Have you ever tried to raise money for a good cause? It’s tough right? People don’t want to see pictures of starving children, children with flies on them, bald children, women with breast cancer scars, people in wheelchairs, veterans with missing limbs, veterans with burn scars so bad they are unrecognizable, or homeless people, or mentally ill people. You can barely get people to give up a NEW toy at Christmas for Toys for Tots… I know, I’ve tried!
When my son joined the Marine Corps, I became deeply involved with an organization called MarineParents.com. Marine Parents raised money through a variety of ways, but it was always a struggle. The founder and many of us volunteers worked day and night to be able to send care packages to deployed Marines, help the wounded warriors and their families, provide support and much needed information to families of all Marines from boot camp through veteran status and provide support for Gold Star Families—you know who they are, right?
When asked to join the Board of Directors and head the fundraising and development aspect of the organization, I learned real fast how quickly people can forget to call you back, not respond to your emails or letters or just flat out say no. Support for the troops does not necessarily equate to SUPPORT for the troops. All that flag waving… is meaningless unless we take care of our troops.
When the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge appeared on the horizon, I could not have been more thrilled. A little understood, fatal, hideous disease, which hasn’t received much attention since Lou Gehrig was “struck out” with it in 1939 and subsequently died in 1941, at the young age of 37. It killed my dad in 1991 too.
So little is understood about this disease that they really don’t know how or why people get it. What they do know is that military veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS. There is no single test for diagnosis, and at this time, there is only one drug, that may prolong life by a few months. At the time my dad was diagnosed with ALS, there was no drug. In 23 years, they have created one drug that might give someone an extra two months.
For a few weeks the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took Facebook, YouTube and Twitter by storm and managed to raise an unprecedented 100 million dollars. And it did so because it was different—something almost anyone could do, and it was something people who couldn’t afford to donate, could do to help raise awareness. Wouldn’t everyone want to participate? Well, some people don’t want to help-- some people who care less about humanity and more about their own lives. Some people who are too lazy to do their homework before they decided something isn’t worth their time. I know of one person that called the ALS campaign “crap.” (She was promptly unfriended.) Some people started posting untrue tax records for the ALS organization trying to debunk the organization and the Ice Bucket Campaign.
Across the board—not just ALS, but with Childhood Cancer, Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Cancer of the Prostrate, Colon Cancer… and that is just some of the cancers not even all the diseases. For everything we don’t understand—for everything we don’t have a cure for we need funding.
There is no shortage of causes for people to participate in and if something isn’t your cause- I get it- I really do—but don’t slam other causes or all causes because it makes you feel better about not giving a shit.
A couple of things I learned while I was fund raising on a grand scale was corporations are interested in numbers. They want to know how much traffic your website gets, how much money you get from grants, how you plan to raise the next 10,000 and then the next 10,000. They want to see official tax records and they want to know the percentage of money spent on administrative services. In the case of medical charities, we would want to know the percentage that goes to actual research. So if you are going to go after an organization for a large grant- have your ducks lined up. These aren’t bad things for us to understand either—in order to get the maximum bang for our buck or our sweat.
I also learned that people run from scary stuff. People didn’t want to hear about troops with missing limbs or blinded or brain damaged… because if they thought about it, they would have to admit that it might happen to their loved one. Cancer is scary, MS is scary, homeless people are really scary… And, the mentally ill… forget it, no one wants to even think about them. But, we have to—because our society is becoming immune to humanity and human frailty. What people say and what they do, don’t match. We are not doing enough for each other. The days of feeding a stranger are no more- yet fifty years ago, that was the norm. Now if a hungry person knocks on our door they are likely to be shot.
The ALS Ice Bucket campaign may have seemed like a gimmick to you- but gimmicks work better than guilt. And gimmicks work better then screaming. Sadly- many people don’t want to confront reality. They want everything to be pretty (or fun) so their denial can’t be broken. The ice bucket challenge was a huge success. It may not be long term, like some of the walks or runs, but as far as awareness goes—it got everyone between the ages of 13 and 80 to think about ALS and I would call that a successful campaign.
If you think there is nothing you can do, you couldn’t be more wrong. Here is a list of a few different way to raise funds for a good cause. If you can come up with something new, that isn’t dangerous then explore it as an option. Check your charity in one of the charity watchdog websites provided at the end of this article.
· Ride -a-thon
· Golf Tournament
· Spaghetti Feed
· Crab Feed
· Sidewalk Sale
· Casino Night
· Bake Sale
If you are stuck for worthy causes, just open your eyes. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You are going to see pictures of bald children, children with tubes, and dark circles and maybe even some children that have passed away. Don’t look away. Don’t pretend that if you don’t look it doesn’t exist. It does – and they need all the help they can get. Do something.