My Biggest Fundraising Mistakes: Just Because It Works Once....
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Proud to be a fundraiser: The most generous gift I've ever received

And it wasn't worth a penny.

Yet, it was one of the most touching moments I've had a a fundraiser.

I received a call from a lady who's mum had recently died. She wanted to donate some goods to the hospice and I went round to collect them.

Her address was in one of Darlington's poorer parts of town.  I pulled up outside her council house, which was in a poor state of repair and complete with an overgrown garden, broken fence and dilapidated paintwork.

I walked up the garden, knocked on the door and was greeted by the daughter. She'd obviously been crying for a long time. She had red teary eyes and the bags under her eyes were dark and puffy.

She invited me into the sparsely furnitured front room with threadbare carpets and a thick fog of stale cigarette smoke hanging in the air from her chain smoking.

After making a cup of tea and some small talk she said how grateful she was to the hospice for the care that had been given to her mum. She explained that she couldn't afford to give us any money, but instead wanted to donate the only thing of any value that she owned.

She got up, went upstairs and came back down with a battered shoe box and handed it over to me with a sad smile.

Old Doll 
The dolls I received didn't look much better than this poor fellow...

I opened the box and it contained two pathetic looking dolls. The plastic had been stained from the years of cigarette smoke and their dresses looked worse for wear. 

The lady proudly exclaimed:

"Mum would want you to have them to say thank you and raise some money for the hospice. I'm sure they'll raise a lot at auction.

"They were mum's pride and joy and have been on the mantelpiece for years."

I didn't know what to say.

They were obviously worthless, but they were the only thing she could think of giving us that might be worth something. 

She had nothing to give, but she gave anyway, and it was a very humbling moment.

I thanked her profusely and said I couldn't possibly accept such a personal gift, but she insisted and wouldn't let me take no for an answer. 

In the end I had to say how kind she'd been, offered my condolences and then left, not quite sure what to do with the dolls.

I returned to the office, wrote her a thank you letter and said we'd be in touch and let her know what we did with them.

I double checked with a couple of people that I wasn't missing something and the dolls were worthless and sadly they were, so I (rightly or wrongly) told a little white lie.

We often auctioned off some of the valuable donations to our shops so I decided to tell the lady that we'd included them in the next sale. 

After the sale, I called the lady and explained that I couldn't tell her how much the dolls had sold for, but the auction as a whole had raised a few thousand pounds for the hospice.

The lady was over the moon and felt so good that her gift had raised some money for the hospice. She said how much it would have meant to her mum and that it was lovely to think that she could pay us back in some way.

It was a lovely moment and I'm sure the whole donation was part of the grieving process for the daughter and was in some way cathartic.

It's a memory that still sticks in the mind after nearly 10 years and whenever I'm complaining about bills or moaning about lack of money, then I think of that lady who gave me the only valuable thing she owned....


This is the second in a series of posts where I share some of the stories and experiences that have made me proud to be a fundraiser over the last 10 years. I'd also love to hear your stories of the moments that have brought home how important fundraising is to you...