‘Big Society’ and the fundraiser

image borrowed from a forward e-mail, if you know the source please let us know!

These days the term “Big Society” is banded about almost as freely as supermarket 2for1 deals. And in the 4 months that it’s taken us to organise our fundraiser, we’ve been met with massive generosity by 5% of people that we have approached for raffle items and decorations (please see our next post about the awesome generosity of this group of people. It should be posted in the next few days), but the traditional “Big Society” concepts like sponsorship of the event or even concessionary rates were flat-out denied with statements like “we work with a lot of charities and social enterprises”. No prior commitments, no niceties, just “we call it money, ya? you use it to buy food…?”.
While it’s nice to know that my custom is as worthy as anyone elses, it’s a funny artefact of the big society; we’ll take your money, but we won’t help you.

“And what is the fundraiser for?” is, quite reasonably, often asked, but in our experience it seems to be more of a divisive ruse. Once the other party is faced with the fact that we are actually a social enterprise and that we are working with a local charity there is nothing but silence, broken only by the bottom line. This isn’t intended to portray either party as guilty, but if this is a reflection of what all companies are faced with then we need to redefine the boundaries of fundraising events and, at the very least, the concept that is “big society” (mind you, this might need to be properly defined in the first place) .

We’re a very small social enterprise, at our most we are a team of 4 and at our least we become I. This variation in size doesn’t make us weaker, nor does it mean that we won’t provide the best service that we can as a social enterprise. Should the situation be flipped on its head those same individuals denying us support would likely tut at the fact that we do charge a small amount for our workshops. The reason for this is simple; as with most things, the people behind social enterprises, voluntary organisations, nonprofits, charities and lone do-gooders don’t run on air.

We don’t rely on fundraisers for money, as many will know fundraisers are multipurpose; we use them to help build a community base for our service users, raise awareness about services that we offer, and give any donors or interested parties an idea about the impact of their donations. In this instance our Dia De Los Muertos fundraiser is to raise money for Social Skills and Confidence workshops for people with Aspergers, family/spousal support groups and a number of other projects that we are in the process of putting together for our collaboration with ASPIE, a charity founded by a woman with Asperger’s syndrome.

Two weeks ago our original venue pulled out, we have 5 weeks left to find a new venue and market our event. Last week we were offered a beautiful venue for a fairly intimidating hire fee. But after the experience of putting together this fundraiser we’re left wondering this: If large companies don’t have the resources to offer sponsorship or even concessionary rates do everyday people have (at least) £20 to spend on an afternoon fundraiser?

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