I need to get fitter. As a man of a certain age, a bit more physical activity on a regular basis would do me the world of good. The problem is, life can get in the way – work, children, you know the story. The truth of it though, is that these are simply excuses. They really are. If I really wanted to get fitter, I would make the necessary adjustments and commitment to do so.
This set me thinking about the perennial challenges facing charities. We all work to help meet a genuine need and our objects frame the area of need we exist to mitigate. Sure, there is merit in the suggestion of merger being of benefit to the sector, helping to aggregate effort and create more common cause, but in its simplest terms, we must assume a charity does what it says on its tin. So, just because there is a ‘need’ doesn’t necessarily mean others will help us meet it. Like my fitness frustration, I think there’s a far greater chance of success if we really want to do it, rather than feel we need to.
This is a key consideration for SportsAid. Education and sport don’t feature in the top few hundred big charities and we’re not going to change that hierarchy. However, education and sport, whilst not being life-saving causes so to speak, are clearly life-changing and life-enhancing and are quite emotive topics for many people. Our challenge is to find those people and encourage them to want to help. This is important – given the myriad of other giant, well-known, emotive national charities, SportsAid must be clear in its mission. We can’t rely on simply saying that we need help; we must work to develop an appetite to help us.
Today is the first day of the inaugural SportsAid Week, running from 26th September to 2nd October. A dedicated few days to celebrate SportsAid’s work and the young people we help – fun and fundraising hand in hand. Or at least that’s the thinking. There are several objectives for SportsAid Week but the priority is to raise awareness for the cause. As any decent marketeer will tell you, awareness leads to understanding; understanding leads to affinity and if you’re then that interested you’ll hopefully want to help.
SportsAid’s work is impactful. We provide recognition and financial help to Britain’s next generation of sporting talent. They have two progress-limiting barriers: the first is money, the second is in managing their hectic lifestyle. Imagine having to fit in 15-20 hours training each week as well as school and homework, whilst finding time for family and friends and having to travel nearly 200 miles to train and compete and then having to fund it all.
Help from SportsAid addresses these two barriers. A cash award contributes to the costs and the recognition coming with that award raises the profile of the young athlete enabling them to find other help along the way, such as flexibility with school work and empathy from friends and family. We also offer advice to the athletes and their parents on navigating this strange world of performance sport.
Are we helping the right athletes? The numbers suggest so: in the recent Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, 65% of Team GB and 68% of ParalympicsGB had been helped by SportsAid. Of the 27 gold medals won by Team GB, 20 came from athletes supported by SportsAid and some 70% of the Paralympic medallists. The hit rate is good as the decision is informed by nominations to SportsAid made by the various governing bodies of sport – British Cycling knows what a good cyclist looks like and so on.
We do need to help this next generation. A world without heroes to inspire us is a dark place. But needing to help isn’t enough – SportsAid Week is going to help us make you want to help them. Why not visit the SportsAid Week campaign page (www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek) to see how you can get involved?