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A plea for five-figure cyber-donations

Posted on 17 June 2009 | 7:06am

I am determined to get my first big cyber-donation for Leukaemia Research, so please pass this among any rich friends and relatives you think might have a spare fifty grand, or any businesses who are doing ok despite the recession and looking for new Corporate Social Responsibility schemes.

Then I will get them along to the kind of event I hosted last night, where we spelled out for existing and potential supporters the reason we are asking.

It was at Somerset House, a lovely venue on a nice summer’s evening, and we kicked off with a short film on the Eastwood family from Middlesbrough, whose fundraising after their daughter’s death from leukaemia almost fifty years ago started the whole thing. Back then, the charity invested £3000 in research. Today it is over £20million, and it is leading to hugely improved survival rates – from zero to eight out of ten for children, three out of ten for adults.

Then I explained my own involvement, inspired by the death of my best friend John Merritt and his daughter Ellie, how I got into running and then triathlon, and now act as chairman of fundraising.

I interviewed two survivors, one adult, one child. The adult was pianist and composer Patrick Doyle, who has written a stack of film scores from Harry Potter to Bridget Jones’ diary, Sense and Sensibility to our very own Calendar Girls. He spoke very movingly of how he thought when he was diagnosed his number was up, but said he owed his life to the new research that had been done, and the care of the medics looking after him. The child was a young boy called Joe Smale whose family, like Patrick, have now become involved in major fund-raising efforts.

I also interviewed the consultant who is treating Joe, Nick Goulden from Great Ormond Street, who said the progress made in survival rates is directly down to the programmes funded by the charity. Professor Ghulam Mufti, head of heamatology at Kings College, Guy’s and St Thomas’s medical school, said that thanks to Leukaemia Research, Britain was a world-leader in the field, and that the impact was felt on many more cancers, not just blood cancers.

It was left to me and Cathy Gilman, a former volunteer who got involved because of the death of her cousin and is now chief executive, to do the ‘hard sell,’ trying to get 50 donations of £50k for our fiftieth anniversary next year in an exercise called the Big 5-0.

The Big 5-0 was planned in happier economic times when frankly we thought we would get the money in fairly easily. It is proving a bit tougher than we thought, but we are getting there, with a mix of individuals and businesses as varied as the Royal Garden hotel,who are adding 50p to every booking as a way of helping towards their 50k for us; Celebrity Speakers, one of my speaking agencies; a property company called Dransfield who have just done a Lyon to Marseilles bike ride; TV Times, long-term supporters; an events and communications agency called Upstage; London Marathon. So it may be tough, but we are getting there.

The charity is putting together individual packages with all of the donors. Some will just write out a cheque. Others will do a whole stack of staff events to get there. Some will do a mix. And all of them can be guaranteed the money will do what it says on the label – research into finding a cure, and meantime delivering better treatments, for this horrible disease.

Researchers and medics mixed and mingled, and one of the doctors there told me that a good friend of ours, who was diagnosed last year, has been moved to intensive care, and is really not well. As if I needed any reminder of the importance of the cause.

Pictures and video of the event to follow … meanwhile will someone please win the race to become my first major charitable cyber-hit. We’re very good at thinking up prizes to suit the individual.

  • Des Currie

    I have allways been a pick up your bed walk sorta guy, so I’ll pass on this one.
    Des Currie

  • James

    Does Leukaemia Research test on animals? Because as undoubtedly worthy it is as a cause, clearly this would be a barrier to donations.

  • Samantha Harrison

    I think all the charities are finding things a bit tougher but also I think the recession is being used as an excuse by some. I regularly go out collection for Cancer Research and I have noticed more and more people walking by without looking at you. Recession or no, most people can afford something. Fifty thousand is out of my reach though -and most people’s

  • Polly

    Do legacies count? My mother was talking the other day about possibly leaving part of her will to charities, but it may be some years -I hope – before the money would come to Leukaemia Research. Is the Big 5-0 very much just for that year

  • Kirsty

    This is a cause very close to my heart also, and if I had £50K it would be yours. Hope you hit the target, please keep up the good work.

  • botogol

    Hi Alastair, can you provide a link for more information about this big 5-0? what it is?

    I do remember you mentioning something about it before, but ‘search blog’ reveals nothing, and there is no reference to it on the Leukamia research website…..?

  • AC

    Links to the Big 5-0 on the Leukaemia Research site have been added.

  • Alan Quinn

    Samantha. I was helping two of my colleagues at work who were collecting for Support our Soldiers as their sons are both in the army. It’s annoying that so many people ignore you and the number of people who suddenly get phone calls as they get near you.
    Tight bastards!
    Good luck with the campaign Ally.

  • Ian Eastwood

    Good look with your search. Sorry not got £50k or have any rich friends. But I wish you all the best.

    I lost my father in law to this awful disease three years ago.He fought for ten years against NHL.

    He was a true gent and a life long Burnley fan, and would have loved to have experienced this last and the coming seasons.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when big corporations can’t find the money you’re looking for to help fund such a good cause.

  • Ian.Eastwood

    P.S Not related to the Eastwoods you mentioned in your Blog.

  • christine higginbottom

    Dear Alastair,

    New Directions Day Centre in Blackpool will be having a Summer Fayre next month, to raise much-needed funds. It is a mental health day centre that is loved by its members, and under threat of closure by Blackpool Council.

    However cheeky I may sound I would like to ask if you could donate something to the centre for the day. Morale is low at the centre due to the anxiety of changes to the day services. A note of good wishes to everyone there would offer people so much hope.

    I apologise if I have caused offence.

    Thank you, Christine.

  • Jane A

    I hope the blog brings forth someone with deep pockets and a good heart.

    In the meantime, maybe its worth considering harnessing the power of lots of ordinary people to give a little, or help a little, in the hope that may add up to a significant amount alongside.

  • Denise Lunn

    Hello, this is a long shot, obviously, but worth a try.

    I recently started volunteering in the youth sector. A large part of the job is helping teenagers prepare CV’s.

    I thought it would be an excellent idea to have a humorous ‘how to spin your CV and stay honest’ by Alistair Campbell. Poster or something.

    Picking out a couple or so of the ‘worst’ jobs for example, cleaner. ‘Maintaining high standards of hygeine’, etc. Basically a humourus look on how to spin limited experience, using transferable skills obviously.

    This is a genuine thought and I think it would help the teenagers whilst not being cynical.

    Teenagers are not ‘artful’ in this respect and I think it would be particularly helpful but in a funny way.

    Anyways, not expecting to hear back…but just in case, feel free to access my email.


    Denise Lunn.