What I wanted to talk about when I thought about writing my first blog post, was the phenomenon I like to call ‘Selfraising’. It’s unlikely I can claim this term as my own, although I’ve not heard it used before, that I’m aware of (and I don’t care enough to Google it). It fits far too nicely to be original, so I’ll have to assume I’ve sub-consciously borrowed it from somewhere.
the act or process of participating in an event, usually a personal or sporting challenge of some kind, primarily for selfish reasons, but involving compulsory or semi-optional fund raising for non-profit organisations or other worthy causes.
For those who have found themselves in the position of Participant in the scenario above, the quandary I am about to explore is probably already self-evident. For everyone else, who at some point have no doubt found themselves in the role of more or less willing Donor in the above scenario, I hope to open the kimono a little, giving insight into the plight of the Participant and perhaps assuring you that it is not in blind naivety or brazen righteousness that those annoying email pledge requests are sent.
Indeed, I have found myself in the Participant role all too often in my unremarkable amateur sporting life. For the most part, it is almost unwittingly that I’ve stumbled into these situations. Like some hapless, clumsy Dad who takes his son to Auskick for the first time, expecting kudos for spending a leisurely morning hanging around on the oval, only to find within minutes that he has been volunteered into the role of group leader and required to manage five or six children all morning, while trying to demonstrate football skills he himself will never possess (and while I’m not actually speaking from experience here, I am fully expecting this to happen to me this coming Saturday!).
It always seems to be someone else’s bright idea to sign up for this bike ride, or that run, the carrot being the details of the challenge itself – this distance, that beautiful terrain, so-and-so is on the team – with the small print about minimum fundraising pledges seeming to come later, or muttered dismissively halfway through the initial sales pitch. It’s usually after the point of no return, where the commitment has been made and the registration fee paid, perhaps even months afterwards, when one is struck by the sobering fact that the greatest challenge is not going to be making it through the kilometres, or hitting a target time, but making the minimum fundraising target.
The above may come across as entirely mercenary and selfish, but it’s more complicated than that. Because of course you want to raise money for a good cause, and you feel if you’re going to do it then you need to try and do it as well as you can. In the vast majority of events I’ve done it has been, of course, a cause I can get behind and genuinely feel good about supporting. But here in lies the great criticism of folks like myself, or the self-criticism I am perhaps projecting onto others: if you cared that much about the cause, you’d be raising money off your own bat, not as an afterthought to some self-indulgent sporting activity you wish to undertake. This guilty thought is lurking behind my eyeballs as I type my jaunty email requests and wrack my brains for more people to put on the distribution lists. It nags away at the corner of my mind, tempering the satisfaction I feel as I see my fundraising total shooting up in response to the latest email campaign: Are you happy for the charity? it whispers in my ear, Or are you happy ‘coz you’re doing well, jerk?!
And it gets worse. Most of these events now show live leaderboards on their websites. The competitive element creeps into even this most worthy part of the exercise, the fundraising itself. I can’t help it – I find myself checking my progress daily, watching my rivals sink lower beneath me in the list, or cursing those soaring above me. They obviously have richer friends. They’re more senior in their companies (there is a direct relationship between corporate rank and fundraising potential. No-brainer.) I get to the point where I find it hard to keep check of my motivations – I know I’m doing it for the cause, but how much am I doing it for the personal satisfaction? It all gets confused. There’s a valid argument that the same issue applies to any girly-swot do-gooders out there raising funds, or volunteering. People question their motives, although I think it’s a bit rough to criticise those putting up their hands of their own accord, as opposed to us lycra-clad, gel-packing wannabe athletes.
But at the end of the day, when you look at it broadly, it all amounts to the same thing. So what if the motives are somewhat questionable? For do-gooders and wannabe athletes alike, even if human nature at its core is fundamentally flawed – no action is without reference to the self and no motives are entirely charitable, as some philosophers purport – the outcome IS entirely positive and beneficiaries should care not what motivated their mysterious benefactors on the other side of the world. Charities have twigged to the power of this phenomenon and more power to them. Yes, you could say it’s Machiavellian (indeed, you must, as there is an unwritten rule that any opportunity to infer something is Machiavellian and hence demonstrate one’s superficial knowledge of what that means MUST be leapt upon.)
The fact remains that all this activity raises large sums of money that wouldn’t otherwise be raised, and it comes from the pockets of people who patiently, though somewhat jadedly, read emails from tossers like me and think to themselves, Not again! Ho well – I do support what <insert charity> is doing and it is tax deductible and, hell, I’m pretty lucky in my 1%er existence. I can shoot them a 50 or a 100 and write a sardonic comment on this bloke’s fundraising page. Well done.