We spoke to Michelle who shared with us her fundraising efforts, in memory of her son, Matthew.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the fundraising challenge that you took part in?

Each year I set myself a new challenge and I use this to raise awareness and funds for PAPYRUS. I make sure that I set myself a different challenge each year and I try to look at something that I know will take me out of my comfort zone.

This year I chose the Great North Swim, I’m not a great swimmer – slow and steady breaststroke is my limit.

What inspired you to want to fundraise? And why did you choose this specific event?

My son Matthew died in 2014 when he was 20 years old and so I try to complete a physical activity each year in his memory. Matthew was a strong swimmer and played water polo, so I knew how proud he would be of me to complete this challenge.

Getting started

What fundraising strategies or tactics did you find most effective in reaching your goals?

This year for my challenge, there were four of us that took part, myself, my friend Anne and her two daughters, Mel and Jen. They both swan with Matthew at Royton Swimming Club. Initially, we were worried about raising the £400 minimum sponsorship each for the challenge and so we decided to host a few other activities to raise the £1,600 that we needed collectively. There was a collection at Oldham Athletic and we also did a ladies day alongside our JustGiving campaign.

Were there any unique approaches you took that worked particularly well for your campaign?

I found that taking part in a challenge each year, you do ask the same individuals to sponsor you, so I find different approaches work well, meaning we can combine the funds raised, ensuring we all hit our target. The ladies day that we hosted was such a good fundraiser and we were able to receive some good donations from companies that we could auction off, everyone always enjoys the event and it really is a great success.

What information did you find was useful to include on your page?

I always tried to add photos and updates on training that I was taking part in for the challenge. I found this helped and kept friends and family updated with the efforts that I was putting in. I also added these to social media pages regularly.

Your journey

Did you find people engaged with your page and donated, if not, how did you challenge this?

I found people do generally engage and donate, but I run other events alongside my fundraising so that I am able to boost this, I find this really helps.

How did you ensure you reached your fundraising target?

The extra events I host help with reaching targets, I find that any little thing helps, whether that be raffles, football cards, ladies day.

How did you go about building a network of supporters for your fundraising efforts?

I find that having others take part in a fundraising challenge with me beneficial. This way, we can reach more supporters as a team rather than doing this individually.

Can you share any tips for engaging friends, family, and the community to support your cause?

I like to pick a challenge that is out of my comfort zone, by doing this I feel that supporters respect you more and tend to donate as they realise how difficult the challenge is going to be.

If your fundraising challenge involved physical activity, what kind of training and preparation did you undertake?

For this challenge, I joined my local gym and went swimming or took part in an aqua aerobics class at least three times a week. I then completed two sessions in Salford Quays in preparation of my open water swim.

Can you share some training tips or advice for others considering similar challenges?

My advice would be to stick to your training plan. Make sure that you let people know what you are doing and give regular updates on social media so that supporters stay engaged with your challenge.

Fundraising can be tough at times; how did you ensure you looked after yourself throughout all your hard work/what self-care elements were included?

I have very good friends who take on these challenges with me, this allows us to offer support and encouragement to one another. We had a WhatsApp group where we spoke daily, keeping each other updated on training we were doing, this really helped with motivation.

Challenges and obstacles

Fundraising often comes with its share of challenges. Can you share some of the obstacles you faced during your fundraising journey?

Fundraising is hard and asking those close to you for money can be difficult and uncomfortable. I always try to do it with a smile and include something that benefits others, for example, the ladies day event. This is extremely hard to organise, but I know everyone enjoys it and people who attend are generous because they have such an enjoyable day.

How did you overcome these challenges, both in terms of fundraising and personal motivation?

I am always prepared to put the hard work in, as I know that ultimately, it will pay off and the fundraising goal will be reached.

The challenge

Did you enjoy your event/challenge, and would you recommend it to other potential fundraisers?

I always enjoy my challenges and for this challenge in particular, I felt Matthew was watching me during the swim, which meant so much.

Did you find your fundraising rewarding?

Fundraising is so rewarding, knowing that you are making a difference is a feeling that is like no other.

What were some of the most memorable moments or milestones during your fundraising journey or event?

This challenge was really hard and so to be honest, crossing the finish line was my biggest achievement.

Can you share a highlight or achievement that made the entire experience worthwhile?

Completing any challenge is super rewarding, but this one more so as I also had some of Matthew’s friends swimming alongside me.

Advice for prospective fundraisers/closing thoughts

What advice would you give to individuals who are considering fundraising for PAPYRUS but may be hesitant to start?

I would say try and choose something that really challenges you and takes you out of your comfort zone. This way supporters are more likely to follow your journey and see it through to the end with you.

Are there any specific steps or strategies you would recommend for someone just beginning their fundraising journey? If yes, can you elaborate?

Make your challenge interesting and inspiring for your supporters. I think you should set yourself the challenge and then stick to it.

Would you take part in any fundraising in the future? / Do you have any future plans or ideas for continuing your support of PAPYRUS or other charitable causes?

Yes! I haven’t actually chosen next year’s challenge yet, but I have already scheduled a bucket collection at Oldham Athletic, following the previous success of this and I know that I will also be hosting ladies day next year too.

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