Case studies > Skills sharing > Communication Strategy



Pathway is a small homeless health charity working in England, which was founded to show that homelessness is a healthcare problem. They have helped the NHS set up teams in 11 hospitals to support homeless patients, and help over 3000 patients every year. With their assistance, one central London hospital helped over half of the homeless people who were admitted to find somewhere to live, and reduced the number of days homeless patients had to stay in hospital by 11%. 

Pathway have reduced total ‘bed-days’ taken by homeless patients by nearly one third. The organisation also hosts the Faculty of Homeless and Inclusion Health, a network of over 800 professionals who are passionate about improving the health of people on the margins of society. 

Cat Whitehouse joined Pathway as a Communication and Administration Officer in September 2015, with an extensive background in frontline homelessness work, fundraising and communications work, but it was the first time she was in a role dedicated to communications. Cat describes her motivations for wanting a match:

I approached Small Charities Coalition for a match because I wanted to make sure I got the basic structures right when I helped set the direction for the charity.closing speech marks

We were able to match Cat with Jonathan Russell, a leading corporate communications professional with 20 years of experience in high profile corporate brands, local government and FTSE 100 companies through our skills matching service.

Once matched, they both spent the day together discussing the issues facing Pathway and assessing what they needed from their match. Jonathan explains how the meeting progressed:

LLC Award

Cat had clearly taken the initiative in seeking support from SCC and had established the support of her senior colleagues – always a good start. As is often the case, when you start to explore together the work and challenges a charity faces and how it needs to proactively plan and exploit communications as a tool you can establish the context and aims for a sensible communications strategy. By the end of the day we spent together Cat had already captured the questions she and her Pathway colleagues needed to answer into a logical shape, while making sure we could both reflect on practical answers that reflected a balance between ambitions and resources.closing speech marks

Cat explained how the match worked and how she has been able to implement Jonathan’s help:

Through an initial meeting and a series of emails and phone calls Jonathan has guided the charity’s communications, helping to begin building a structure for strong communications and identifying and reaching key audiences.

The charity’s communication work is still very much a work in progress, but progress made to date has afforded the charity publicity on local and national radio, BBC television, and numerous trade magazines. The charity also won the prestigious Kate Granger Award for compassionate care.closing speech marks

In addition to this, Jonathan informed us of the ways in which he was able to use his experience to directly support Pathway:

Coaching more often than not simply entails validating a direction of travel for the journey already started while giving the confidence to stay on the bicycle. I hope the model we looked at and the template Cat started to fill will stand her in good stead, reinforce confidence in her abilities and confirm her credibility and reliability as a trusted advisor to the Pathway top team.

Cat is only a part time resource for the charity so working out with her colleagues the priorities for constructive engagement and getting support for focussing her energies on message priorities agreed by the Pathway team, together with the most influential audiences to reach and build relationships is a first crucial step.

I have found all I have had to do is confirm and reassure (sometimes with little tweaks in understanding which are to be expected) Cat. It was a delight to support her.closing speech marks

Cat went on to explain how this experience really helped improve her communication skills:

On a personal level being supported by Jonathan has helped me grow into my role in communications. His support has fostered my confidence, providing reassurance that I am on the right track. Continual Professional Development sessions with the SCC and associated groups have helped me keep abreast of new developments in the sector.closing speech marks

Cat recommended the matching service to other small charities based on her own enriching experience:

An SCC match is something I’d recommend to anyone looking for an extra boost in their work. Most of us working in small charities work alone; we have great colleagues, but nobody else in the industry to bounce ideas off. A match gives you that opportunity to share ideas with an expert in your field.closing speech marks

Jonathan added to this from his perspective:


It is great that small charities can have free access to support via the SCC whatever the issue and even where the challenges turn out to be less straight forward and more time-consuming. SCC sourced supporters will always be clear about the up-front verbal contract and adept at diagnosing in partnership with the client how we can work together. And I hope Cat found the quality of time we invested together has delivered value to her and Pathway.closing speech marks

Future Plans

Jonathan informed us they both plan to keep the match going.

While I always remain open for follow-up email exchanges or discussion Cat seems to be well motivated to take her planning forward and as I follow her on social media she seems to be delivering engaging messages.closing speech marks

Cat went on to describe the future for Pathway:

Our future Pathway (get it?!) is exciting. Buoyed by public support following the Kate Granger Award we’re looking into individual giving, reworking our website and continuing to work with people with lived experience of homelessness. Best of all, after the awards a hospital got in touch to ask about setting up a homeless team of their own. Good comms is helping us do what we do best, providing healthcare for homeless people.closing speech marks


Match still ongoing.

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