When the pandemic shut down the in-person events that had long been a fundraising mainstay for Variety, the charity suddenly became far more reliant on digital channels. However, with demand for our services soaring, we realised we had our work cut out in terms of improving our digital presence.

At the top of our digital transformation wish list was a full website overhaul. We desperately needed a new, modern, more user-friendly site, to help us assist our service users better, reach out to our supporters more effectively, improve our level of online donations and rank better in search engines.

We found ourselves in a Catch-22 situation, however. Having lost over 60% of our revenue, how on earth were we going to find the budget we needed to develop a new site?

When Variety’s Chair of Patrons, respected entrepreneur and philanthropist, Michael Josephson MBE, together with our Vice Chair of Patrons, renowned businessman, Andrew Geddes, offered to step in and fund 80% of our website development costs, it was the answer to all our prayers.

With the funding we needed in place, development went ahead, and we were able to launch our brand-new website in April 2022, just in time to support our emergence and recovery from the pandemic. Happily, the new site is already having a positive impact on all aspects of our work and we are so grateful.

We caught up with Michael and Andrew to tell us more about their involvement with Variety and their support for the new website.

What prompted you to get involved with Variety?

Michael Josephson: My passion for helping children and young adults who have not had the best start in life, either through being disadvantaged or disabled, comes from my own experiences as a physically, mentally and sexually abused child. I wanted to support a charity I could trust to deliver the support vulnerable children need and to make a better future for them. When I was introduced to Lyn Staunton, Variety’s Development Director, and she told me about the great work the charity does, I knew that Variety was going to be my charity of choice.

Andrew Geddes: As a child, I grew up in a low-to-middle income household. Although I never went hungry, many of my classmates at school went without decent shoes and clothing. I always felt that when I was older, I would help kids. Having looked at the work Variety does and how they help underprivileged kids, I decided I would support Variety to try and correct life’s imbalances, secure the basic needs of kids who have very little and bring some happiness to their lives. Variety is doing such wonderful work, and I just want to support this amazing charity in any way I can.

What has been your favourite or proudest moment with Variety?

MJ: It’s hard to pick my favourite individual moment. However, if pressed, I can say that donating Sunshine Coaches to special needs schools and seeing the joy and excitement on the children’s faces as well as the sheer relief of the staff and parents, knowing that my support has given the school the freedom to take the children on wonderful adventures, have probably been my favourite moments. I am currently donating my fourth coach.

AG: Handing over the first coach my family purchased for the disadvantaged kids at a school in Manchester was a stand-out moment for me, and one I will always remember. It’s wonderful to see the happy, smiling faces of the kids as well as those who work and care every day for them, knowing that, with a new coach, they are equipped to deliver a better level of care to the children.

Why did you kindly offer to fund Variety’s new website?

MJ: This was just another way of showing my long-term commitment to Variety. All websites need to be updated and revised regularly to keep up with changes happening in the world. An enhanced site is better able to take online donations. With social media being so prevalent, it’s also imperative to be able to engage with new supporters for the future.

AG: The world is constantly changing and the mechanisms to communicate the work of Variety will always need to be improved. At Variety, we need to continually innovate and communicate the impact of what Variety does best: supporting the most vulnerable children in our society. In our modern digital world, a website is one of the most important tools to communicate and to raise the funds we need to improve the lives of kids with the most needs.

You’re a Variety Patron – what does this involve?

MJ: Being Chairman of Patrons is a huge responsibility. I continually support current Patrons in what they do at Variety, whilst engaging with new Patrons. As Chairman, I attend bespoke Patron events including dinners at the House of Commons or special occasions at Buckingham Palace. 

AG: As Vice Chair, I am always on duty representing Variety Patrons. There are so many caring people who are waiting for a chance to give of themselves and make donations and just need some encouragement. Once everyday folks understand the amazing work that Variety does, they are more than happy to donate.

What else are you working on with Variety?

MJ: Each year I hold a charity Ball in Manchester, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for disabled and disadvantaged children. In 2021, the Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball raised £750K, so – fingers crossed – this year’s MJ Ball on 12th November 2022 will again raise huge funds for children.

AG: I am supportive in many ways personally as a Patron. I am always encouraging people to join our team. Sometimes this is successful, and when a new supporter comes on board, this always gives me a warm feeling. It’s nice to care and it’s nice to give!

What would you like to see Variety do in future?

I would like to see Variety evolve continually and help more children and young adults in the future. Both the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have had a devastating impact on disabled and disadvantaged children. With the right support hard to come by, many have seen their physical and mental health decline. I’d like to see Variety developing and growing their services in these tough times, making sure children don’t miss out on the support and experiences that should be part of every childhood.

AG: I would like to be even more involved in Variety and encourage more and more people to become a part of our family of donors. Variety is already a hugely respected charity that helps kids overcome difficult times in their lives. Variety needs to get stronger and stronger, and hopefully maintain its hugely respected position in the minds of the general public. We live in such a difficult time right now and there is always even more to be done to help.