutely take it on. It’s a fantastic movement to be a part of and you get to work with so many incredible social sector leaders across the globe who are doing great things. Try and make it as easy as possible for people to get involved with the campaign. Creating access to great resources and toolkits can help with this.

Q: What is a quote by one of your favourite leaders? Or Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?

Ashleigh: The famous campaigner Peter Tatchell said “Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream of what the world could be – and then help make it happen.” And I find that so inspiring, and particularly relevant for #GivingTuesday as it is so in line with the ethos of the campaign.

I’d also quote Churchill, who famously said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. Throughout our campaign in the UK we try and focus on how giving makes everyone feel good, and there’s evidence to prove that!

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