Category: Awards

How a creative approach to fundraising is increasing awareness and support for National Star

The Charity of the Year was awarded to disability charity National Star whose work in supporting young people with disabilities to become equal and active citizens in control of their own lives is transformational.

Young people who never thought they would be able to gain paid employment are now working in local businesses and organisations across the UK. Others who never in their wildest dreams believed they could live independently are doing so. The judges were particularly impressed by their many creative ways of fundraising for new specialist student accommodation.

National Star logo

  • National Star is one of the largest education, health and social care employers in Gloucestershire, providing innovative learning programmes and long-term living accommodation for young adults with disabilities.
  • The charity has supported thousands of young adults with disabilities over the past 50 years.
  • Employs more than 1,200 staff in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Wales.
  • In 2021-2022, they provided 795,766 hours of service, supported 495 young people, and helped 92% of learners fully achieve their personal learning goals.

The winning entry:

National Star receives limited statutory funding from local authorities and health authorities to cover the cost of the education and care provided to students. However, this is simply not enough to buy specialist equipment and to upgrade their facilities. The year previous to the awards, they set the ambitious target of raising the remaining £1.5m to fund new, specialist student accommodation at Ullenwood.

With the cost-of-living crisis making fundraising tougher than ever they adopted an innovative approach to income generation and fundraising. The Sunrise Walk is their flagship community fundraising event of the year, attracting scores of participants each spring. Individuals and members of the local business community, such as COOK Cheltenham, St James’ Place Wealth Management, and staff from CLC Sports Centre, put their best foot forward to support the event.

Their ‘Go Far, be a Star’ challenge captured the imagination of participants, wishing to support their ‘Building a Brighter Future Appeal’. Fundraisers were innovative in the way they embraced the challenge. They trekked on horses, ran 5K daily for a month, walked the Ring of Kerry ‘virtually’ and covered the equivalent distance of swimming to France! In line with their values of equality, diversity, self-determination and individuality, the campaign was designed to be flexible and inclusive, so that current and former students could get involved – and they did! They covered 100 miles on an accessible trike, tackled a mobility maze with eggs on their laps and swam numerous lengths of their local pool!

Understanding times are challenging for local businesses and their employees, National Star took an imaginative approach to corporate volunteering too. Wagada Digital, a Cheltenham-based digital marketing agency, fundraised for them by running training courses and encouraging delegates to donate, rather than paying a registration fee. They also organised a donation day of pre-loved clothes for their Cheltenham charity shop and created a social media plan to help the charity to reach younger donors. This creative and innovative approach to fundraising has not only raised money for National Star, but widened awareness of their work and upskilled their team.

Their social enterprises StarGolf, StarBistro and StarGlamping also helped the charity to take a creative approach to fundraising and income generation. At Christmas, StarBistro diners were encouraged to donate the cost of a mince pie to National Star, rather than tipping the team, if they were happy with the service they received. Diners often have little awareness of the work of the charity until they eat with them and then feel inspired to support their work. A group of American visitors walking the Cotswold Way, made a generous donation of £1,000 on the spot after hearing more about the inspirational charity.

The growing charity retail operation is also raising awareness of their brand amongst potential, new supporters. They installed an in-house music system which broadcasts fundraising messages to shoppers as they browse the aisles and actively promote the National Star lottery to people visiting the stores. National Star students also volunteer in the stores, showcasing the skills they are learning while studying with them.

Here’s what parents and former students have to say about the impact of the charity.

Former student Molly said:

I never imagined that I would be able to achieve so much and my family are so proud of me. I am incredibly grateful to National Star for helping me to gain independence in the areas I struggled with. I now live in my own house in Cheltenham.”

Mr and Mrs Anderson said:

Our daughter Catrin who has very complex needs, has received outstanding support from the knowledgeable, committed, and experienced staff at National Star during her time there. The progress she has made, particularly from the specialised therapies available to her, has been wonderful to see.”

Catrin Viveash, Head of Fundraising at National Star comments on winning the award:

Winning the Charity of the Year award at the GloucestershireLive Business Awards was the icing on the cake after a year of intense fundraising for the new student accommodation desperately needed at Ullenwood. The award gave us a chance to reconnect with donors and colleagues who had supported the Appeal and raised awareness of the charity in the local business community.”


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