Charity fundraisers raise more than just money: Five reasons to get involved
It seems that everyone is getting involved in some sort of fundraiser these days. And for the activity itself, this makes a lot of sense:
- It often involves doing something healthy (eg. walking, cycling, swimming a certain distance)
- It raises awareness of the charity as people will often share their stories regarding their involvement
- The funds really do go to good use - for an example, I'm doing a lot for Diabetes UK this year and not only does the money go towards research and provision of services, but technology such as the digital blood sugar monitor have been developed and this year marks 100 years of insulin - which all make living with the disease that little bit easier.
...however, now, having done a number of challenges this year:
- The Big Sleep Out for Hope
- The Lewis Foundation Firewalk and their Karting competition
- "Swim22" - 22 miles over 3 months for Diabetes UK (I made 44 in the time!!)
- 24hr Open Water Swim for Level Water
...and I've still got:
- The Dart10k for Level Water
- 1 million steps for Diabetes UK
- A production of Steel Magnolias which I'm producing, directing and performing in, also for Diabetes UK
...I do notice that far more is raised than just funds. (In fact, I have to notice that because my friends have donate so much to my causes, I can barely keep asking for more!!!)
You create healthy habits
Many of the challenges ask you to achieve a certain target over a specific length of time...they are specifically set up to stretch you a little, but to be achievable - for example, the 1 million steps target can be set at 500k instead. However, already, only 13 days in, I know that (despite my swimming training) I'm putting the additional walks in to hit my daily target, and finding I really enjoy them...and those that I'm doing it with, despite having quite sedentary jobs (one is literally paid "to Sit"...she's in the legal profession), are making time to add a walk (even getting up at 6.30am to do so before work) - and reaping the benefits.
You inspire others
What's been lovely about a couple of the events is that I've been part of a team. You find a sense of camaraderie, and form a connection with a new group of people who "get what's going on"...post on the WhatsApp group that you weren't able to do X because of Y, and you can be sure someone will feel the same, and be glad that you mentioned it!! But also, this team offers you a whole new source of support, encouragement and ideas, which is not only a little positivity boost, but really great for stimulating a new sense of curiosity through learning from different people.
Forming the team too can be motivation enough. When one of my friends said to me she'd revamped her gym, I thought - why don't we make sure it gets used and suggested we sign up to do 1 million steps. The advantage of this challenge is that it doesn't require a minimum fundraising amount, and so we then threw down the gauntlet to others to be kind enough to donate - or better still - lace up their trainers! And now there are 7 of us!
AND the inspiration doesn't stop there...friends, family and colleagues who are not involved might also join in now and then. Admittedly the weather helps, but my husband is also now saying "Let's go for a walk to make up your steps" - it's a great reason for all of us to do something that benefits!
You raise awareness
While you may think the "donation post" on social media is just about the money, I have found it gets people talking, especially if you've shared your reason for being involved. On donating to my causes, people have spoken up about their experiences, and not only have I learned so much more about the issue which I didn't know before (because even if you have personal experience, you still only have a limited perspective), but in talking to them about how they have managed their situation, you learn so much more about them, their grit, their resilience...and you've created a space to share.
It gives you a sense of purpose
Martin Seligman spoke about 3 key routes to happiness - healthy relationships, a sense of flow, and a sense of purpose. Actually, the first two can sometimes be created by getting involved in something - you meet likeminded people, and the more you do, the better you get!! But the sense of purpose is also significant.
With the issues in the world, we can often feel as if we aren't doing enough. I know, whenever I promote a training session which focuses on self development people sometimes accuse me of "empowering the individual at the expense of solving the real issues within society". Indeed, my day job is about supporting individuals eg leaders in the position to make changes from above (if you are mentally and emotionally fit you can help others better...and leaders have the means to do so!!), but (as well as wellbeing tools) all my volunteer/media platforms try to both listen and give voice to those addressing real needs at ground level, learning what the real issues are and how to initiate effective change. While I might not be able to tackle homelessness by sleeping rough for one night, I can at least draw attention to the less palatable issues not always talked about eg: how food bank donations are sometimes what givers simply don't want, rather than what beneficiaries need or would love (because we do); or how drugs and alcohol doesn't necessarily cause homelessness, but it becomes a huge part of surviving it.
The more I learn through being involved, the more I am able to include when I get the opportunity to speak more widely - I'm often asked "what can we do about x"...and the answer is sometimes - "it's not about "we" as in the individual and the mental health practitioner...but the greater we of society"...as an example, recent research by the Alzheimer's society showed that although green space was great for those with Alzheimer's many were not using it...speak to those with Alzheimer's and they will say that's because there's no public transport, or paths big enough for a wheelchair, or even accessible toilets!
BUT THEN, in my work - in the same way as the wonderful Lions Barber Collective who has trained their staff in working with mental health issues - I can try and drip feed what I am learning to those I train, or when I'm asked the question in media - and hope that someone in the position to act does!
And coming soon to Disruptive TV is my new Livestream show "Meet the Changemakers" (Tuesdays 5.30-6.00pm) where I speak to charities and social enterprises celebrating grassroots initiatives, and exploring how we ALL can really put action behind our social conscience).
You might achieve more than you thought possible
Whether it's topping the fundraising leaderboard, or smashing your target, or even developing a new skill (I could barely swim at the start of the year, let alone be relatively excited about the chance to face the Dart10k in September!!...and I walked on fire(!!)), or maybe you've realised that what you're doing has inspired others to mount their own campaigns or fitness drives too - you might find that you have been able to gift something of even greater value than money.
So, it's not too late - rather than think about getting fitter, sign up for a challenge; or instead of becoming anxious about issues - see if you can contribute to solving the ones you are passionate about by either joining the cause or supporting it in other ways. Every little really does help...and probably far more than you realise!
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the practical "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; or her Radio Show "The Wellbeing Lounge", and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt
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