When I was younger I would walk, twice a year, door-to-door, asking for money. This wasn’t to help me build a new go-kart, buy a puncture repair kit for my Space Hopper or fund my subscription to Smash Hits. This was to raise money for charity. One of the annual neighbourly visits would be to collect money for the RNLI and the other would be to sponsor me to run 24 laps of the school field at Sport’s Day. Even though most of us did less then half the required laps the teacher would still write it down as 24, just so that the school received the extra money. Sport’s Day. What a weird event. I remember in our school David Richards was the best Shot Putt. Literally. Our school couldn’t afford an actual ‘Putt’ so we had to use him. But there was always something dodgy about him, which meant I literally didn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.
Sponsoring someone for an event was never compulsory nor were you ever made to feel guilty if you declined. Oh how things have changed. Hardly a day now passes when I am not inundated through email, Twitter, Facebook or Carrier Pigeon with requests asking me for sponsorship. Be it for cycling/swimming/running/walking/climbing up a mountain/climbing down a mountain/climbing halfway up or down a mountain/holding their breath/eating cheese/hopping/limbo-dancing or sleeping.
I really think it’s wonderful that friends of mine and Facebook friends (of course there’s a difference) are giving up their time for such worthwhile causes and I understand that charities need money. However, I do many charity gigs for no fee. (Although I’m still not sure that “Kev’s Stag Night Fund” is a real charity). This is my way of contributing. Even though, as I say, I perform at many charity events I do have to turn some down. If I didn’t, well, I wouldn’t make a living. I was recently asked to perform for a large charity event in a fancy shmancy hotel in central London. I asked them what the fee would be. The events organiser was appalled! “It’s a charity!” she informed me. I then asked her what she did for a living. Bemused, she told me that, obviously, she worked for the charity and organised their events. “But what do you do for money?” I asked. “What do you mean,” she said, not realising that my trap was being set; “I’m paid to do my job”. “What?!” I replied, “But it’s a charity!!” I couldn’t help sounding a little too pleased with myself. Anyway, I did the event and they raised over £30,000 for the cause. Even after my ‘reduced’ fee!
My children come home from school on a regular basis with begging letters. Well, perhaps not begging letters, but they are requests for money in one form or another. Whether it’s; ‘Please buy Raffle Tickets for the School Fete’ (oh goody a chance to win a hamper of food I won’t like) or “Give a Pound and your child can wear their own clothes” (well, let’s wait until after school and they can do that all evening for free). Then there are the events. ‘The Bar-B-Q’, ‘The Supper Quiz’, The Summer Fete’, ‘The Car Boot Sale’, ‘The Find Out Who Your Real Dad Is Evening’. And if you don’t attend these events – oh the shame! The looks in the playground from the other parents who are all thinking: “There he is. That’s the person who doesn’t support the school and therefore wants it to close down and be replaced by a multi-storey car park.” The thing is I am very supportive of my children’s schools. I have performed free at their comedy evenings (sigh) and helped with various activities. But this constant demand for money does get out of control. My son’s class has swimming in the local sports centre once a week. This is paid for by the school and subsidised by the council. However, parents are asked to make a voluntary contribution each term. I always do. Last term, for some reason – I was probably writing an angry letter to someone – I forgot to send the money in. So they sent me a reminder. A reminder. For a ‘voluntary’ payment!
When I was a child, before the feature film started in the cinema, there would be a short film about a local charity. This short film more or less said: “Hey, you in the cinema having fun. Stop being so selfish and enjoying yourself and look at this.” After the film a collection box was passed around so that you could donate your sweet money. Awful. Of course on some occasions the collection box – which was rather foolishly passed along the rows – disappeared only to re-emerge a couple of hours later from under some teenager’s jumper, outside the local chip shop.
So, by all means, continue with your wonderful charity work and I hope you succeed. But just stop asking me for money – and I’m happy to sponsor you for that.
About Bennett Arron
Bennett Arron is an award-winning writer and stand-up comedian as well as a popular speaker on the subject of Identity Theft. See what Bennett’s up to at www.bennettarron.com
Follow Bennett on Twitter: @bennettarron