Assessing the future value of a crisis response service

Faith in Later Life

“David got straight to the heart of the key issues, to address the questions that were put to him in the brief. He’s a very good man to work with; he was able to calibrate his demands on my time in line with the importance of this issue for us. He checked in just enough to know that his direction was right and he got on with stuff.”

Stephen Hammersley, Chair of Trustees, Faith in Later Life

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Faith in Later Life, along with other partners, set up Daily Hope, a service for people (mainly elderly) who couldn’t get to church or access the internet to get some ‘spiritual input’ through a phone line.

With the pandemic over, Faith in Later Life wanted to assess whether there was still a need for Daily Hope and, if so, how it might be funded. Chair of Trustees Stephen Hammersley, who is well known to Action Planning as CEO of Pilgrim’s Friend Society, asked us if we could help.

We were asked to carry out a review of Daily Hope, to help Faith in Later Life decide whether the service should continue and, if it should, how it could be made financially sustainable, how the content could be strengthened and how it might be better promoted.

We gathered information from a variety of sources. David Saint interviewed 11 of the people involved with Daily Hope, posed questions to a Faith in Later Life Church Champions meeting, reviewed some market research that had been carried out by Benita Hewitt of 9 Dot Research, and analysed a sample of the data from the phone line supplier. Meanwhile, Action Planning Associate Consultant Andrew Rainsford carried out some competitor research and funder research.

The report David submitted set out the anecdotal and statistical evidence, leading to the conclusion that Daily Hope was indeed worth continuing with. It also presented recommendations for strengthening the brand, developing the content and promoting it more widely. In answer to the funding question, the report set out the opportunities for funding from the Church of England, trusts, individuals and other sources, including sponsorship.

In conclusion, it stated that the number of callers to Daily Hope could increase very considerably, but it would be important to manage that growth in order to keep it aligned with income.

Our overall conclusion was welcomed by Stephen. “I knew it was a good thing to have done,” he said, “but David’s appraisal teased out why it was valuable – the cost per call – and to marry that with the market research we had done, which showed that the value was considerable. This was really helpful, insightful and clear.

“We’ve got a new Lead Officer coming in and she will start with a brief that says this is a success, it can play a role in the portfolio of things that Faith in Later Life does. We’ve got a tool that will work for our volunteers that is immensely valuable and is cost-effective. Between David’s report and the market research that David drew on, we’ve got a clear way forward.

“This is very important in PR terms – Daily Hope had a shout out on BBC2 on Sunday morning, for example – and it would have been a big call to close it down without investigating it properly. David got that. He understood the sensitivity of this but he didn’t let it skew him.”

Consultant’s insight:
​​​​​​​Sometimes organisations have to make very hard judgement calls – especially when the financial viability of a service is in question. In the case of Daily Hope it was even more challenging – the line uses a Freephone number, so the more successful it became, the more money it cost!

A further complication for Daily Hope was that it was started as a response to the Covid pandemic, in which respect it was hugely successful. But because its customer base is largely elderly, housebound and potentially vulnerable, it is extremely difficult to do any meaningful, cost-effective market research into the potential scale of post-pandemic needs.

In the end it came down to a classic blend of ‘head and heart’. The ‘head’ calculation involved some careful analysis of the telephone call data, to arrive at a total cost per call for the service. This number proved to be commensurate with the ‘heart’ side of the equation – the anecdotal evidence from the CofE research and testimonials that had been sent in, which demonstrated the depth of benefit derived by Daily Hope users.

In this way I was able to furnish Stephen and his colleagues with the tools they needed to make an informed decision. I have to confess that when I started the exercise I had expected the outcome to be quite different. I am delighted that my initial instinct was wrong.

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