Monday, 25 August 2014

Healthy Competition? Not if You are a Charity!

Competition is healthy is a phrase that we are all familiar with, but in the case of charities we aren't talking about competition in offering services or products, that are cheaper or better quality than the next, but rather talking about beating another worthy cause, to extract that pound or dollar from someone's pocket in the name of that particular cause.
There is only 'X' amount of money in the donation world and that 'X' is variable on so many things, such as the economic climate at any one time. The 'X' factor may increase at times of overwhelming disasters, that tug at the heart strings of so many people. who are exposed to the drams of a situation through the media. to the sufferings of others, This makes it a cruel and hard world when competing against other causes that have a justifiable need that may seem far greater than your own.
It is impossible to go to the supermarket these days without being confronted by a bucket collection for one charity or another and frequently you can be accosted on a street corner, to set up a direct debit to a charity, in a manner that could be described as aggressive begging, if carried out by an individual on hard times.
This hard line recruitment of benefactors costs money, in order to pay the young staff to stand all day in the cold, trying to charm you and your conscience into a life time commitment to an organisation, that invariably absorbs most of your donation into the running costs of that operation and the administrative costs associated with it's operations. Of course I am not criticising these large running costs, for if a large scale organisation needs to respond to catastrophic disasters, reliance on ad hoc volunteers would render it ineffective.
The competition for donations gets even more fierce in times of humanitarian disaster. We all like to donate for one reason and another and when there is a disaster of large scale we are all too willing to rush to a bank to help the unfortunate people caught up in such events. The biggest benefactors of peoples generosity are usually the large charitable organisations, whereas the smaller charities that rely on an individuals passion for a cause, have not got the resources to pay fresh faced students to charm you out of your last penny. And so when a disaster occurs, donors with expendable income are more likely to increase their donation to their preferred organisation, whereas donors to smaller organisations may divert their donations to the appeal that's in place at that time, leaving the smaller organisations gasping for breath, in their struggle to keep a project alive.
A typical demonstration of this can be found on a street level. When there is economic prosperity, you may find yourself dropping coins into the cup of someone sitting on a pavement outside your shopping centre. When there is an economic downturn, there is an increase in those people 'begging' and you may feel you can't help everyone, and eventually finish up not helping anybody.
Large organisations tend to rely on paid teams of marketeers and fund raisers, 'spending to earn' and employing paid staff and well paid executives to increase the income in order to respond in a crisis more effectively and are abl to fund advertising and publicity from that income stream.
It becomes difficult to compete in this world of donor appeals for smaller organisations, such as Project Mala, that I am working for, which has to rely heavily on unpaid fundraisers and volunteers, who are driven by their passion for their particular project. Publicity for these smaller players, to raise awareness for their charity, whether it is a website or a newspaper advertisement, is often out of the pocket of the patrons of that particular project and the day to day running of the organisation is kept to the minimum, in order to maximise the financial benefit to the cause.
Not all small charities are the same either. A charity based in the UK and working for a cause within the UK may be able to access funding from a variety of sources such as government grants or lottery funding, but for some who are helping people from abroad for whatever reason, don't have the same access to these funds and are reliant on organisations within the country they are helping in. Often these organisation abroad are usually trying to gain some credibility on their ethics in exporting products or services.
While a small operation in the UK may draw on the unpaid expertise of specialists who can draw up business plans and funding applications, that is something which is much harder to do when operating in a foreign environment.
Project Mala is a typical example of a small charity working for the benefit of foreign nationals. Set up by Robin Garland, a Yorkshire based carpet importer to emancipate children from the work place in India, by providing educational establishments in Uttar Pradesh, the organisation is heavily reliant on donations from individuals in the UK and the States to supplement grants provided by the carpet industry and the government in the region. Project Mala has Felicity Kendal a well known actress as a patron on it's list of patrons which small charitable groups also have to rely on for credibility.
Aside from the fund raising volunteers, there is the unpaid voluntary work of the professionals as is the case with all charities and causes. For the larger organisations in cases of epidemics. the voluntary services of doctors and professionals who manage to take a year out of their lives to give practical assistance are often deployed and this is similar with Project Mala who rely on professional educationalists from England who visit and help with decisions on policy and help with student selection.
We all want to be a hero, but as a volunteer with no professional skills we sometimes believe we can't contribute in this way, Yet I have found that there were many ways to get involved, that also include front face help, even for a small project like the Mala project. But again the attraction of doing something that may help save lives, as a volunteer doctor in a country suffering from a health epidemic is more greater for some than the notion of volunteering to teach a class of poor children in a village in India for instance.
The main competition issues for an individual fund raiser, such as myself, a pensioner doing personal challenges to raise funds, through social media, is the sheer volume of people who have similar personal fundraising projects of their own, Every day my timeline is full of people I may know personally or know via facebook, jumping out of aeroplanes or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for one cause or another and I find myself spending a lot of time looking for windows of opportunity to make my pitch for my project. Often I am competing against people who are raising for medical research programmes. Cancer research, Heart foundation, etc.., that appeal to a greater audience, than an appeal for an emancipation of children project in some far off land my audience may never ever visit. In contrast we have all had a family member who has suffered from one particular medical condition and those appeals touch an emotional trigger when it comes to donating than my appeal.
The additional problem for myself in fund raising, is the repetitive appeals to the same group of friends and followers I have. At first I had little problem as I started appealing on behalf of people connected to the largest proportion of my my social network group. As I opened my appeal for donations to more global concerns, it would coincide with a major appeal arising out of disaster, humanitarian needs. My aim was always to prick the conscience of many of my friends with my endurance rides on small motorbikes. The endurance was, by travelling on a budget of £20 per day which is the sum total of my state pension.
The second aim was to inspire others to work for the causes I was working for by writing a blog detailing my experiences. As I then limited my appeal to the one cause of Project Mala, I realised that apart from inspiring people with my stories, I was not inspiring my readership to part with any money to the appeal itself. Maybe that has to do with the issues mentioned earlier regarding it not being an emotional appeal regards illness and it being also in aid of a country that readership have no affiliation to. Discussing with Robin Garland the founder of Project Mala on how to raise more awareness, he again offered to provide more advertising, from his own pocket, to promote the project and include my personal efforts in some manner. that may encourage a bigger take up of sponsored education for students attending the project. The main difficulty in that, is the net would have to be cast quite far and wide just to catch a small fish. That in itself would incur a great expense which would be better spent at the project itself. A better alternative is to target the advertising alongside feature travel articles/pages in national newspaper magazines. Especially if India, or education was the featured content in that magazine. There are other forms of advertising too. Social media platforms are offering advertising at rates that are more affordable for smaller organisations. The challenge there, is to tailor the advert to suit the medium used, but is something I feel my project should be looking at.
On a personal side trying to infect my following with the same passion and enthusiasm for my pet project is still a big challenge for me. I can tell those people that working or donating to a small project such as Project Mala is very rewarding and has an advantage over the larger organisations, in knowing that their contributions go 99% towards the people they are helping. I can also tell them that they can visit those people they are helping and it is not a faceless organisation that they support, but real people. People that appreciate the efforts they have made for them. But as mentioned earlier in competition that may not be enough to extract that pound from their pockets. Maybe I need to rethink the essence of my blog or perhaps run two different blogs, now that I have dedicated my efforts to Project Mala. A blog about India will attract an ausience specific to that country and then in turn encourage support for the poroject there, while leaving my own personal blog to deal with my own personal ambitions to travel the coast of the globe as a separate issue.
There may also be scope to use the name of one of our patrons to more effect. I refer to the wonderful Felicty Kendal. There is nothing better to promote a campaign than a celebrity endorsement. Only the project can determine whether there is scope for an approach to a patron such as Felicity.
As for Felicity, I have been asked by some of my friends if I had ever met her. Well if it came to a choice between meeting the charming Felicity Kendal from The Good Life or meeting a class full of smiling pupils at a school in Uttar Pradesh, I'm afraid there would be no competition. Hopefully though, if I can encourage you to get involved in supporting Project Mala by sponsoring a childs education there, or just a one of donation even, I may get to do both one day.
You can see the work done at the project at and see how you can not only make an old man happy but a thousand smiling children too

Friday, 22 August 2014

How Far Would You Ride to School

Although I ride small motor bikes around the coast of the world, I will be breaking from this mode of transport for a couple of weeks for a project that has captured my heart and soul. That project is Project Mala, a small organisation that strives to emancipate children in Uttar Pradesh in Northern India.
I came across the project last year and was impressed by the English founded project that provides schooling and education to some of the poorest children in the region. On visiting the project one of the things that amazed me was, the dedication and determination of the children to attend school and to achieve good results. Many of the children travel great distances by bicycle, often up to twenty five kilometres morning and afternoon, so It seemed only natural to put aside motorised transport on my next visit and take to the traditional one speed, sit up and beg Hercules bike that is so common in this country as a means of transport.
It has been a long time since I was able to ride a bike, even though, I used to ride 100 miles a day when I was a teenager. But if a small child can ride a bicycle to school and back everyday, then it's my challenge to ride a similar distance daily to visit the school again, while raising awareness and much needed funding in aid of the project.
The Hercules bike I will be riding

Saturday, 26 July 2014

This Boy Wasn't Selected at the School Project - You'll be amazed what he did next

My India ride was for the benefit of Project Mala, an educational project in North India that was started by an English guy, who wanted to eradicate child labour in the carpet industry of the region. Though times have changed and education is provided by the state Project Mala still provides the highest standard of education, especially to the poorest of children in the area.

I was privileged to be invited to the project to see the work carried out there and meet the children my appeal was helping. It was an education in itself for me, who has only witnessed the children in the affluent west who take school and education possibly a little too much for granted.

But the story I am about to tell you is about one boy

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Maddies Story

Before writing about the ride back to Melbourne overland, I would like to write about a remarkable young woman that I was lucky to meet in Moree. I say lucky because, if she hadn't had a successful bone marrow transplant, I would not have had the honor of meeting her. I asked her if she would send me a story of her ordeal, which she has done and I have posted it here, as she has written it.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Brisbane and the ride to my Friends in Maleny

I rode blindly into Brisbane and fortunately turned off at the right turn off that led me underneath the Story Bridge near Kangaroo Point, a notorious place for homeless people. I have to say the sky scrapers were not so ostentatious as other cities and had a beauty to them from the park where I had stopped.

Bone Marrow Registers

To view the procedure for Bone Marrow Donation click below

Anthony Nolan Org