This week we had the opportunity to speak with Isabel Dosser, winner of the Active Citizens category from our 2019 Bright Red Sparks awards. We wanted to find out more about Isabel and her journey.
Isabel Dosser, Founder of Dignity Boxes
Tell us a bit about yourself
”I enjoy travelling. I like visiting new places, reading, watching movies. I also knit! Particularly baby clothing. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family. I’m married and I have 3 grown up sons and I’m a Grandma to Isaac, who is 2 years old.”
Tell us a bit about Dignity Boxes? What is it all about?
”Dignity boxes is a registered charity that asks for donations of basic toiletries. We then distribute them in boxes that we call ‘Dignity Boxes’. These go into organisations that work with people in poverty – and they are aimed to help people that cannot afford these products.”
What was your inspiration for starting Dignity Boxes?
“I went to a nursing conference in 2018, representing Edinburgh Napier University – And as part of that I attended a workshop about poverty – particularly to inform myself about Universal credits which is a new benefit introduced by the Government in Westminster. I came away from there feeling that I needed to do something to help those less fortunate. That is how the idea for Dignity boxes was formed.”
Practically speaking, how did you go about setting up the charity? What support have you received, and from where?
“First of all I got permission to put a donation box in each iPoint in the university. I was then interviewed by the University’s communications team, who sent out the interview material to various media outlets.. At the same time I started a Facebook page and went to Business Gateway for advice. What came out of that was a suggestion that I register as an official charity – a strenuous process that took about three months, involved quite a lot of paperwork, as there are a number of different regulations we had to adhere to.
Later on I approached BRT for advice. At that time I had already started receiving requests for Dignity boxes. Many people also offered to take donations boxes. The University Leadership Team, the Communications team and BRT have been very supportive throughout the process, along with that West Lothian Council and Business Gateway, just to name a few.
Practically speaking I had to buy boxes, label them, and take them to the organisations I was in touch with. For the Dignity boxes I did some research for appropriate organisations to talk to, who worked with people that I thought might benefit, as well as being given contacts from people I knew in health and social care.
Up to today and moving forward, organisations still have to present me with a strong rationale of why they should receive a Dignity box – this is something that is very important to me so that I am convinced we are giving to the right people. The selection process is relatively rigorous.”
What should we expect to see from Dignity Boxes in future?
“We are aiming to secure a hub for storing and sorting out the toiletries – that would be where volunteers would come and help with the donations. All products need to be sorted, counted and redistributed. All existing Dignity Boxes hold 20 products and are refilled monthly.
Another part of what we plan to do is have a marketing strategy that will help us get more donations, which would in turn, extend our area of impact.”
How did you feel about winning the Bright Red Sparks Active Citizens category, and what are you planning on using the prize money for?
“I was delighted – I was a bit shocked because I did think that my pitch was rubbish *laughs*. I am not a businesswoman, I am a nurse and lecturer, but in a very short period of time I have had to build up that business acumen that is needed to run a charity organisation.”
What advice would you give to others considering setting up a charity?
“First thing is to be very sure that you are passionate about your idea – the process of setting up a charity is very time consuming and life altering in a way.
Take all support that is offered, and consider every piece of advice that is offered to you to help explore every avenue.”