Fundraising Diaries - "I Bridge Walked as a Clown"

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Fundraising Diaries -

Fundraising Diaries - "I Bridge Walked as a Clown"

An Interview with Gillian McNicoll

Name: Gillian McNicoll

Age: 42

Hometown: Edinburgh


Hi Gillian, how's it going? So we hear you are currently fundraising for your upcoming gap year to South Africa - what will you be doing out there and how long are you going for?

I am going to Cape Town for seven weeks and leave on the 1st of June. I will be working full-time between two health clinics who work with people affected by HIV / AIDS. I will be an intern there and will help with lots of different things, including counselling and campaigns, cleaning, home visits and helping with the food programme. I will also be working with local children in an orphanage, teaching English, crafts and games.

What attracted you to this placement?

I am currently studying for a Health Sciences degree and am keen to have some experience behind me, while at the same time do something worthwhile. I wanted to go somewhere where I could volunteer on a health placement that did not require much experience and one that accepted mature students! I will also be staying with a local family, which will be great as I will be living in a local community and getting to know the people.

Do you have any travelling planned for after the placement?

I am not planning to travel afterwards, but I will be going on weekends trips whilst on the placement, mini safaris, day trips to beautiful gardens and beaches, and general sightseeing.

How much money do you need to raise to finance all of this?

The money required was around £1,600 but I had not allowed for sightseeing money! It was daunting to begin with, but I thought I had plenty of time. However, time passes really quickly when you're a student doing essays, exams, work placements, as well as having a life!

The programme fees (which includes a minimum donation to the projects, main meals and accommodation) totals £800 for seven weeks. I estimated flights and insurance at £500-600 and spending money at £300. I am also buying some craft equipment to take with me which I reckon will cost around £50. Any extra money I raise will go directly to the projects.

Is all of this money coming from fundraising or are you working too?

I applied for the Napier University's Student Grant and received £700 to pay for my flights and insurance, which actually cost £500. The remaining £200 is going direct to the HIV / AIDS projects I am working for. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to put much money aside from my job until recently, but have got £200 from my work as an IT cleaner. I need a bit more spending and sightseeing money and hope to put some more away by the time I go, so I can afford trips, sightseeing, and Internet access as well as a contingency fund!

So what fundraisers have you come up with so far?

The main fundraiser was my recent sponsored walk over the Forth Road Bridge dressed as a clown! My other ideas include selling books in online books stores and auctions, a Rumble in the Jumble Sale, a car boot sale and selling soft toys.

What gave you the idea for the bridge walk and how did the event go?

My friend Mhairi did a sponsored walk a long time ago on the bridge and it seemed like a good idea. Plus I am scared of heights, so figured that it was challenging enough to get people interested enough to sponsor me.

The event was fun and the weather was fantastic; it was a little scary at times as I am afraid of heights but it wasn't too bad as I had the company of two friends, Mhairi Mitchell and Helen Carlyle, who both walked with me. As we were walking, lots of cars, vans and lorries beeped their horns in encouragement at us and lots of people stopped us and asked what we were doing. It was really great to see smiles on people's faces.

How much money have you raised from your fundraisers so far?

The bridge walk has raised around £360 so far and people are still handing me money to add to this! Even my sister Kathryn who lives in Germany is sending me some Euros to convert! I've raised around £100 from the online auctions and £60 from other sales. This more or less pays for my accommodation and main meals for the seven weeks, so that's great!

How supportive have people been when you've told them what you are fundraising for?

People have been very supportive. Family and friends have been offering help and support, as well as sponsoring me. Some people are helping in practical ways such as giving me a lift as a clown to the bridge, going on the walk with me, handing out leaflets and planning the jumble sale. My church has also offered the church hall for the sale, while my tutors and fellow students have supported and sponsored me.

Not long to go until your placement now, what other plans have you got for raising enough cash for your project?

The Rumble in the Jumble Sale is on Saturday the 6th of May from 10-1pm at 37 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh. I am also entering an essay competition at my university and if I win I get £150! A couple of students are also coming to stay for a few days and are giving me a donation for the privilege!

I also have many cute cuddly animals for sale at £2.50 each; they range from jungle animals, seals, dogs and some beautiful little fur ball animals that live inside their own little furry ball. These are available at the jumble sale or I can post them to people. I also plan a car boot sale to get rid of any leftover items.

What five tips would you give to someone planning to fundraise for their gap year?

  1. Get planning right away and be sure to ask for ideas from friends and relatives. Make sure you listen to them because some ideas seem great, but don't turn out so great if people don't want to come or help!
  2. Put some initial time slots in, and don't leave everything until it's too late! Like me, you may have studying and exams to do, so get prepared and you'll be less stressed out. Try to fit fundraising in when you have 'slack times' and be sure to give yourself time to do things, I'm dyslexic, so I need to allow time for writing up press releases and letter editing. It's important to take this into account before you start.
  3. Read the ideas and help sections on this site - they really help, especially when putting out press releases. After taking the advice on gapyear.com, I have been in the Edinburgh Evening News and will be going into my local paper too. I also wrote around 40 letters, and have received one gift of a Olympus digital voice recorder from The Dyslexia Shop, Edinburgh to sell and put towards my funds. Others I have written to that were not able to support me financially have offered encouragement and advice.
  4. Do something you enjoy or think is fun. Don't shave your hair off if it's really not for you, even if your friends think it's a good idea. You're the one that lives with it, after all! However, if it's a challenge for you, do it. I don't like heights, so walking the Forth Road Bridge was my challenge and I found people are more willing to put their hand in their pocket.
  5. Make sure you account for enough spending and travel money early on in the fundraising planning process. It seems obvious, but I was so intent on working out the programme fees and flights that I got this wrong.

Good luck with the rest of the fundraising - we'll keep our fingers crossed!

Thanks guys - I'll send you a postcard!


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