In the six years since I found out I was going to lose my father to prostate cancer, I have dedicated the month of November to facial hair-related fundraising. I feel proud that I have raised £11,000 for the men’s health charity Movember during that time.
I was recently asked why I choose to raise money for Movember. The answer that I gave, and stand by, is that I raise money to cover Movember’s overheads. Rent, electricity, tea and coffee supplies, stocking the stationery cupboard, recruitment fees, software purchasing, insurance costs – anything that contributes to the efficient running of the foundation. I’m sure this is far from the glamorous, high-impact or perhaps virtuous response that charities might expect their supporters to give. But I am tremendously proud to dedicate one month every year to raise funds for Movember’s overheads.
I have no delusions of grandeur, but I do have an insatiable desire to make a difference. I want to protect other young people from losing their fathers, stop individuals from losing their husbands, reduce the number of men losing their best mates. Put simply, I want to delay anyone from losing the men they love.
The harsh reality is that £11,000 is not going to come anywhere near to achieving this. But what it can do is assist in making sure that the team at Movember are in the strongest possible position to achieve these goals on my behalf. There are crucial costs that need to be covered in order to make this possible and it is exactly these costs that I have no problem with fundraising for.
In the past six years, I have become well acquainted with the team at Movember. This might be a tactic that other charities are wary of, favouring the notion of putting donors on a slight pedestal, thanking them graciously for their donations and allowing them to put their feet up, rather than worrying about the nitty gritty of budgets, targets and expenditure.
Well I would advise differently. As a donor, I have only ever felt infinitely more passionate about the cause after speaking to the team at the helm. They don’t sugarcoat things – they tell me of their struggles and they keep me up to speed with their proposed solutions. They champion me in any way they can, thank me for my efforts and breed a trust in me that makes me ever more committed to assisting their crusade.
I have worked in the private sector my whole career thus far and I am acutely aware of the difference in emphasis on company culture within the third sector. With job titles such as head of culture, culture manager, employee engagement executive among those increasingly being listed on recruitment sites, it is evident that within the private sector we understand the importance of creating a working environment that mimics and cultivates the values of the business as a whole.
It should not be the case that we turn a blind eye to expenditure on cultural development within the private sector, which largely uses it as a legitimate tactic to reward and encourage staff to strive for greater success, but scrutinise the same expenses when they are applied to the third sector, which does so much to help improve the world.
It is ludicrous to vilify charities for their overheads. They are an essential and accepted part of operating a successful business, and it is no different for the third sector.
Instead, we need to encourage a society that congratulates charities for their successes, regardless of the associated costs. I do not believe that you can put a price tag on human life. But by breeding a penny-pinching approach to charity spending, that is exactly what you end up asking charities such as Movember to do.
I therefore hand over my raised funds to Movember with what to some might appear to be blind faith, but I prefer to call established trust. If that means spending on suitably located office space, buying notepads to take critical notes in meetings or even splashing out on perks to keep the team on top form, so be it.
Alice Dorrington is a volunteer fundraiser for Movember