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Our charity partnerships

Our charity partnerships

In 2017, as part of our anniversary celebrations to mark 225 years since the opening of the first WHSmith newsstand in 1792, we started fundraising to help to make a lasting difference to three charities. We asked employees across the UK to vote for the charities they would like to support and, as a result, we selected Cancer Research UK, MIND and the National Literacy Trust. At the start of our anniversary year, we set ourselves an ambitious target to raise over £2m for the three charities, and our fundraising efforts have continued during this year.

We want to ensure that our fundraising makes a fundamental change to peoples’ lives and so we worked with the three charities to identify projects which we could help to support which would make a meaningful difference. Our funding for Cancer Research UK is providing essential funding for their research to help beat cancer. The funds we raise for MIND are being used to support their work with children and young people, developing a programme to provide support so that no young person has to face a mental health problem alone. The funds we raise for the National Literacy Trust are being used to establish a National Literacy Trust hub in the Swindon area, helping thousands of children to discover the joy of reading and raising literacy levels.

Our charity fundraising has involved every part of our business, across our High Street and Travel stores, Cardmarket, Funky Pigeon and offices and distribution centres. Our charity partners have attended employee briefings and conferences to help our employees understand more about the work they do and the difference our fundraising is making.

An action packed, fun-filled year of fundraising

This year has seen another busy calendar of charity events across all of our operational sites, with a high profile presence in our stores ensuring our customers have been fully involved. Stores have continued to fundraise with charity collection tins and buckets for customers to donate in store and we have sold a variety of products to raise money for our charity partners.

In February we marked World Cancer Day with sales of Unity Bands raising funds for Cancer Research UK. In March, our stores celebrated World Book Day in support of the National Literacy Trust, with hundreds of school children coming in for storytelling and behind the scenes tours. MIND’s Spring Clean initiative in April saw head office employees donate clothes, shoes, bric-a-brac, books and DVDs to stock up MIND stores across the UK in preparation for Mental Health Awareness week, which we also supported in stores in May. WHSmith became one of the official partners for Cancer Research’s UK’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign which takes place in October, and we organised a charity gala ball where we raised £175,000 for Stand Up To Cancer.

One of the key ways that we raise money for our partner charities is through the sale of products with charity links. Our buying teams developed a range of exclusive products, including WHSmith charity bears, bags and sweet tins. We were delighted that some of Britain’s favourite authors, including Jeffrey Archer, James Patterson and Jodi Picoult, agreed to work with us, writing exclusive short stories for us to sell in aid of our charity partners. Stores also sold a cookbook, featuring eight popular chefs, with money from the proceeds of each copy being donated to Cancer Research UK. The run-up to Christmas is a particularly important time to raise funds from charity product sales, with Christmas cards and wrap all being sold in aid of our charity partners.

Staff fundraising continued in earnest, and a team of 54 employees completed the Three Peaks challenge over a weekend in September 2017, scaling the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales. There were also many other fundraising events organised by local teams in stores, head office and our distribution centres, including sponsored runs, walks, cake sales and head shaves.

We are now well on our way to reaching our £2 million target, thanks to the help of WHSmith customers and employees across the country, who have really gone the extra mile raising over £1.7 million in support of our charity partners so far.

How do our donations help?

Vital fundraising for Stand Up To Cancer

One in two people born after 1960 in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their life and, today, three out of four will survive cancer within the next 20 years, compared to the survival rate of one out of four recorded in 1970. Our contribution to Cancer Research UK provides vital fundraising for research to help beat cancer, including Stand Up to Cancer’s work. Our fundraising will help fund research to treat bowel, lung and skin cancers in particular.

MIND’s ‘whole school’ programme

Half of all mental health problems have been established in young people by the age of 14, rising to 75 per cent by the age of 24. No young person should face a mental health problem alone, and the funds we have raised are enabling Mind to kick-start the development of their flagship whole school approach for Children and Young People, which tackles the mental wellbeing of all – children, parents, teachers and staff. Our support means that MIND can roll out its programme into 24 schools and further education colleges across the UK, reaching over 11,000 children, young people, teachers and parents.

The National Literacy Trust’s Swindon Hub

As the UK’s leading bookseller and stationer, we are particularly passionate about literacy and life-long learning. Research findings consistently conclude that one of the most effective ways of helping children to reach their potential is to engage them in reading for pleasure. Children who read for pleasure make greater progress in mathematics, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of ten and sixteen than those who rarely read. Young people who read regularly are significantly more likely to attain a professional or managerial position than those who do not read. Our money is being used to develop a literacy hub in Swindon to promote the love of reading to thousands of local children and young people. With our support, and that of Swindon Borough Council, the National Literacy Trust is:

• Running literacy courses for young adults as part of a ‘Words for Work’ employability programme, literacy programmes for secondary school children and Early Words Together programmes for pre-school children.

• Creating the Lost Words Trail around Swindon to encourage children to spend time with their family and have fun exploring Swindon. The trail is inspired by The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlance, a book full of nature-themed words that are falling out of children’s common usage.

• Hosting events for different groups, including a morning of story-telling, crafts, augmented reality and a books giveaway for foster families; and a pop-up story shop in the local shopping centre where children enjoyed storytelling, craft activities, and book donations supplied by WHSmith to inspire reading at home.

• Running a campaign to search for Swindon’s top 100 children’s books.

Case Study: Believe in Happy - Greeting cards for those suffering with mental health

One of the more innovative ideas for helping our partner charities this year came from one of our Funky Pigeon card designers who had her own experience of mental health difficulties. She had received a ‘Get Well’ card from her grandmother, and later recognized that this was a lovely way to be told that others were thinking of her and she was not alone in her recovery. On her return to work, she set out to raise awareness with the creation of two card ranges for friends and family to send to loved ones who may be experiencing a difficult time with their mental health. The designs were developed after extensive research on the psychological impact of colours, and one of the ranges incorporated a logo to represent Project Semicolon, a movement dedicated to the prevention of suicide. Alongside the card ranges, an associated gift range of products were sold through, with 30 per cent of the sale proceeds being donated to Mind.