Still feeling somewhat isolated after the sudden loss of my mother, and my contract role, as a result, I decided to spend what would have been my Mum’s 63rd birthday creating a social media event – the Virtual Cocktail. As the first of my 62 challenges I’d set, I used the power of social media, and the continued media interest in Mum’s death (and the investigation into it), to encourage people to swap out one of their Friday drinks for a virtual cocktail – the idea being that they could use the hash-tag #virtualcocktail, as well as the in-existence hash-tag #fundraisingfriday to donate the cost of one of their Friday night drinks to a charity of their choice, or to my JustGiving page. Considering I launched it with less than 24 hours notice, I was surprised at the number of donations that came in – people were not so much supporting me, as finding something that they could participate in.
There are many ways that companies encourage employees to volunteer their time for charities, but in a time when everyone is busy and multi-tasking to the millionth-degree, ways to help good causes, enjoy yourself and get the online-cred is increasing in popularity. Whether it be the office ‘Bake-Off’ or wearing casuals to work, many charities are capitalising on the workplace as a way to fundraise.
As part of the wider challenges I was doing, Challenge 2 had me set myself a rather ambitious fundraising target over the five years – a million pounds to good causes to be exact, so definitely a stretch target. To make it achievable though, I did specify that the amount could come through volunteering the many transferable career skills I’ve developed over the years to help with grant proposals, running events and mentoring others.
The first event I’ve become involved with, is helping the British Red Cross with their annual ‘Call My Bluff Wine Tasting Quiz’ in London on 27 October. So far I’ve been involved in the preparation of the sponsor pack, speaking to businesses to identify partnerships and promoting ticket sales. Which comes back to my first point – swapping out a normal Friday evening out for something different. The last Friday night out with colleagues that I did probably set me back about £50 – and that didn’t include much! The best thing about the upcoming ‘Call My Bluff’ event is that for £45 per ticket, you not only get 8 fairly decent sized glasses of wine to drink (I mean taste…), but also a cheese, bread and meats dinner. Then there’s the fact that you are jostling for a seat in a packed pub – there are dedicated tables (a table of ten makes for a good night out with the colleagues), and there’s the tasting quiz. Wine – tick, food – tick, socialising with colleagues at the obligatory Friday drinks – tick, supporting a good cause that’s been there to help Britons in recent terror attacks as well as humanitarian efforts in multiple natural disasters abroad – tick…. and that night out Instagram/Facebook selfie that’s oh so different from the standard pub drinks – tick. For tickets, visit the British Red Cross website.
There are other fun ways though that you can swap out nights out for a good cause. While I’ve not been able to do it as much this year due to an operation, last year I spent many a Saturday night doing table service at one of of London’s homeless dinners. I was on my feet all evening ensuring the guests (that’s what we called them) had tea, coffee, juice or soft drinks, and that they got their two courses as well as some fruit. I can honestly say that I enjoyed those evenings considerably more than 99.9% of the first dates I’ve been on over the years. The guests were great conversationalists, and the vast majority were much more gentleman like. I came home with a sense of worth that so often gets eroded in the Tinder generation. If you’d like to swap out your Saturday nights occasionally, drop me a line and I’ll introduce you to the team – I’m planning to get back into it in a few weeks, and while I’m hopeful to see some familiar faces, on the other hand, I’m hoping that in the past 9 months, many former guests have got back on their feet and aren’t in need of our help.
I guess what I’ve found in the past 18 months is that you can bring charitable work quite easily into the work/life balance mix – and feel all the better for it!