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A fundraising relationship that went horribly wrong

September 4, 2015

 

This story opens with a family brought to the brink and saved by a charity. It could have ended with tens of thousands of pounds raised and a relationship forged for life.

 

But, it wasn't.

 

Two years ago, one of my close friends had cancer. One day, she thought she was fine. The next day, she was admitted to the hospital for two months. While she was there, a cancer charity stepped in. Their research directly changed the course of her life. She went from near catastrophe to the possibility she would live.

 

Her husband felt eternally grateful. 40-years old and an avid cyclist, that summer, he signed up for Ride London, a 100-mile charity bike ride around the city. He raised several thousand pounds to support this charity that meant so much to his family.

 

The following year, his wife was officially in remission. In celebration and after his great experience the year before, six of his friends wanted to join him. In theory, that should have resulted in six times the amount he had raised the year before.

 

But, a clerical error meant the charity never entered him into the race.

His friends were entered but he wasn't. He sent an email to the charity. They took weeks to respond. He replied to them, but didn't hear back so he phoned.

 

I need to stop here for a moment. He chased them. With his emotional connection, youth and years ahead of possible fundraising, why is he chasing anyone? Any charity should feel this kind of  relationship is the foundation of their fundraising base.

 

When he phoned, they said there was nothing they could do. They seemed confused. Whoever emailed was not connected up to who he spoke to on the phone. The lines of communication within the charity were not joined up.

 

He missed out on his place and the charity missed out on him.

 

Without my friend and the story of his wife, the fundraising momentum of the group fizzled out. The six friends raised a third of what he did alone the year before. Worse, there is a serious question over whether any of them will do it again next year. They talk about trying other charities, other events -- the experience was a disappointment.

 

And, I can't help but think that it all went wrong because of a single, simple and easily fixable mistake.

 

The charity lost out this year. The group didn't raise nearly as much as they could have. The charity lost out next year. If the group does take part, it will be reduced in numbers. The charity lost out for the next decade. My friend may not continue his relationship with the charity at all. And, the charity lost out decades from now.

 

Because, legacy donations are left to charities that people feel a long-term connection to.

 

If you could go back in time and change one thing you or your charity did wrong, what would it be?

 

Jonathan Cook | jonathan@insight-ful.co.uk | +44 (0)7921 250 211

Jonathan @Linkedin | Twitter @jonathan_m_cook

 

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