Cricket, charity, and stepping up to the plate

I’m not particularly comfortable with, or good at, asking people for money. Last year, when I switched to batting left-handed and asked for sponsorship, the smart money was on a very small runs tally. The smart money doesn’t always win. It began unravelling for my various sponsors during my first innings, in which I scored 40 not out. Though the next few languished in single figures, the die was cast, and this, coupled with an insane quantity of games played, meant that the amount pledged racked up. Naturally, an amount failed to be given in, but this was due to my refusing to accept money until the season’s runs were scored.
Modern sponsorship is front-end loaded. You say you’re going to do something, you open a justgiving or virginmoney page and … people donate. There’s no need to carry out the ‘feat’ (which in itself is subject to worthiness inflation, that is, to justify sponsorship you must come up with ever more wacky or onerous tasks. It won’t be long before there’s a charitable foundation for the children of people who’ve died on fund-raising trips), merely to state one’s intention so to do. In some ways, it’s the perfect way in which to encourage giving, as it is all a matter of faith. We assume that the individual will do what they say they will, in an interesting reversal of how it used to be, those days in which the sponsor rather than the sponsee was the one who made the ‘if …’ promise. I wonder if anyone has ever asked for their money back from one of these donation sites on the grounds that the sponsee failed to deliver as promised. I doubt it, but then we’re starting to enter the realms of emotional blackmail – do you want to be seen as the one who was so small-minded as to ask for a return due to non-fulfillment of an expressed contract? Sponsorship is simply giving, in the same way that lending money to a friend in need is giving, too: you must consider it a gift, and not worry about getting it back.
Charities also seem to have forgotten how difficult things can be for a fundraiser. The modern way to support a charity involves using their branding as a mark of authentification. You as fundraiser use the charity branding to help show people what you’re doing with their money. There is, of course, a problem with the more unscrupulous using a charity brand to take money from people when they have no intention of giving the money to the charity in question. It is this which leads to the rather odd situation of having to effectively buy a license to use this branding, the fee being the projected donation.
I dislike this front-loading of giving, this businessification of charity, and yet this is exactly what I, in my new project, am doing. Last year I raised almost £3,000 for Parkinson’s UK, stipulating that it was to be directed to my local support group. The reason for this is that money raised tends to vanish into coffers, and I thought if it was going to do that, it may as well go directly to help people locally even if I couldn’t stipulate on what it was going to be spent on. Imagine my surprise when I’m told that my local group policy is now to send as much to head office as I can … or, in other words, we’re using your cash to, er, appear on our budget sheets. So. This year, I thought I’d do what I keep telling myself I’ll do when batting: think process, not outcome.
The process of raising money for charity is getting silly, as I’ve said. What if there were a better way? A way of making money that also was itself a ‘good thing’? I read an interesting book by Tim Quelch called Bent Arms and Dodgy Wickets that, if it didn’t actually provided my answer, at least convinced my that what I intended was viable. An interesting account of the state of English test cricket during the fifties, mixing political comment with cricketing analysis, it is a book written to benefit Parkinson’s UK, to whom its profits are directed. This convinced me that I was right. Write it and they will read, to colonize a quotation.
So. I purposed to write a book. Well, more produce one, to be fair. The Country House Cricketer.
And hence the front-end loading I am so uncomfortable with. I have been raising money to pay for the book to be written. This is more difficult than simple sponsorship, as you can’t in all conscience simply ask for cash – you need to earn it. Hence raffles, wine tastings … and who knows what next? What I can say is that the support I’ve had, both from those directly involved with the project, who are giving their help for free, such as Carla ter Maart, Stuart, Jack and the team at Eastweb, Henry and Cassie from Butlers Wine cellars, Trevor and Kevin at Sussex CCC, Clere and Rebecca at Warsop Cricket and various others, and from those attending events, has been overwhelmingly positive.
What I intend to produce will stand alone as a piece of work. It will, barring acts of god (such as continuous inclemency), be a beautiful thing which people will want to own for its own sake – the fact that each purchase will earn money for research into Parkinson’s a mere bonus, even if it is the whole point of the exercise, the final cause, as Aristotle would have termed it. So. Money will be raised, and every time a copy of The Country House Cricketer is opened, awareness will be increased.
It’s truly a win/win. Both buyer of book and recipient of funds, the two customers, will benefit. The middleman, me, both customer and client, will benefit – I’ll get to produce something beautiful, while simultaneously raising money to help people with Parkinson’s. Perhaps I’m being disingenuous when I suggest that I’m donating my writer’s royalties to research: I’m really giving them to my future.
Now I simply need to deliver. It’d really help if it would stop raining.

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