I’d already done some fundraising – see Ride2ThankYou.

As a result, Breast Cancer Campaign invited me to its House of Lords reception. This hit me hard. I’d raised £10,500. But the individual Fundraiser of the Year – a guy younger than me who’d seemingly run in every city marathon going – had raised £35K. And support from ASDA had generated something like £17M over an unspecified number of years. The message to me was clear: my one-off effort was irrelevant.

What could I do to make a real difference?

I wanted to start something – a “Big Idea” that would raise shed loads of money year after year, and without rattling my tin under the noses of the same friends and family who’d stumped up for Ride2Thank you. Since then, I have come up with several candidate ideas – fundraising concepts that I could perhaps grow into something that wouldn’t just be a one-off blip in Breast Cancer Campaign’s revenues but really would make a difference longer term.

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Battling Against Cancer

As a nerdish hobby, I’d spent five years creating digital images of scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry and using them to decorate my house. Could I use the same images on cards, on tee-shirts and as pictures, and sell these in aid of Breast Cancer Campaign? Everyone loved my test cards. But – for reasons never made clear – Breast Cancer Campaign didn’t like the idea. Nor would they come up with an alternative that was acceptable.

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Bowling Cancer Over

Each year, my home town of Leamington Spa hosts Bowls England’s Women’s National Bowls Championships. Could I run a joint promotional campaign at the Championships designed to meet the marketing objectives of Bowls England and to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign? Sadly, the answer was “No.” Bowl’s England wouldn’t play ball. And I can hardly complain about that: after all, it is their ball! It’s a shame though – the Men’s National Championships are now in Leamington too.

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Race2Cure

Howabout I cycle coast-to-coast across America? We’ll get teams from four big corporate partners to race me – and each other – all vying to reach their own fundraising targets before I get to San Francisco? Run it live on the web, with the corporates asking their customers to support their team by donating. So, the corporate partners together would cover just my costs in cycling across America etc. Otherwise they’d take part for free and could freely use R2C to achieve any agreed marketing and promotional objectives of their own. This “customer pays” model I hoped would make R2C easy to sell in a tough times. Unfortunately, Breast Cancer Campaign wouldn’t hear of my signing up corporates without a fat upfront fee, so another idea didn’t even get off the ground.

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Race2Cure Mark 2

Could I do R2C without corporate partners? If I went direct to consumers, I might still be able to get them supporting different teams – their home Region, their favourite TV program etc. Of course, marketing and website costs would be much higher; and the whole concept gradually became so grandiose that it might be best with a celeb to front it. Quite reasonably, Breast Cancer Campaign asked me to pilot the concept – in Warwickshire (!) – to prove it would work fronted by a nonentity.

I bought a new bike and started training, but it was soon clear that a pilot would be pointless: even if it was a success, Breast Cancer Campaign would not accept donations for R2C America out of which costs had still to be paid. And since fundraising would be mainly by on-line sponsorship, this was all I could offer. I promised personally to meet any shortfall should costs exceed the total raised, but to no avail. The no makeup selfie and the ice bucket challenge have got charities expecting all sizeable third-party fundraising to be like that – a gimmick requiring minimal support – so ideas involving anything more are dismissed.

Unless you’re a millionaire who can self-fund or a celeb who can tap thousands of fans, it’s now all but impossible to make a real difference. To the rest of us, the message is “think small”. Do your bit – and only a bit.

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But How About This Then?

I’ve just started helping a small charity which supports an orphanage in Uganda. I sponsor a boy called Abraham who will be four in February 2015, and has been at the orphanage since he was a tiny baby.

The orphanage was set up almost accidentally by Dorothy Nzirambi when, in 1984, she started to look after first one, and gradually, more and more orphaned babies. The resulting orphanage, the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre, is now supported by NOTDEC UK [Link to NOTDEC website]. NOTDEC arranges sponsorship for the children so that they can be properly fed, schooled, looked after and loved. And we have also helped fund the building of brand new housing and other facilities. But it’s all Ugandan run and managed. Here in the UK, our role is to help provide the means and encouragement, but otherwise to enable local people to run their own show.

If you’d like to make a donation to help support the Nzirambi Orphans – now 110 of them – please click on the button below. And, on behalf of the children, “Thank You”.

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