Why Us Fundraisers Need to Look for Rainbows
Jenna Wills BSc MinstF says fundraisers can learn a lot from Captain Tom's fundraising efforts, namely that we can raise the funds that will make the world a better place.
Last week, I took a tip from a friend. To cheer myself up, I went onto Captain Tom’s Justgiving page, looked at the total raised and pressed the refresh button. It went up by thousands. Then I tried again. Up by thousands again. And again. In the few seconds I was pressing refresh, thousands of pounds were being donated to the NHS. In five minutes alone, the total had gone up by over £100,000!
This was just the pick-up I needed. Having worked in fundraising for over 15 years, I had never felt so worried about the state of our sector. Unprecedented doesn't cover it - the fundraising landscape has changed beyond all recognition. Multi-million pound events cancelled, charity shops closed, fundraising staff furloughed. An Institute of Fundraising survey showed charities predict to lose up to a third of their income. As a trust fundraiser, every day the picture seemed to be getting bleaker – with trusts and foundations pausing their programmes, changing their criteria and delaying decisions. To be honest, I was starting to lose faith. Starting to believe that it just wasn’t possible to raise funds right now.
But then Captain Tom stepped out. Again, unprecedented – but this time in a good way. Who would have predicted, that during this time of great financial uncertainty, that a man walking in his garden would raise £25 million (and still rising)?
Closer to home, a teenager in Smallhealth, one of the most deprived areas of Birmingham, has raised £630 for the NHS by baking 165 cakes. £154,000 has been raised by people camping out in their back gardens. A particularly awesome man called Sean is raising money for AgeUK by running a 100k Ultra Marathon – inside his 6 metre flat.
'Our sector is blooming brilliant'
And then I remembered. This is why I became a fundraiser. Our sector is blooming brilliant. We, together with wonderful people like Captain Tom and Superhero Sean, raise money to help those who need it the most. If Captain Tom believed he couldn’t do it, then he wouldn’t have done it. And if we, as a sector, believe we can’t get through this, then we won’t.
So let’s all start believing. Let’s look for rainbows every day during this storm – whether it’s a call from a supporter you haven’t heard from for a while, a trust launching a new grant programme or a community fundraiser who wants to raise funds for you by running a virtual pub quiz. It doesn’t matter how small the rainbows are – write them down on post-it notes and stick them up around your desk, to cheer you up on the next tough day.
We all know that the top fundraisers are the most optimistic ones. And as a sector, we are some of the most resilient, positive people around. We hear the word ‘no’ 15 times in a row and still pick up the phone so we can hear ‘yes’ on our 16th attempt. We see possibilities out there that no one else does. We stand for hours in the wind and the rain with collection buckets. We write and rewrite our requests for support until we think they’re absolutely perfect – then run to open the post as soon as it arrives in the hope of receiving a cheque. And why do we do this? Because we know that the funds we raise will make the world a better place.
So from now on, let's not let the fear paralyse us. Our causes still need support, in fact they need it more than ever. We are resilient. Together, we will keep looking for rainbows, and know that one day, this storm will be a distant memory.
Jenna Wills is a freelance fundraiser and bid writer with Finding Starfish.