Impact Story: Donna John of Ignite Youth: Skilled Volunteers Elevated Our Annual Review

Impact Story by Skilled Volunteer, Nada Savich | May 2024

For small or medium-sized charities getting the message across about what you do is really important. Donna John, the CEO at Ignite Youth, knew that a professional Annual Review would showcase their work, but felt she didn’t have the skills herself and didn’t know where to start.

“A bigger charity can produce an annual review in-house, but a charity of our size just cannot.”

For the past 20 years Ignite Youth has produced basic Annual Reports with little more than the accounts. They have made them attractive, but Donna knew that there was more to a good annual review than some figures, pictures and a couple of case-studies.

Ignite Youth take an innovative approach to reaching out and supporting young people who face challenges in their lives or need help in overcoming barriers to employment. They use sporting and creative activities to reach many different communities of young people, including those who are marginalised, unemployed, not in education or facing exclusion, in-care or involved with the youth justice system. They have a youth worker based at the local hospital to engage with young people who are admitted onto the wards, and may have underlying social problems that are impacting their health and well-being. Donna wanted an Annual Review that would celebrate the organisation and their achievements, and be able to highlight the work they do to funders and potential partners.

“An Annual Review is one of the things a charity needs to support its growth and improvement.”

Luckily, Donna already had experience of working with Link UP London and contacted us to find a suitable volunteer. Donna has had other experiences where volunteers haven’t been able to commit the time but has found Link UP London volunteers reliable and experienced. Donna was matched with skilled volunteer Naila and was immediately impressed with her skills, experience and attitude.

“Our skilled volunteer had lots of energy and I never felt she was talking down to me”.

She found the process with Link UP London very easy and flexible. As a busy CEO, Donna appreciated the light-touch feedback and the ease in which the timeframes were extended.

The Link UP London volunteer, Naila, was able to take Donna through the process for collating content and structuring the review. Writing an annual review is different from writing funding reports; they needed to make sure the content was engaging and impactful but suitable for a much wider audience. Naila introduced Donna to UN sustainability goals and how the impact of the charity could be presented based on goals that are widely understood. She also made Donna think about what story they were trying to tell and how the story flows. She focussed their thinking on the emotions they want to invoke.

A long-lasting impact of working with Naila has been the importance that Donna and her team now put on the charity’s brand in everything they do.

“She made me focus on our brand – it’s so much more than using the right colours”.

One of the big learning points from the collaboration was the focus on the tone of voice used in the writing across the review. Different case studies had been written by different team members, and so it was tricky to get all the writing to have the same tone. Now Ignite Youth have an agreed ‘tone of voice’, and it’s Donna’s aim is to ensure that this is reflected in other communications, for example social media posts.

With all this learning in place, Donna was confident that she could plan and manage the content for their next Annual Review.

“Naila had so much experience – it took what we could do ourselves to a different level.”

So while Donna now had content, she still don’t have the graphic design skills in house and could not afford to budget for design.  She needed help transforming the document into an eye-catching Annual Review formatted for their website. Luckily, Link UP London was able to help again, and found an experienced design volunteer, Jo, who loved working Donna and her team to create their first professional Annual Review.

When Donna talks to potential partners, they often mention that they have looked at the Ignite Youth website. She felt that having the Annual Review online is the best way to get their messages across.

“The proof of the pudding … the Annual Review is now on the Ignite Youth website, and it looks amazing!”



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