Earlier this week, bbcon UK hit County Hall in London with a bang and almost 300 members of the social good community attended for two days of fun, knowledge and innovation. At the opening plenary on Day 1, we were joined on stage by Caroline Jones, founder of Knickers Model's Own and JustGiving Creative Fundraiser of the Year award winner. She described how she got involved in fundraising for Cancer Research UK, and shared her tips for charities working with individual fundraisers. Here is her story:
My Fundraising Story by Caroline Jones
My fundraising story is like so many others’, driven by grief and the desire to make a positive impact when faced with sorrow.
Losing my mum Mary to breast cancer on 24th October 2014 was (and remains) utterly painful, but it was the drive to lift my spirit and - to quote my mum - to live my life, that took me down a track into the unknown.
Being the impulsive, reactive, creative, spur-of-the-moment type that I am, it made complete sense to think of an idea at 11.30pm on 31st December 2014, set up a Just Giving page, multiple social channels and a hashtag all by the stroke of midnight and be implementing it at 9am the following morning, 1st January 2015. Business takes a different view: plan, get clarity, seek feedback, double check the competition, think things through, dot the i’s and cross the t’s. ‘To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail’, isn’t that the saying? Possibly so, but I would argue that if I had taken time to conduct a SWOT analysis, I would have lost momentum, talked myself out of it and moved on.
And so it was that Knickers Model’s Own was born. The plan was simple: 365 days of me styling up a different daily outfit (sourced from Cancer Research UK shops, my chosen charity) and posting across social, pants always my own.
Day one and 27 people had visited my Facebook page, by the 5th January I was doing even better, 74 people and rising. Even the money was starting to come in, £75 from my dearest friends. Things felt good. Obviously, it wasn’t really going to be for a year, we all knew that would be completely unachievable and frankly ridiculous. At some point soon my friends would pat me on my shoulder, we’d all smile and I’d gracefully step back.
Wrong. What I didn’t factor in was a BBC journalist coming across my Facebook page and contacting me for an interview “about my campaign”. I woke to see my day 5 photograph on the BBC UK homepage, there I was between the Pope and Angela Merkel. The Mail Online immediately contacted me and by the 6th January, 97,000 people had visited my Facebook page. From that moment everything changed.
Panic stricken I made a few calls to Cancer Research UK head office, initially it was suggested I contact a regional fundraising team but my instincts (top tip alert) were telling me this was going to be more than regional. So, I was persistent (top tip alert) and called Head Office back and was able to speak directly to Baiba Plume, Head of Internal Communication and PR Manager for Trading. Baiba was the all-important starting point; she listened and more importantly she got it. From that point onwards CRUK was on board, providing me with support from their Press, Social and Trading departments and I began to feel very much part of the team. Not an employee, but part of something bigger than that.
If Baiba hadn’t given me her time, if she hadn’t understood what I was doing or had brushed off my idea, I probably would have walked away. But thankful she didn’t. The campaign went on to raise over £65,000; 75% of CRUK shops joined Twitter; it shone the light on sustainable fashion and generated 750,000 column inches. Winning the 2015 JustGiving Creative Fundraiser of the year award, voted for by the public remains a highlight in my life.
My message to the social good world is simple: be nimble, spot the spark, recognise that your team isn’t just your payroll. Good things happen when you let knew ideas in.