As her mobile phone disappeared into her pocket a huge smile crept across Marie’s face. She had to hold herself back from punching the air and cheering with delight.
Marie had just landed a big, new client.
But for quite a time now, things hadn’t looked so rosy.
Her business had grown really well until a new marketing director had turned up in her biggest client and within a month had swept in a new agency.
She knew it had been a mistake to rely on just one client for half the business, but how could she have turned them down?
She had struggled over the past nine months – cut her salary to the bone even though little Toby had come into her life.
With Mark, her husband, looking after Toby and trying to get a break with his writing, money was very, very tight and the board insisted on redundancies – unless she won a big new client.
The call was confirming the contract. Business was back to booming – but a condition from the new client was that Marie had to personally oversee the account; without her there was no deal.
Back in the real world, Marie noticed people dodging a street fundraiser – one of those earnest young people banging on about saving the world. This one was representing Oxfam. Well, representing Oxfam today Marie thought – tomorrow it will be Amnesty or Greenpeace.
Earnest World Saver caught Marie’s eye. Before she could escape the fundraiser was right in front of her.
“Hello ma’am, how are you today?!” began Earnest. “I’m good but…” Marie tried, looking for an escape route.
“That’s great! I hope you can spare me a few moments on this fair day. I am working for Oxfam to help alleviate poverty and literally save kids’ lives around the world. You see, in Africa right now, countless kids are suffering from easily curable diseases. A million of them will die this year from diarrhoea alone. For just $35 a month – a little over a dollar a day – you can directly help save lives…”
Earnest clearly believed in what he was saying; he probably passionately believes in human rights and tying himself to nuclear subs as well, thought Marie.
But Marie had more on her mind right now.
“Thanks, I’m sorry – I don’t have time right now” she said, making a beeline for a pedestrian crossing where a young mother watched, relived at not being Earnest’s victim. Her child, maybe five years old and dressed in a cliché pretty red dress, looked fascinated by something in the road gutter.
The young mum caught Marie’s eye and they both knowingly smiled as she sloped off towards the crossing, willing the lights to change.
Earnest was casting about for his next victim when Marie saw something dart out of the gutter – a rat perhaps. It shot across the road, daring the traffic and startled everyone.
Then things slowed down – it was like a movie.
She saw the red dress move after the rat, and the red mass of a bus coming in from the nearside. Without thinking she was moving – instinct kicked in and she leapt across the front of the mum, pushing the kid backwards and towards the footpath.
The change in direction, the speed – everything was working against her as she saw the terrified face of the child falling onto the path behind her.
She could feel bus bearing down on her.
There would be no escape.
Mark and Toby – what about them? She was a mum. A breadwinner. The leader of a great company she built. And the bus would surely end that.
She heard the screeching – the tyres and the mother.
But no impact.
She felt an arm grab her, pulling her up. The bus had come to a rest – the shocked faces of passengers staring out.
Young mum embraced Little Red Dress as Marie realised it was Earnest helping her up. Earnest had tears in his eyes.
“Mate, you’re a hero.”
Our job as fundraisers is to make people care enough about children (or equivalent cause) a long way away, as much as they do for someone close. Most of us would hope we reacted like Marie did, but she risked everything – not just her clothes, a meal or a new iPhone – everything – to save the life of a stranger.
We fundraisers bring our causes closer to our donors through stories and personalisation, though relationships and demonstrating consequences of not giving.
Facts and stats don’t make things closer, stories do. Child Sponsorship does this brilliantly.
I hope you enjoyed that story.