Martin Edwards: Leaders, give of yourselves

Faced with a sponsored extreme fitness challenge, I’m reminded that charity chief executives should never just leave fundraising to their directors

Martin Edwards
Martin Edwards

I became a charity worker because of a bunch of pop stars. I never met them, but the likes of Bob Geldof, Midge Ure, Sting, Bono and Duran Duran got together to record Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, the biggest-selling single of 1984 (and for 13 years the biggest-selling single of all time), and performed at Live Aid in 1985. They raised millions for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Sting said at the time that it wasn’t enough just to send a cheque, that he had to give something of himself too. That stayed with me, and a by-product of the example they all set was that many people decided to do something themselves. In my case it meant fundraising at university to fund two Oxfam redevelopment projects in Ethiopia.

I subsequently became a staff fundraiser for Save the Children and other charities, leading to my present role running a children’s hospice. Yet, although I put a lot into my job, it’s a long time since I gave of myself in some other way.

Charity chief executives should never just leave fundraising to their fundraising directors, because it is the chief’s responsibility if the charity runs out of money. We should get especially involved with institutional and major donors, developing relationships and making major “asks” ourselves.

However, in tough times for fundraising such as these, maybe that’s not enough. So I have decided to give my body to the cause.

Let me clarify that. I will be tackling a sponsored extreme fitness challenge.

Thirty-two long years have passed since my athletic prime, when I applied in person, unsuccessfully, to be an aerobics instructor at the Candy Colby Body Studio in Florida. Candy’s rejection has burned inside me ever since.

To prove her wrong, next month I will attempt two hours of high-intensity interval training workouts. This means putting my middle-aged body through an awful lot of press-ups, squats, burpees and such like, and the even bigger sacrifice of giving up cider, curry and cake.

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, a patron of Julia’s House, has agreed to join me, prompting several local business people to join us too. Together we aim to fund two Julia’s House nurses for a year.

If you enjoy my Third Sector articles – for which, in true Haymarket style, I am not paid* – perhaps you would take a look at my fundraising page

Giving something of yourself is also a good signal to send to donors and colleagues. If you aren’t doing so, maybe you should for your cause, though a gentler challenge is advisable if you’re knocking on a bit like me.

Age might have wearied me, but Candy, if you’re still out there, I’m still available.

Martin Edwards is chief executive of Julia’s House, which runs children's hospices in Wiltshire and Dorset

*Editorial note: Haymarket Media is proud to consider Martin’s column another manifestation of giving of himself, and would be loath to sully his admirable gesture with financial compensation

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