Opinion: Small, but perfectly formed

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

"And how much will it raise?" a colleague asked as if about to diagnose madness when he saw my desk piled high with sports books from which I was decanting a charity sports quiz. I am a great rounder-upper. "Between £3,000 and £5,000," I said, knowing this was the best-case scenario but unwilling to be patronised. "Hardly worth the trouble," he sniffed. "Better to spend the time finding one rich person who can write you a cheque for that without blinking."

I felt crushed momentarily. Big is undoubtedly the norm in fundraising terms today, but I fear that the success of a few top 20 charities in delivering huge returns on major events has rather queered the pitch for the rest of us who toil away on the tombola. Especially when it comes to small, local initiatives like the sports quiz I was helping with at my children's school. There is, in some quarters, an almost unspoken question - why bother for so little? It has infected donors, potential helpers and supporters and it is doing great damage to the sector's grass-roots.

So here's a hymn of praise to a different way of raising funds. For the 'small' amount that we were aiming for, we could buy a stack of vital equipment for the nursery. It was a very tangible benefit, but one outside the budget set for the school by the education authority and probably an impossible one to sell to any individual donor.

And yes, the event was all a bit rough round the edges, but it was a thumping good night out for the 200 people present. There was a real sense of purpose, uniting organisers and supporters in a way that can often be missing at your bigger, grander dos where the tuxedos and sparkly tops seem to act as a corset that chokes the thrill of the chase after that target figure.

Most of all, there was a wonderful sense of community, of pulling together in a common cause, that pervaded the hall from the time we started covering the desks with makeshift tablecloths as the kids left for home through to the sweeping up in the early hours of the morning. All this, and we topped £3,000 too ...

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