Hard truths and making impact

iwitot - 2014Last week I wrote about the ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ or ‘iwitot’ event and the importance of showing the impact of your fundraising.

My vote for the best presentation at iwitot was Chris Barraclough, Creative Director at Orchestra talking about the documentary Cathy Come Home.

First broadcast on the 16th November 1966, the play tells the story of a young couple, Cathy and Reg. When Reg is injured and loses his job, they are evicted by bailiffs, and they face a life of poverty and unemployment, illegally squatting in empty houses and staying in shelters for the homeless. Finally, Cathy has her children taken away by social services.

Written by Jeremy Sandford and directed by Ken Loach, on its first broadcast Cathy Come Home was watched by 12 million people, which at the time was a quarter of the British population. The highly realistic drama-documentary style was new to British television and created a huge impact.

20 years later Radio Times readers’ poll voted it the best single television drama and in 2000 the BFI TV 100 poll rated it as the second best British television programme ever made. In 2005 it was named by Broadcast Magazine as the UK’s most influential TV programme of all time.

In the light of the public reaction to the film, and a publicity campaign that highlighted the plight of the homeless, led by Willam Shearman and the MP Ian Macleod, the charity Crisis was formed in 1967. By coincidence, Shelter was launched a few days after the first broadcast. St Mungo’s followed in 1969.

Cathy Come Home had a huge impact because it sparked outrage and anger and it cut through the dry and dusty jargon of social workers, political debate and academic research to tell the raw, human story of a family torn apart by homelessness, and helpless in the face of bureaucracy.

The point that I thought Chris made beautifully is that “Cathy Come Home was produced without any thought to incorporating the latest mission statement, 50 pages of brand guidelines, approved wording, tone of voice architecture or any of the other navel-gazing, self-obsessed nonsenses that pre-occupy the marketing departments of so many large charities”

Cathy Come Home was about the need, it presented the problem with raw emotion and a sense of outrage in a language people could relate to.

For those among you that are thinking. “yea but it’s not a fundraising campaign’, you are right. However if fundraising is about raising money to solve urgent and important problems, first we must be aware of the hard truth of the problems that we are attempting to solve.

Fundraising is about making impact. Cathy Come Home did more than any other single event to turn homelessness into a major social issue and public cause. It showed the real problem of homelessness, for which now many charities are fundraising for, so that other people do not go though the terrible ordeal that Cathy and her family did.

Thank you Chris Barraclough for generously sharing your presentation.




Why do you fundraise?

Last week I attended the third ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ event in London and listened to 19 fundraisers each speaking for 7 minutes about the fundraising idea they wished they had thought of.

If you missed it, you can check out a storify of the event to get a taste here.

As you would expect from a collective of passionate fundraisers, we heard about beating targets and seizing opportunities. There were tears as we listened spellbound to beautifully told personal stories. There was also a good healthy dose of swearing.

One thing that didn’t resonate strongly enough for me was the difference each of the fundraising campaigns made. What was the impact? I only recall one specific reference to the difference made, that because of the £8million raised through #nomakeupselfie, CRUK can now fund an additional 10 clinical trials.


And whilst that is excellent news, what do those 10 clinical trials actually mean?

Is it hope for thousands of people whose lives are affected by cancer that they might get to spend more time with people they love? Is it that Ben’s mum gets to see her son blow out the candles on his 5th birthday cake, or that Sarah’s dad can walk her down the aisle or that Joan gets to hold her first granddaughter Evie?

Isn’t that the point?

We fundraise, and we raise as much as we possibly can in order that we can achieve our mission, to help more people, or animals or the environment. The money we raise, and the reason we raise it are essentially about the same thing. If we focus on the fundraising mechanism without truly connecting to why it is so vitally important to raise the money, if we do not show the difference our fundraising can make, something within our fundraising is lost. For us, for our supporters and for the causes we exist to help.

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