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Fundraising | Ian Allsop | 30 Sep 2011

Ian Allsop is pushing himself to the limit – all in the interests of fundraising research.

I was pottering around the house the other day wrestling with a wordy problem. Yes, pondering the origins and meaning of the phrase ‘charity begins at home’ really does begin at home.

After discounting the possibility that it was a misquote of a fundraising campaign slogan for voluntary groups in the Brighton area – charity begins at Hove – I assumed that, like a lot of these things, it came from the Bible.

But after extensive research (two minutes on Google) I found that, while the concept underpinning the line may have its roots in the good book, it is popularly attributed to Sir Thomas Browne, an English physician, writer and theologian. In 1642 he opined: “But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? ‘Charity begins at home’, is the voice of the world.”

The meaning of the term seems to have altered over time to fit the particular situation of the person quoting it, though I wouldn’t like to comment whether this has parallels with plenty of things that genuinely were written in the Bible.

While the original intention that one should look after oneself and one’s family before helping others is sensible when applied to life’s necessities, it has sometimes been used as a justification for selfishness.

Further, I have also heard it used to excuse not giving to international aid charities.

But enough historical semantics and moralising about how individuals allocate their hardearned cash. Charity is most definitely prominent in my home currently, as is the value of looking after oneself.

I somewhat recklessly signed up for a half-marathon last May. The civilsociety.co.uk editor’s comment was: “You’ll do anything to get some material for your next blog!”

Being badly out of shape – unless that shape is round – and never one prone to running very far, even when a younger, fitter model, I felt 13 miles would really test me. And more importantly raise plenty of money for a good cause through the ‘incredulity-donation-reflex’ of friends and colleagues. I saw that the Royal Parks Foundation halfmarathon was seeking victims and, before you could say “imminent midlife crisis”, I signed up.

Depending on how long it takes you to get round to reading this, the race is either in a few days or happened last month. Either way, this could be my valedictory blog, especially given how my training is going.

Not that I would be so cheeky as to use this as an opportunity to elicit sponsorship, however worthy the cause. Though I will just say that the Scout Association has been doing sterling work with young people for over a century and, if you ignore any opportunity to help them financially, you are responsible for the moral collapse of the next generation in our broken society.

I will share some observations about the fundraising process. The Scout Association are trialling the Virgin Money Giving website and it is the first time I have encountered it, most of my online fundraising experience having previously come through justgiving.com. So what is it like? Well, I invite you to take a look yourself. It’s very easy.

Find a friend

First go on to the internet and locate the uk.virginmoneygiving.com website. Then use the search function to find a friend, perhaps by typing in a random moniker (merely for demonstration purposes) such as Ian Allsop. In the bottom right-hand corner there is a button marked ‘Donate Now’ which you may want to press, then simply follow the on-screen instructions from there. And don’t forget the gift aid.

All this online malarkey is certainly a lot easier than the days of paper sponsorship forms, and the ability for people to leave comments is particularly entertaining. I promised a mention recently to whoever could supply the wittiest (printable) bon mot. And, in the absence of any contenders, I offer these. “My advice is to start at a leisurely pace and then slow down – by the time you realise you’re not fit it will be too late to walk back...”; “The thing to remember is that it’s the last twelve-and-a-half miles you have to watch out for”; and, my favourite: “Don’t kill yourself over it... it’s not worth it (unless you raise over a grand)”.

Assuming I make it, I will update you on how I fare next month. But whatever you do, do not visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/IanAllsop as that would make me appear guilty of shameless selfpromotion. Even though, so they say, charity begins at home.

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Ian Allsop

Ian Allsop is a freelance journalist and editor specialising in not-for-profit management and financial issues.

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