Friday, February 17, 2017

Why I'll never host another fundraiser.

Some of my friends will be secretly overjoyed to hear this news. It sounds harsh but it’s true. In a society where most people are over-committed there’s little time for family, let alone sitting down at a table with a bunch of people they barely know for brunch. No matter that it raises money for a charity - there simply isn’t time. Lots of people are time poor these days and Sundays are precious. 

I get it.

I’ve always loved to help. It makes me feel good. I’ve volunteered, run in fun runs and I favoured baby showers in support of a charity over gifts. But after my latest ‘brunch’ I’m left feeling sad, jaded and even a little bit selfish. 

You see a year ago my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the darkest few months of my life and it shocked me how quickly life can be turned on it’s head. How lonely and isolating it is to have someone you love face such a disease. If ever I was afraid my mum was my first confidant. No longer could I confide in her about what was the greatest fear I’ve ever felt in my life. 

What surprised me most was the hopelessness that wedged itself in my heart and wouldn't let go. Not to let me sleep, or enjoy my children, or even to eat or participate in things I used to enjoy. My life just stopped in the panic and despair that only someone who has been diagnosed with cancer or has had someone close to them go through it will understand. 

Waiting on results was torture. How bad was it? How far had it spread? The terror at the thought of losing my mum or what she’d have to go through was suffocating. Luckily the results couldn’t have been better. She was stage 1 (in situ) which meant surgery, a full mastectomy, with no chemotherapy was all the treatment she would need to be in the clear. Relief of this news was sweeter than the birth of my own children! 

It was during my mum’s surgeries that I met the wonderful women behind the Chicks in Pink charity. They were amazing and it only heightened my enthusiasm for fundraising. I saw first hand how important this charity is to women touched by breast cancer. There were so many services offered and extraordinary support. It was overwhelming. Obviously it became a charity close to my heart. I’ll never forget the day mum and I ran in the Chicks In Pink fun run. We crossed the line together and I could have cried. It felt so good to have done something so positive together for a charity we’d become so reliant upon and to give back. 

So it wasn’t long before the Breast Ever Brunch fundraiser caught my eye and I decided to host in honour of what my mum’s been through over the past year. I’d raised money for charitable causes in the past, but they weren’t personal. They hadn’t touched my life directly. This was different. It was personal and it was painful. In hindsight I realise it was too raw, too soon to be raising money for a charity that became so important to me. But I couldn’t help myself. So mum and I bought, baked and decorated like crazy and out went the invitations to our Breast Ever Brunch! 

Unfortunately it wasn’t a big success. Okay that’s an understatement - it bombed! Of the 20 people we invited only four people came to brunch. There were a lot of last minute calls and texts the night before and on the morning of the brunch from people who could no longer make it. I was terrified to look at my phone. I was so worried that no one would come and embarrassed that my mum might feel let down. She was just a few weeks post-surgery and was already feeling vulnerable. It turned out to be a lovely morning with delicious food (lots of!), with good friends and we did raise almost $200 for a great cause. 

But the disappointing turnout is not the biggest reason I’ll never host another fundraiser. It wasn’t just that our feelings were hurt, it was the way it made my friends feel too. So many people felt bad that they couldn’t come, even though I tried to reassure them that it was fine and things pop up. They felt guilty. It’s not a great feeling and I’m sure some resented that they felt that way. 

So instead of feeling great at having done something positive, we both ended up feeling sad and even a little guilty ourselves. It was personal to us but it wasn’t like that for everyone invited. It was too much pressure, not just on ourselves in hosting the event but also on the people we care about who were unable to come, due to other commitments or illness. 

So in future I’ll still support this important charity, in fun runs or simply making donations when I can, but I won’t ever put myself in a position where other people feel pressure to be part of something - especially when it’s so personal. 

Have you held a fundraiser that bombed and it was personal? 

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