As Head of Digital at Age UK, Alison led the digital strategy and delivery for the biggest charity merger in a decade. This project, which in two years saw Age UK ranked top in Third Sector’s Web Check, was also where the nucleus of the team behind We Are MC2 was formed.
When Help the Aged and Age Concern came together to form Age UK the scale of the challenge online was enormous. There were over 300 separate websites belonging to the main charities and the Age Concern network. There were two insurance companies, 500 shops, 4 national charities, hundreds of local Age Concerns and over 600 associated groups.
The challenge was to set a digital strategy and lead the programme that would unite these disparate presences. Brand launch was set a year from legal merger and, for much of that time, the organisation would be going through major change with no determined name, brand or structure.
Long before ‘digital transformation’ was a buzzword, we set the ambitious goal of putting digital at the heart of the organisation and becoming the digital destination for older people.
From the outset, Alison and Kate worked together to deliver a user-centric approach. Quantitative and qualitative research was undertaken with key stakeholder groups. Search and traffic data for over 300 sites was analysed.
That work resulted in a strategy that was built around user-need. Where most charities navigate using terms like ‘about us’, ‘how we help’ and ‘get involved’ the new Age UK one would be topic-based, reflecting the users’ priorities, not the organisation’s. Users told us that we needed to get the organisation’s complex local structure out of the way. We listened, prototyped and tested. That evidence-based approach allowed us to unite many disparate internal stakeholders.
Timing the launch around formation of the brand, the election and TV advertising schedules was an intense effort but we launched on time and on budget.
Eighteen months after brand launch and two-and-a-half-years after being faced with 300 distinct sites on separate technologies, The Age UK digital presence was ranked #1 in the Third Sector’s Web Check. The site consistently out-performed its growth forecasts and proved effective both as a platform for driving donations and sales of financial services.
Lisa McCormack (no relation!), Launch Marketing Director, said:
“I worked with Alison during the merger of Help the Aged and Age Concern, to form Age UK…. Heralded as the biggest charity merger of the decade. Efficiency of scale, clearly, was at its core. But equally important was bringing people with us.
“Alison was responsible for merging 300 websites (with 300 different ‘owners’) into one… for the maximum benefit of all. This required great technical skill under enormous pressure. But it also needed great diplomacy and pragmatism (a skill I lack and greatly admire!) to ensure that all parties understood the end result would benefit everyone. Alison achieved that with ease.
“That would have been enough through a merger… to get to the other side ‘safely’ but she strived to introduce new areas of delivery, new audiences and new ways of getting out our message – whether that be for fundraising or at the coalface of service delivery.
“And she’s a breath of fresh air in a cloud of ‘smoke and mirrors’ that currently surrounds the digital world.”