There is a multitude of fundraising causes going on at any given time and we are constantly bombarded through social media platforms on people less fortunate than ourselves or those going through a particularly tough time. The internet has been a valuable tool for those looking to raise funds for worthy causes and allows massive exposure to an almost unlimited audience. As someone who has recognised their deficiencies in being a volunteer through lack of time and availability, I have always been willing to support some causes that I feel are beneficial and where my donation will make some impact. Like time, money is a scarce resource, and we aren’t all in a position to give all the time to multiple charities.
Six years ago though, a good friend’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. This shocked many of the people within my social group as we all still believed we would be immune from these diseases and yet suddenly, we all had to wrap our arms around our friends and offer them support. As part of a very male-dominated industry, breast cancer was not something we considered to be a threat on the horizon for any of us to deal with. As our friend’s wife and family were busy adjusting their lives to deal with this news, treatment, upheaval in their daily schedules and still function as a family, it was reassuring to see people step up and assist where possible. Thankfully, following treatment, she made a full recovery but continues to live with the aftermath and constant health checks.
The illness exposed our friend to a support network that we didn’t know existed and who work tirelessly to assist breast cancer patients and survivors through raising funds to reduce the financial burden for those going through treatment. On finding out about this group, we decided to get together as friends from our industry and raise a few dollars and do our part in helping. After all, we were keen to help, but not sure quite how. So, in 2016, six friends got together for a casual lunch. The rules were simple, a $100 donation to the charity and you pay your share of the bill. That day we raised $600 and were quite proud of what we had done to help our friend’s wife and the group that had supported her. The day was great fun and we never forgot why we were there. We had no idea how to even get the cash we collected to the fund but knew it felt rewarding to help. It also instilled in us a feeling that we should do this again.
So, we did. The following year we invited a few more friends along to the lunch. We returned to the same venue, and it felt like 12 months evaporated as we got together for a good cause once again. The rules didn’t change, $100 donation and we split the bill. Nobody complained about this and again we collected a pile of cash and got it off to the charity.
Over the next couple of years this pattern repeated as we threw the invites further afield and attempted to make this an annual event for the industry we were all part of. We had got a little better at using online platforms for invites but we were still essentially doing it ad hoc and hoping for the best. And the funds kept growing.
After our 2019 lunch, however, we realised something was stopping us from making the event bigger and making a difference by showing that the industry we were a part of was a great one and full of very generous people. Firstly, we lost some close friends to cancer. This had us questioning whether we should change our efforts to support prostate cancer, split the funds raised or stick with the cause we had started with. Secondly, the major problem was us. There were four of us that did the majority of the organising for the event with the assistance of a couple of good friends. It wasn’t that we were too busy to run the event, it was that we had let our biases get in the way of who we deemed appropriate to invite. After all, we had started small, and we still considered it a small close-knit group of industry friends that got together.
2020 was a turning point. We held the luncheon at the same venue but needed to hold a very different event from the normal sit-down lunch to a more casual group function. We had fifty-four people come along on a sunny winter day to our event in its own area of the restaurant. We were also lucky enough to have a guest speaker attend who have started the charity and we were keen to show her what four friends and their industry colleagues could do. No longer were we just sitting in the main restaurant on a few long tables. This meant we had to organise wristbands to identify our group when ordering drinks, collect cash for the lunch and set up an area to have speeches. Stress levels went up, the organisation went up and for the first time we felt a little pressure to make sure we delivered a good day.
Thankfully, all the hard work paid off and we managed to raise $14,500 through donations and an auction. We were delighted. But as always, something happens that changes your direction. The speech given by the special guest was unbelievable. It was an ingredient we had missed previously. We had always held the event as an ongoing thank you for the charity that had supported our friend’s wife and she was always assisting on the day and forever grateful. The organising of the day had been frantic, and we were considering going back to grassroots and reducing the size of the event to how it had been in the past. Partly, to save our sanity and knowing the amount of effort required in pulling the event together. The speech changed all that. One of my fellow organisers came over to me straight after the speech and said, ‘we need to go bigger, let’s double the size of it.’ Caught up in the emotion of the guest’s personal story and the delight of how the day was going, all four organisers agreed that we need to do more. Feedback on the day from those attending was brilliant, and they all wanted to be invited next year and bring along colleagues.
Good intentions and the better use of technology meant that we were confident of holding a better event in 2021. Our initial date had to be moved due to a Covid lockdown, but it didn’t dampen our, and the broader industry enthusiasm for the day. We had to shift to a bigger venue to accommodate a larger group and all of a sudden, we were now dealing with a functions manager at the venue. We had online donations sorted from the fund we were supporting, and the venue set up a payment system for the day for anyone booking. All of these technologies appeared to be making life a little easier for the four of us. No.
We still needed to send invites, reminders, how to pay emails, how to donate emails, check email addresses, add new invitees to our list etc. Add to this that through the generosity of people, our list of auction items had grown. This meant managing the items, tracking who paid for them, collecting the funds, and dropping off the goods. Plus, we also had the Chairman of the charity and a breast cancer survivor there on the day to give an overview of how the donations are used and what it means to those going through treatment. Plus, we had 110 guests coming along that we had to make sure felt like they were all appreciated and had not wasted their afternoon! All that said though, the day was another success and we managed to raise a whopping $47,000 for this worthy cause.
But what drives us to do this? Yes, the four original organisers are still there as the driving force but there are also others on the periphery that are now involved annually. This includes the courageous woman that inspired us, our contact at the charity, an auctioneer friend who gets involved, close friends that offer support and assistance, the venue people and those that give generously with items to be auctioned. It is also worth noting that the friendship the four of us have allows us to achieve the result we did. Unless you are truly committed and willing to step up if someone has other commitments to deal with, then nothing moves forward.
These events have shown that my reluctance, or aversion, to volunteering were somewhat unfounded as all four of us give lots of hours of our own time to ensure that the day is successful. It also throws a spotlight on friendship. We have avoided adding anyone else to the organising committee as we know each other so well, and the bond between us gets us through the times when things aren’t going to plan. Multiple superlatives can be used to describe this type of friendship, but you know it when you have it.
Our story is only one of a multitude of stories of people helping others in need. We don’t gloat about our accomplishments or use them for any social climbing. We do it because a dear friend needed support and we came together to help in a way that turned out to be, through its organic growth, a strength we found when people come together. What started as six guys getting together has grown and will continue to do so as the industry now sees this as an annual event and more people are keen to be a part of it. This is a fantastic reflection on the colleagues we all share an industry with.