What do you mean you don’t know?

by tkos on August 14, 2012

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A crisp clean double cuffed shirt. A double windsor knot. Polished boots. I was ready to meet with an international multi million pound charity. A charity that reaches all corners of the globe. A charity that helps thousands of people all over the world. A charity with connections. We were about to meet WaterAid.

We were to meet in the restaurant in which I ran, Abacus, near Bank tube station in the heart of the City of London financial district. I had briefed my staff as to the importance of this meeting. I had briefed the chef of our chosen table in case we were to order food. I had briefed the cleaners the day before for additional attention to detail. Today was important.

I’d never met with an organisation like this before and did not really know what to expect. If we were to raise money for a charity this big, it could open the doors to countless opportunities. In our minds, we were thinking that WaterAid could almost be a support base for us. Perhaps assist us in gaining sponsorship with an international hotel chain to give us free accommodation along the way. Shout about our ‘inspirational’ story to their press contacts to help us raise awareness and funds. Contact WaterAid ‘on the ground’ offices along our route for any ongoing support or refuge along our journey. The possibilities were endless. For an adventure this big, for tens of thousands of pounds of donation, for countless cross exposure media opportunities….. I can only dream of what WaterAid would do for this.

Butterflies swarmed my stomach. Kimmi and I sat together and stressed with excitement. The meeting was set for 12:30. Perfect for the restaurant to have a few tables of corporate and professional atmosphere, but not busy enough to be overcrowded and noisy. Everything was set, everything was perfect. All we could do, was wait.

Then, in walked a pair of ripped jeans, scruffy shoes and a baggy extra large t-shirt covering an already baggy extra large body. The pimples on his face indicated that he could not be more than his late teens and his unwashed borderline dreadlocked long hair was more suited to V Festival than the corporate lunch meetings surrounding him. My heart sank a little. I don’t know what I was really expecting. This is a new field for me. A new industry. A new world. Time to have an open mind and an open heart. Let’s see what he has to say…

A latt√® later and we have gone through the details of our trip. Our itinerary, our timings, our history and our expected costs. He loves it and is obviously overwhelmed. His first spoken observation about us struck me as a little odd and sparked a little concern. “It’s great to meet people so serious and professional about their project!” he says, browsing over our notepads and laptop. Huh? what sort of people plan something like this and don’t take it seriously? That’s when I started to think of all the other people this WaterAid worker has met previously. What sort of people come to these big international charities with what sort of ideas… Time to find out how this game is played!

Is WaterAid connected to any hotel chains through sponsorship that may be able to assist us on our trip? ‘Um, no. I don’t think so’. Are there any press contacts that WaterAid have that can they be shared with us or is there a PR department that could act on our behalf? ‘Um, no. I don’t think so’. Are there any places on our route across the globe that can offer any support whilst we are on the road? ‘Um, no. I don’t think so’.

Oh.

Is there any support in fundraising from WaterAid in regards to hosting events and raising money? ‘Um, no. I don’t think so’.

Oh. The countries in which WaterAid work that are on our route, for example, India and Thailand, can we see any history or current work of a WaterAid project? ‘Um, no. I don’t think so’.

Oh. How much of the money that you raise actually goes to people that need it, and how much goes into the running of the charity and marketing? ‘Um, I’m not exactly sure’.

Oh. So, without sounding heartless, selfish and greedy, if we raise ¬£15,000 for you through our own means, from our own PR, from our own events, from our own friends and family…. What do WaterAid do for us?

‘Well, we give you a letter stating that we give you permission to raise money for us and we can give you a t-shirt!’

But you can’t tell us where the money goes? ‘Um, no. I don’t think so’.

Oh.

Two weeks later, both Kimmi and I, as self confessed control freaks, decided to start our own charity. To have our control as to how the money is spent. To see where our raised money goes and to have complete confidence that it is well spent.

And to wear our own t-shirts.

Thank you WaterAid. You helped us create The Kindness of Strangers.

 

 

 

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