ByÂ Anwesha Dhar:
Last night I was watching Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk on ‘The Art of Asking’. She talked about her journey from posing as a statue to a struggling musician and how it was by asking for help from her fans that she was able to wade through the waters. However asking for helping is not easy-you need to foster a connection with people and need to overcome the very fear of ‘asking’ for help. Today in the world, many of us are trying to bring about a change, to make this world a better place to live, to essentially help people. Of course this willingness to help also rests on resources available, particularly monetary resources. While going to people and simply asking for money might work a lot of times, it is the art of asking and the ability to establish a connection that wields a great control on the outcome. For some time now, people involved in the social sector have been striving hard to achieve this-by running campaigns, tireless innovation and unabated zeal. It is not an easy job at all-we all are extremely possessive of our own resources and parting with our hard earned money for something which directly does not benefit us may not appear very appealing. Of late people even suspect the motives of the fundraiser and the organisation itself, labelling them to be fraudulent without flicking an eyelid. I myself have been on the receiving end of such attitudes-people slamming doors on my face, cutting me midway and calling the security. The funny bit to consider here is that I was not even asking for their ‘hard-earned’ money, I was merely asking for ‘raddi’ i.e. old newspapers and used notebooks so that I can utilise the funds I get by selling the junk for the education of some children I teach at a shelter home. Fundraising therefore is trickier than what it appears to be and one needs to constantly come up with new ideas to bridge that gap between the donor and the fundraiser.
One of the most remarkable campaigns in this regard has been ‘Movember’. An annual charity event to raise awareness and funds for oft ignored issues related to men’s health, Movember involves men growing their beard for the entire month of November , altering their appearance, thereby ‘donating their face’, and sensitising people about the issues and collecting funds. Movember became a rage and till date has raised considerable funds and raised awareness on health issues like prostate cancer. While men, known as ‘Mo’s bros’ participate actively by growing their beard, a lesser known fact is the participation of women in this annual event, who are called ‘Mo’s sistahs’ and basically do the same thing as these men, sans the beard. In spite of Movember not being present in India, due to social media tools, it garnered immense popularity with many men growing their beard in November to express their support.
Another amazing fundraising event organised ever year in our country is the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. Innumerable NGOs till date have signed up with this marathon and have benefitted from it greatly. There are various ways and sub-teams which allow corporate, celebrities and even the common man to participate in this marathon and to raise money for one of the partner NGOs of the run. Today, it is one of the biggest and arguably the most famous fundraising event of the country, inviting millions from all over the world, irrespective of class, caste, creed, age, gender to participate in the run. A confluence of people from all possible walks of life, the marathon is a stellar example of the fact that everybody can effect change in the society in their own way.
A lesser known but absolutely unique organisation which operates on the principle of establishing a connection and raising funds at the same time is The Adventurists. They wish to make this world a ‘less boring place to live’ as well as to help make it better. They have hit the right balance with events like the Mongol Rally, Mongol Derby, Rickshaw Run etc. They invite adventurists to sign up for one of these events involving extreme sports and harsh conditions, fuelling their thirst for adventure but with a twist. Every participant has a specific target to raise, which then goes to a partner organisation. What is more amazing is that, even though they have an official partner ‘Cool Earth’, that works for protecting rainforests and helping indigenous communities, they allow for a commendable number of other organisations to partner with them and benefit from the funds raised! Their event ‘Rickshaw Run’ involved three men undertaking the challenge of doing a cross country trip-from the North-East to Jaisalmer within a fixed number of days and limited resources. The Adventurists have managed to raise 5 million pounds and they have sworn not to stop till they actually do make the world ‘a better place to live in.’
While these aforementioned events show how fundraising can be extremely fun, it can easily be done on a small-scale and without much fuss. An event like raising money through a bake sale has proved to be extremely successful. Jadavpur University in fact, organised a string of bake sales with students coming forward to bake and selling the same to utilise the funds for Uttarakhand relief as well as for the dogs who live at the campus! The effort expended can be less and effect multiplied if social media tools like Facebook is utilised properly. There have been numerous examples of people setting up pages on Facebook asking for funds from anyone who ‘connects’ to the cause and procuring a considerable sum within a few days. An amazing example is that of Geo, a puppy who got injured saving a 10 year old from a hit and run. Through FB, Geo’s family was able to pay for all the medical expenses and gain a lot of support worldwide.
All said and done, fundraising is not easy. It involves shedding all inhibitions, fears and shame and actually asking people for help-an art we have all forgotten for the kind of lives we lead. But once we conquer that fear and realise that it is irrational to be so afraid of asking people for something you truly believe in, it becomes a cakewalk. And when they too realise how strong your belief is and understand the cause, the ‘connection’ is established and we all take one more step towards the change we wish to see.