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Building support for a difficult or sensitive cause

  • We need to build an emotional connection with a donor before they’ll give. That’s Fundraising 101 right there. But what if your work is complex, sensitive or misunderstood? There’s little hope of building an emotional connection with a potential donor if they don’t even understand what you do.

    Welsh group Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW) came up with a novel idea to both help people to understand their work, and encourage donations in support of it.

    FTWW was set up to address health inequalities for women in Wales. The group also raises awareness of Endometriosis, and provides support for patients living with the disease.

    Endometriosis is a chronic and debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods. It may also lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems. Around 1.5 million women in the UK are currently living with the condition. Endometriosis can affect all women and girls of a childbearing age, regardless of race or ethnicity. Despite its prevalence and impact, it remains hidden and misunderstood - largely down to the taboo around periods and related pain. It is vital that people affected feel able to speak up about symptoms, challenge stereotypes and myths - and FTWW work hard to ensure women and girls are sufficiently empowered to seek early diagnosis and effective treatment.

    Seeking a fundraising challenge that was representative of their work and gave a nod to their local connection, FTWW decided on a sponsored walk up Snowdon - with a difference.

    “So many others have done a single walk up Snowdon - we felt that we needed to make ours a little different; something that would really raise the bar, as well as symbolise the challenges – or mountains – our members face and have to climb every day”Deborah Shaffer, CEO of FTWW

    The group settled on a week-long effort, with fundraisers tackling a different path up Snowdon each day to represent both the huge variety of challenges faced by their members, and to make sure that their endeavour really stood out. They set up a Localgiving appeal page for the challenge, and set themselves a target of raising £500.

    The group used social media effectively to promote the fundraising activity, with photos of each walk being posted to twitter, facebook and instagram. The fundraisers wore specially designed t-shirts and hoodies on the climbs to promote the challenge and FTWW - these were great engagement tools during the walks, and encouraged people to come over and chat.

    “We talked a lot with different people, both on the mountain and in the café, and they would ask us about the organisation and what we did. We described our current campaign around the treatment of Endometriosis in Wales. Many of the people we met were women; some had heard of Endometriosis, some hadn’t. One woman had the disease herself and was really excited to hear of our work. Men were also interested in the challenge, because let’s face it, they are just as much affected by the health problems of the women in their lives as the sufferers themselves.” - Iona Wyn Roberts - FTWW Treasurer 

    The group set their sights high, and the grueling nature of the challenge generated a lot of interest from supporters and spectators. Snowdon is a mountain that many North Wales locals have scaled, so the challenge remained relatable - which meant supporters could picture how exhausting it would be to climb it multiple times in a row. By comparing living with Endometriosis with climbing Snowdon every day, it helped people to develop their understanding of the condition and how it might affect friends and loved ones.

    “The challenge went really well; on average, we were a group of 5 and, although we had to cancel 2 days due to bad weather, for the rest of the time we had an exhilarating time, in great company. It was hard going but totally worth it. We managed to reach the summit on four days out of the five we attempted – and it was a fantastic feeling of accomplishment, well worth the blisters and sore muscles!”Heidi Burrows - FTWW Fundraising Officer

    The total amount raised during the challenge was £855, which will be used to create and print a range of awareness-raising resources. It will also go towards covering the costs associated with travelling the length and breadth of Wales to conferences and meetings, where FTWW represents women with chronic illness. As a Community Interest Company, the £60 of Gift Aid claimed by Localgiving on their behalf gave their total a welcome boost.

    Here are FTWW’s 5 Top Tips for causes who want to raise awareness of what they do in order to build relationships with donors:

    1. Persevere and don’t be put off by others thinking your ideas sound crazy! The feeling of accomplishment is well worth the effort
    2. Think about the nature of the issues faced by your members or the people for whom you’re fundraising, and try to come up with something that symbolises those issues
    3. It’s a really good idea to have someone in the organisation who is completely focused upon publicising the endeavour, who will write the tweets and blurb for other social media
    4. Take lots of pictures on the day!
    5. Use the photos you take to create engaging social media posts, to tell the story in a way that has a lot of impact

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