How Mail readers and firms came to pledge over £5m for pupil laptop campaign

Posted on: February 2, 2021 by admin

Last week the Daily Mail launched the latest campaign by its charity MailForce, set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Following an £11m drive to ramp up PPE delivery across Britain in 2020, the paper is turning its hand to Computers for Kids, the task of delivering laptops to pupils in need across Britain. Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter of the Daily Mail, tells us more: 

I HAVE helped run a few campaigns for the Mail over the years, but I’m not sure we’ve ever had quite such a flying start as this one. A stunning £5.6million was pledged in the first eight days.

The image of schoolchildren marooned at home without a computer – literally falling behind in their studies every single day that passes – has jolted readers and companies into action like never before. It’s not just kids on free school meals who need help. Plenty of homes have ‘the family laptop’ with two or three pupils – not to mention WFH parents – all fighting over it.

I know from past campaigns that our readers are the most generous in the business, and this is no different. The cheques have absolutely flooded in. In the world of online banking, I am not sure I even know where my chequebook is any more, but a huge number of our readers managed to put a hand to theirs within hours of us launching.

They cascade out of postbags, and most come with a heartfelt, handwritten letter of support. There are poignant messages too on our online giving page, which alone has taken more than £600,000 in a single week. A striking number are from retired teachers and grandparents. A recurring comment is: ‘My grandchildren have computers, so this is to help out those who do not.’ Another is: ‘I am a pensioner and here’s £10 and I’m sorry I can’t afford more.’

One of the things that has really caught the imagination of our readers is that, for as little as £15, they can actually fix it for a child in need to get a laptop computer. This is because we are accepting used laptops from big companies and spending the donated cash on having them professionally wiped and rebuilt for the classroom.

This neat combination appeals to companies and readers alike – not to mention some very generous individual philanthropists. It has been so busy, I have been overwhelmed by the massively generous offers from large corporations, they are coming in so fast. It is brilliant to be able to showcase the immense good that big business is capable of doing. And our readers clearly love the idea that they can write a cheque for, say, £30 and know it will get two schoolchildren a pretty high-spec laptop (the banks don’t buy any old tat for their staff).

Everyone keeps asking what our ‘target’ is. I was involved last year when the Mail set up the Mail Force charity to get PPE to nurses and doctors. If we had got one mask to one nurse and it had saved his or her life, that would have been phenomenal. Two masks would have been doubly so. In the end, Mail Force delivered 42million items of PPE kit. This year, lots of schoolchildren need to get online immediately, and whatever Mail Force can do to help is a bonus. My Editor has been fundamentally clear from the off: whatever we do, it must add to – not compete against – the Government’s own impressive drive to get 1.3million new computers to schools. (At one point it was the world’s biggest purchaser of laptops.)

As with last time, many of the Mail’s reporters are working long hours to deliver Computers for Kids. We might not be at the coalface of the pandemic in the way nurses and teachers are, but we are all proud to be playing a small part.