I picked CRUK's Race for Life. Nothing to do with mobile. And I learnt that I get quite nervous.
It is the most incredible event. If we what do is about connecting people to causes - we all need to learn from the story.
My notes are pasted below. Excuse the poor grammer, terrible formatting and inevitable typos.
Hello. My name’s Paul de Gregorio…
I’m Head of Mobile at Open Fundraising. I’m really honoured to have been asked to talk to you all about the fundraising idea ‘I wish I’d though of’.
Deciding was a really difficult process. But once I got thinking about the idea that has had a huge influence on me and my fundraising career – it was really quite easy…
I’ve picked Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life. I’m sure you all know it, but if you don’t it’s a woman only fundraising event. Women walk, jog or run 5K in return for sponsorship.
I’ve worried that I was picking something too obvious.
Something, that you might all tut and roll your eyes at.
But the story of this event inspires me for lots of reasons… and I hope in 6 minutes time it will have inspired you as well.
I love this event because of its story.
Like most great ideas, Race for Life isn’t a completely original idea. It’s an idea borrowed from the USA.
The charity Susan G Komen in America came up with the original idea.
They held the first Race for the Cure as it’s known there, in Dallas in 1983.
800 women took part in. It’s now huge.
In the early 90’s, news of this event inspired an events manager called Louise Holland at Imperial Cancer Research Fund. ICRF is one of two charities that would later merge and form Cancer Research UK.
And I’m told Louise did all the work to bring the event to the UK and to ICRF.
I love this event because of its scale.
Race for Life is 19 years old this year.
The first event took place in Battersea in 1994.
650 women took part and it raised £35,000.
Not bad at all – but not setting the world alight.
But Louise and ICRF had proved that there was something in it.
That this idea from across the Atlantic could work here in the UK.
And over the 19 years since, the event has grown massively.
The numbers are huge. 6 million women have taken part since 1994… 6 million women. That’s an incredible number.
To put that into context that’s 19% of the UK female population.
Between them these amazing women have raised over £493 million pounds. Again, an incredible number.
In it’s first seven years Race for Life grew from that one event in Battersea to over 70 around the country.
It grew from that first £35,000 to £8 million pounds. There was clearly something in this!
In 2002 ICRF merged with Cancer Research Campaign to form Cancer Research UK. The merger seemed to act as a catalyst for huge and rapid growth. 250,000 participants at the time of merger became nearly 750,000 just seven years later.
Since this peak there has been a decline in numbers. But lets put that into context. Decline in this sense means over 500,000 women taking part last year. How many of us in the room today would take half a million people taking part in our flagship fundraising event?
I love this event because it has evolved time and time again through hard work and Innovation.
You can’t achieve this scale and success without hard work.
It’s impossible to be this successful without major innovation.
All this innovation has been focussed on making this the best and most successful fundraising event possible. But just as importantly on making the event as inspiring and supportive for all of the women who take part, by giving them the opportunity to take their stand against cancer.
Every single year new things are added this event doesn’t stand still…
In 1998 the back signs were introduced. They are a simple but brilliant way for participants to celebrate survival or commemorate the life of someone they’ve lost to cancer.
In 2001 the minute’s silence before every event was first introduced. If you have ever been to an event you will know how emotional and inspiring this moment of reflection can be.
All of these things and many many more have contributed to Race for Life’s success – but there are two very big innovations that the whole sector has benefitted from…
First up is the innovation in online sponsorship with JustGiving.
Online donors raise and return more money than offline donors. It’s easier for them. So if you get more people to sign up when they register, you will make more money. It sounds easy, but it’s taken a lot focus and a lot of effort. JustGiving and CRUK worked hard over years and years to make this as simple as possible. It’s now seamless and more money is raised to beat cancer as a result. Lots of you in the room today are raising more money as a result of this.
The second thing is huge. In 2004 there was a small telemarketing test to see if those that had taken part in Race for Life would support CRUK by taking out a regular gift by Direct Debit.
They did, and at impressive rates. And in classic CRUK style they tested it again. It still worked. So after proving the concept they rolled out. The team that CRUK formed as a result, has been responsible for the recruitment of over 100,000 new regular givers. And pretty much all charities now do something similar - but it was CRUK who paved the way.
But, The main reason I love this event is not because it’s massive or because it’s raised millions of pounds.
It’s not because I admire CRUK’s focussed approach to fundraising – which I really really do.
I love this event because I am truly inspired when people come together on this scale to achieve a common goal. It’s the 6 million women that inspire me.
Forget the big brand, forget the huge budget, and forget the dominance that brand and budget give. Race for Life is inspiring because it creates the moment for individuals to take action against cancer.
Every single one of the 6 million women who have taken part has a personal story to tell.
They are taking part because of their personal connection to the cause.
They are taking part to honour the memory of a loved one who is no longer with us.
Or, they are taking part to celebrate the life of someone who has survived.
Which is why Race for Life is the fundraising campaign that I wish I’d thought of.