The Fundraising Directory Story
It all started when I met Helen.
It was late 2005. Helen ran the ‘Fundraising Ideas’ website which was a hobby business of hers.
I was helping a family member set up a fundraising program for their business.
I (as I am known to do) threw myself at this task with a mighty force, and proceeded to learn all I could about the industry. I got in touch with Helen about her site and she was incredibly generous and helpful with her advice.
It turned out that she did not live very far away from me, so we organised to meet for a coffee.
Who knew that my life would change that day?
We were soulmates from the start. Such an incredibly warm, smart, funny, generous lady.
We both saw that there was nothing out there that did a great job of connecting schools and clubs with fundraising suppliers. We also knew that some committees were overwhelmed with ‘junk mail’ from fundraising suppliers, while others received nothing.
In the same breath, we both described the Fundraising Directory – an annual supplier directory sent free to schools and community groups, together with a comprehensive website full of helpful resources. A couple of weeks later I had a lightbulb moment – we could run it as a business! I phoned her with the idea and we both ran around screaming with excitement.
Even though we had only known each other for a couple of weeks, we each proceeded to put in $500 to set up a company.
That first year was an absolute rollercoaster as we had no idea what we were doing! We were the blind leading the blind and essentially made it up as we went along. We worked so hard, and thankfully it was clear from early on that the Fundraising Directory would be a success.
Things went well for the next couple of years. It was a pleasure ‘working’ alongside Helen, although it could hardly have been described as work when it was so much fun.
In July 2008, I came across the Australian Business Awards and thought we might have a chance in the ‘Most Innovative Product’ Category. I was particularly busy at the time and nearly didn’t apply. It was on the closing date that I finally got the submission in. I am so glad I did.
At around that time, we were featured (cover story no less!) in the Business Mums Magazine. I still value that article for capturing a precious time in our lives.
In August, Helen began feeling unwell. She thought it was gallstones. Some tests revealed the devastating news – it was pancreatic cancer.
The next 60 days were a blur for everyone. Her cancer was advanced, so there was no treatment available. Along with her partner, Bob, and some close friends, we took her to appointments, stayed with her in hospital, helped organise her children and, in the end, got everything set up so she could be comfortable at home.
I remember one day driving her into an appointment. I accidentally cut off another car, and at the next set of traffic lights the driver wound down their window and started yelling. Helen wound down her window and screamed back ‘Well I’m dying, so there!’. She shut her window and started to crack up laughing. So typical of Helen!
Helen was in hospital in mid September when we got the news. We had won the award!!! It was just so fantastic – right at a time when there was absolutely no good news anywhere. It was such a wonderful affirmation of all of our hard work, and Helen was very proud. She hung the framed award in her hospital room.
In October, Helen passed away. A beautiful soul gone too soon.
I still miss her.
Fast forward many years and I can assure you that I am doing everything possible to honour Helen in making the Fundraising Directory great. In 2013 I wrote a book: The Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. It will be no surprise that I dedicated it to Helen.
Over the years, I have seen a lot in the fundraising world. So many wonderful things: volunteers stepping up, communities made stronger, amazingly creative ideas dreamed up, action plans put into place, smiles on the faces of children. And such great achievements made possible with the money raised.
I have also seen challenges. In particular I see volunteers stepping up, time and time again, with no training and often little handover. I see committees so often ‘flying blind’.
I’m on a mission to help! On our website, through our weekly tips and Facebook community, I share a LOT of resources and fresh ideas. Volunteers don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time!
These days you will find me writing articles for P&C and parenting magazines, speaking at conferences, writing my fundraising tips, speaking with fundraising suppliers, and of course finding time for my family. Yes the rumour is true – I have five children! I still can’t believe it, but it’s how life worked out for me and I love the chaos (…mostly!).
I have a favour to ask of you. If you ever hand over to another volunteer – SIGN THEM UP TO GET OUR TIPS! And pass on your copy of the Fundraising Directory 😉