Lizzy Bell: Fundraiser of the Month

Name: Lizzy Bell
Age: 18
Hometown: Sheffield


Hi Lizzy, how's it going?

Fantastic! Now the 'A' level results and all that stuff is out of the way I feel much more focused on preparations for my project.

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?

My fiance, Aaron, and I are heading out to Port Elizabeth next April to work as volunteer teachers for three months with gap year organisation GAP SPORTS.

What attracted you to this placement?

It sounds cliche, but I want to make a difference. I have found the last two years in sixth form the hardest of my life to date. I started planning the project after Christmas this year, and focusing on it helped me to get through the exams. It gives me a real buzz!

Any travelling planned for after the placement?

Hopefully we'll be able to stay in Cape Town for a week. I read A Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela, and I want to see Robben Island where he was imprisoned. It'll be amazing to see the places he talked about.

How much money do you need to finance this altogether?

£2,600 each, minimum!

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

I have just got a full time job, which is by far the best way to raise money. It's a regular income that you can count on.

We hear interesting things about a leaflet campaign - aiming to get £3 from 250 people to raise £750 - what made you come up with this idea and how has it been coming along?

We worked out how much we needed to raise - and this seemed a good way to go about it. I have applied for collecting permits from the council and have collecting tins, so we should be marching the streets of Sheffield in no time! The leaflet was a great way to start fundraising, I've included one in every letter I have sent and every time I approach someone I show him or her the leaflet. It sets a benchmark for how much they should give. Everyone has given at least £3, but I haven't approached the general public yet.

Has anyone actually turned you down when you ask for £3 from them?!

I've had a few angry tuts but I have worn everyone down in the end! At the end of the day, no one would think twice about spending £3 on a sandwich, so why not on education where it is craved?

How long would you say each of your fundraisers so far has taken to organise?

Fundraising is something that is constantly on my mind. I'm always formulating ideas and making plans - I love it! Remember that every person you talk to about your project is raising the profile of the cause. Whether the person gives a donation or not, that is someone else that is aware of the problem of education in South Africa. That's a great achievement.

Shaving your head

What's been your most and least successful fundraiser to date?

Aaron is having his hair shaved off, which from family and friends has raised over £100 already. The response to it was amazing and it's been very fun to organise. His mum's friend is a hairdresser, so she has kindly agreed to open up her shop in the evening and do it for him. Loads of people will be there to watch - I can't wait! The least successful idea we have come up with is a sponsored walk/bike ride. I ran the idea past my family, and as my dad said, 'Why do I care whether you walk a few miles or not?' He's blunt but it's true. Selling unwanted CDs and DVDs on ebay has been great, in the last few months we've raised over £120 on that alone.

Have you sent letters to companies/rotary clubs too? How successful has this been?

I must have sent about 50 letters out to companies! I have had one positive reply - from Crystal Peaks Shopping Centre. The manager gave us £100 contribution, which was wonderful. Multi-national companies have been impossible. Nike, Adidas and companies like that all say that they don't want approaching for sponsorship and that they choose who they want to give money to. Other companies, such as McDonalds, have their own charities and don't give money to individuals. All the supermarkets have said that they only give money to local projects. So it hasn't been that successful all in all.

But I have written to a lot of trusts and charities too - I have gratefully received a £250 grant from the Vandervell Trust. All they asked for was a report of my experiences when I get back- not much for £250! I have written to a lot of others too, but they consider people at different points in the year, so fingers crossed!

A lot of people struggle when writing these types of letters, what tips do you have?

Say what you will do in return for their kindness, for example I said that I would say thank you to them in a interview I'm organizing with my local papers, and on gapyear.com - thank you Crystal Peaks! Also, really emphasise if you have a connection with the company, for example Crystal Peaks is my local shopping centre.

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

I think that people tend to be more supportive of UK projects. For example, I know that in 2003 Cancer Research UK shops raised more money for the charity than any other. Oxfam was way behind. I think there is a huge prejudice against developing countries. I've faced this from my family - most people seem to think that third world countries are poor through some fault of their own. There is a lot of ignorance out there that I find selfish. What does it matter whether suffering is going on our doorsteps or on the other side of the World? Both are important. People are people, regardless of race and religion.

What other plans have you got for raising enough cash for your placement?

My next aim is to organize interviews with the local press. I'm travelling with GAP SPORTS, who have been very supportive. A lady from there said that she is often approached by journalists asking for a gap year case study. She said she would put me forward - so I'm hoping that this comes through. Exposure is so important. My mum put my leaflet up on the notice board where she works. A lady approached her and gave me some contacts she has for female entrepreneurs. Apparently they can really boost my profile - so I'm giving that a go too.

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

  1. Use you gap year company. The people at GAP SPORTS have been great. I wanted some pictures of the project to put in my leaflet, so they emailed a collection of them. Remember that they are pros at this!
  2. Remember the three magic words: exposure, exposure, exposure!
  3. Learn how to sell yourself and your project. Practice in front of the mirror or with a friend.
  4. Network; contacts are vital.
  5. Enjoy yourself - fundraising is what you make it. When it gets to be a slog, have a break. It can be fun!