Charity giving can be a hair-raising business
A DAD'S LIFE:Suffering personally from sponsorship and fundraising
I REMEMBER walking round Marley Grange estate in Rathfarnham when I was a kid, looking for sponsorship.
“Eh, will you sponsor me on a walk?”
“I get that, genius, but which one?”
“I dunno. This one.” I’d hold up the card that contained the names of existing sponsors, ie my parents and, unbeknownst to them, my grandparents.
“How far are you walking?”
“About two miles.”
“Janey, that’s not very far. How much d’you want?”
“Dunno. A pound?”
“I’ll do you 10p a mile. Come back when it’s done.”
Hated it. Bloody sponsored walk rolled around every year and we were expected to march around the estate and harass people into coughing up the readies because we were being forced into a stroll around Marley Park some bleak Sunday morning. The teachers hated it too, forced as they were into accompanying us on these out-of-hours jaunts.
Imagine that happening now. Sending your seven year old off to call into strangers’ houses looking for money. Often they’d say, “Come on in while I hunt in my purse for change. Would you like a bikkie?”
In we’d go, not a bother. We’d got the warnings, don’t go in the door, stay outside, but that would have been rude wouldn’t it? You couldn’t ask someone for money and then not go inside when they invited you in so nicely. The 1970s. Brilliant.
My kids don’t go door to door, they speed-read instead. This I am really happy about. They even know the name of the charity they’re reading for. The MS Readathon is an annual event for us, but this is the first year both kids have been able to take part. Hence we have a little bit of internal competition. The younger has no chance of reaching the elder’s book tally from last year so we have to introduce a handicapping system, whereby a word per minute rate is established and length of age-appropriate books is taken into account. It all becomes very scientific and mysterious.
Most importantly, the kids get to participate in a fundraising drive for a worthwhile charity by doing something worth their while.
Everyone involved in the transaction benefits, the charity, people living with MS and the kids who, even though they are aiming to pitch through as many pages as possible at pace, will undoubtedly unearth a new author or subject area. I am the only one who will suffer. I will have to empty my wallet for each book read. MS Ireland should buy me a penthouse in Dublin 4 for the reading- related monies I have been hit for over the years.
This sort of fundraising is ingenious, whoever came up with it hit the nail square in the head. You convince people to raise money in a quasi-
competitive environment by engaging in an educational activity. Nobody can complain, and everybody empathises with the recipients.
I’m no Lance Armstrong (I ride clean, among other things) but I’ve done a couple of marathons for charity. The first was in 2007. All I had to do was mention Crumlin children’s hospital and the chequebooks were out. I tried the same in 2010 for Croí, the west of Ireland heart health charity: “Would ye ever feck off with yourself trying to fund a holiday with my money.” The world had changed.
Now, to have any chance of parting someone from their hard-earned, you need a convincing hook. Kids must improve themselves. Adults must prove themselves. Taking part in a sporting event? I laugh at your marathon. If you’re not double Ironmanning or swimming channels, don’t come near me. Standards are high now, and the giving business is a competitive one.
Which makes me all the more astounded at the global phenomenon that is Movember. From next week we will have to grin and bear the sight of every second geezer of shaving age succumbing to his inner Village People. The cause is important and a man of my advancing years has to be aware of the increasing possibility of prostate cancer. But seriously. Give you money for growing a ’tache? Every gangster between the canals will be jangling with charity change. We are deaf to all utterances when the speaker looks like Motorhead’s Lemmy.
Maybe it’s what we need though. A little facial hair brevity to ease the pain. I can see Michael Noonan sporting a hefty Viva Zapata! on budget day. I’ll be channelling Tom Selleck when I renew my door-to-door collections, armed with my daughters’ sponsorship cards.