There appears to be an increasing competition for charitable donations. Maybe social media and today’s connected world gives me more visibility of the good things people are doing, but this wouldn’t explain why the streets of Sydney seem to be filled with people collecting for their causes.
It’s an interesting position I often find myself in. I have no doubt that every cause is worthwhile but I have become a little weary of the pseudo friendly approaches I often receive as I walk about the city. They start by enquiring if I am having a good day and then move swiftly onto asking me if I have time to answer one question. We all know this is a well proven tactic to get people to engage and my standard response is to smile and walk on.
Equally when I am raising money for a charity I have been cautions about rattling a tin. I’m sensitive to how others may feel, particularly when you have form and this is not the first time you have gone to the friends and family “well” to raise some funds.
One of the outcomes of my ride in France last year was a desire to give back and be more charitable.
The organisation I ride with in France, Le Loop, have a great set up. Cyclists pay their own tour costs to Le Loop and agree to raise a minimum sponsorship for the William Wates Memorial Trust , which is paid directly to Trust. In the Trusts own words:
We aim to help the most disadvantaged young people keep away from a life of crime and violence and fulfil their potential. This is achieved by giving grants to charities that engage young people through the mediums of sport, arts and education.
All of this is clearly explained up front and you know that the money you raise goes to some great causes. Last year during our ride we got to meet first hand some of the recipients of the grants. They came out to ride with us on some of the stages (Alumni riders cover all the costs of this project) and we got to hear about how the money we had raised was being used. After hearing from some of the recipients I remember feeling incredibly privileged and completely disconnected from the realities that many people face.
I was sitting in a restaurant, somewhere in France, surrounded by other cyclists fortunate to be doing something that I loved and decided that I would find some way to start giving back.
When I arrived home back in Sydney I wasn’t sure what I should do. I could always make donations to some local causes but would this really be enough? I did consider volunteering, but the only experiences I have had of doing this had never gone well. Normally it was something to do with the school and what should just have been a couple of hours helping out always became a great source of frustration. If you ask me to help out at the BBQ, rather than just go with it I start to get frustrated at the inefficiency of how the whole thing is run.
Should Mary who is taking the money, and who clearly knows everybody in the whole school, really be spending that much time chatting when there is such a big line up and people are walking away? Is it OK for me to challenge “BBQ king Gary’s” strategy of cooking everything up front, and point out that after 2 hours we will be selling something that looks that burnt and shrivelled in a piece of stale bread for $2? I know it’s for charity, people might not expect much, but surely we need to have some standards.
Fortunately we were all saved from more volunteering when one of my clients asked if I would run a Leadership program, similar to the programs I run for them, for a group of their charitable institutions that they support. They have a large charitable foundation so they are able to support a range of different entities from established charities, to new charities and also some social enterprises .
I must admit I was a little apprehensive at first. I know what I do in the corporate space resonates with the people I work with, but would it translate across into these environments? I needn’t have worried; if there are people involved, regardless of who they work for or how many of them there are, there are similar leadership challenges.
The difference from working with my normal corporate client base is that for most of the people working in this sector there is no option for them to walk away if things get too tough. Particularly for the founders and the individuals building and developing their charities or pioneering some very cool social enterprise models, this is their life’s work.
They are working to provide support and choice for the people they are helping and they are passionate and 100% committed to what they do. They are incredibly conscientious about how they spend any money they receive to the point where they make personal sacrifices way beyond what many of us would be prepared to do.
So alongside developing leadership capabilities I have also been able to get involved in how to structure and grow some of these organisations. I have been more than happy to donate my time to run strategy days, facilitate team events, be a mentor and help bring a more commercial edge to how they run their organisations, without losing their heart and soul.
When you get to meet and work with the people who are passionate about their cause and you can see the good they are doing you are only too willing to help out in any way that you can. This type of involvement isn’t just a transaction, a donation of time or money, it is part of a relationship and connectedness that really is mutually beneficial.
Which brings me back to Le Loop and The William Wates Memorial Trust. It’s only when you make that personal connection and understand how you are making a difference that it becomes your cause. This was the realisation I had in the restaurant last year.
So armed with my new experiences this year I am heading back to France to enjoy riding my bike and looking forward to catching up with the Le Loop team in the knowledge that all the money raised will be making a huge difference to the charities they are able to support.
This idea of a connection also plays out in another way.
I know what it feels like when people do support your cause. Getting donations from people you haven’t seen for 20 years because they may have read a blog or seen a request and are inspired enough to support you, is very moving and motivating.
Over the last few years I have willingly tried to support people I know in whatever charitable endeavours they have undertaken – bike riding, marathon running, walking up mountains, if I have known about them then I have consciously tried to make a donation. If you are motivated to do get off the sofa and it has a flow on effect to a good cause then it’s good enough for me.
So here is my offer, if you have something in your diary that needs some charitable support then send your request my way. My only caveat is I am not going to become an ATM for your kid’s school fundraising; you volunteer your time and manage the frustration. If you have signed up for a challenge that motivates you and will in turn help a good cause then give me the opportunity to support you.
I have a few limited addition Tea Towels from last years fund raising. If you do want to make a donation to a cause I believe in then I am happy to send one your way.
You can sponsor me here: www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BenReeve