A debate has started in BHT about Express magazine which is produced by our Client Hub a couple of times a year. The Client Hub provides the focus of BHT’s client involvement activities including meetings, activities, publications and online engagement. It is run for clients, by clients, and supported by BHT’s client involvement co-ordinator, Andrea Horwood.
Express is now in its 13th edition and the latest issue is really worth reading. The Client Hub team is expertly supported in the design of Express by one of our social enterprises, BHT Design.
Until about seven years ago, we produced something called ‘BHT News’, a rather bland, uninspiring publication that did what it said in the title, shared news about the organisation. I’m allowed to describe it as bland and uninspiring since I tended to write most of it!
When a group of clients asked for some money to produce a magazine of their own works, I was happy to oblige. What they produced was so much better than BHT News. We immediately ceased publication and reallocated the entire budget, and a bit more, for the production of Express.
Express magazine is the authentic voice of our clients. The only control I have is its length (this latest edition could have run to 48 pages rather than the 24 for which there was a budget), and I do have a veto over content which I have only ever used once in relation to a party political comment which we, as a charity, could not publish. A compromise was reached and I don’t think anyone else remembers the incident.
The latest edition of Express has no corporate BHT message. It has focused much more on the work of the Client Hub as well showcasing, from a client perspective, some of the services run by BHT including the Route One project, our sexual health project PASH, and Support4Housing, as well as a double page spread on Brighton Pride.
Some of my colleagues have suggested to me that the pendulum has swung too far, and that BHT itself, particularly our fundraising activities, have been sidelined. They argue that we need to have more content on BHT as an organisation so that our message and, in particular, our dependency on the financial generosity of our supporters, is more prominent.
They say, quite correctly, that without donations there would be no First Base Day Centre, no Client Hub, no Express magazine. Their argument is difficult to resist, not least because a significant part of my job is attracting charitable giving.
My feeling, however, is that the experience of our clients as articulated by clients thorough Express, offers an emotional connection for our donors. They are more interested in the lives of clients and how their lives are improved than about BHT as an organisation. They support our client work, not the organisation as such.
In addition to Express we send out a monthly electronic newsletter. If you would like to receive it, please contact my colleague Lucy Enever who will add you to the mailing list.
Express might not work for everyone and I would be interested in what you think of it. You can email me with your comments or leave them on this blog.