LYNNE McNICOLL ~ FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR

My name is Lynne McNicoll and I am co-founder of It’s Good to Give! and currently Scotland’s Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year.

I started fundraising in December 2005 as I hit my 49th birthday – I wanted to find a different and more giving way to celebrate my 50th birthday.

I very much appreciate all I have, count my blessings daily!

I wanted a way to express that gratitude and I have found it in helping others.

I said I would raise £50,000 for a young persons cancer charity by my 50th birthday.

This is my story.

Where to start?

Born 53 years ago in Edinburgh a city I absolutely adore. I have lived here all my life and can’t imagine living anywhere else. As I was approaching my 49th birthday something deep inside was telling me to do something different, something risky even. I don’t know how I came to decide on fundraising – there was no lightbulb moment – but as soon as it popped into my head I knew this was the challenge I wanted to do. I said I would raise £5000 in a year for a teenage cancer charity. Ian, my husband, said I could do better than that! Why not make it £1000 for each year of your life? So, I said OK then. and Lynneschallenge was created.

Please remember I had never fundraised before. I started with an event in our home. Persuaded manicurists to come along and arranged appointments. We also had food and drink all day from 10am to 7pm – the raffle was amazing and the home baking table groaned under the weight of all it held! It was a wonderful day – I thrived on the company, the networking and to my amazement we raised over £1000 that day alone. It was a good start. Quiz nights, garden events, bake sales followed.

Then I decided I was going to do a trek – in the Sahara. This from the woman who is really fussy about hotels she stays in! Ian was beside himself with laughter – me in a tent. It just wasn’t going to happen. I persuaded a new friend to join me and we trained hard for it. In the Pentland Hills, admittedly, so it wasn’t too realistic. We also hosted a major event ~ 230 women at bingo! Another friend came up with the name Blingo – you had to get dressed up for it and one of the prizes was a half carat diamond! It was a tremendous success so much so that this year is our fifth year and the event sold out in days – I didn’t even need to market it.

I learnt so many new skills that year – how to speak in public – how to make a website – how to organise events and so many more. Lets not forget how to trek in the desert and sleep in a tiny tent. I have so many stories I could tell about that trip – it was a memorable experience.

By my 50th birthday I had raised £54000 – it was a joyous day. If in the beginning I had thought I would do this for a year then stop – that had all changed. It started to change in August of that year when I met two teenagers with cancer. Ross and Zoe blew me away with their outlook. They had both just finished treatment for cancer and were so positive and fun. They teased each other about who had the most scars. I listened to their accounts of time in hospital. I began then to really understand what I was fundraising for.

Over the coming months and years I met many families with young ones fighting cancer and many families who had lost a son or daughter to cancer. I knew then that this would become my life for the foreseeable future. I want to make a difference to those families’ lives. It is awful for the young person with cancer but it really affects the whole family.

I spoke at ladies guilds, rotary clubs, church groups spreading the word about the charity I was fundraising for. I had chosen it because it wasn’t that well known in the East of Scotland and it was rewarding to see it grow. After the Sahara trek I went on to trek the following year in the Himalayas – one of my proudest achievements. One of my biggest fears is of heights. Almost had to get rescued from the first floor of the Scott monument once! But when I was offered £10,000 donation to do a zipslide across the Clyde I accepted it with much trepidation. It was quite honestly one of the most terrifying things I have ever done but I am glad I did it. Just please don’t ask me again…..

In the four years I fundraised we – that is the community of the East of Scotland, raised over £650,000, enough to open the first age appropriate unit for teenagers at the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh. It was in December 2009 – on my 53rd birthday. Best present ever. I was also awarded title of Institute of Fundraising Scotland’s Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year – a complete surprise and much appreciated.

£400,000 (of that £650k) is ringfenced for the next age appropriate unit at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh – In my opinion this was community fundraising at its best.

I know a lot of young people now who have or have had cancer and I have got to know their families too – many are now good friends. I have listened to the accounts of their experiences in hospital. While the young person fighting cancer must remain the number one priority it is also important to consider the rest of the family. There is a lot we can do to make their journey easier too.

And that is how It’s Good 2 Give! was born – I wanted to broaden the range of people we could help. It’s called It’s Good 2 Give because for me it has been very good to give – give of my time and skills and ideas and I want to encourage others to give too – it doesn’t have to be money (although that would be most welcome!) it can be time, ideas or skills – if we invest those wisely we will make money.

And for this financial year at least 100% donations and 100% profits from events will go to the projects we support. No salary or administration costs. I have fundraised as a volunteer for four years and am happy to continue doing so on a voluntary basis. Donating their services too are our accountant, solicitor, and IT specialist. Businesses have donated stationery and other office items.

Where’s the money going to be used? Our main aim is to create a holiday home on the east coast of Scotland for families to have a week away together. In addition we will provide support services for families. Our initial target is £1m. Hey I like a challenge…

The first four months of this year have mainly been spent planning – I have organised two events and planned four more for this year – getting charitable status has taken up a lot of time, which is as it should be. Last week we were granted it and oh my it was a good day! The next few weeks will be busy with tasks associated with being granted charitable status, applications to trusts, looking for land to build our house on, organising events, recruiting volunteers to help and making time for me too – I need to get fit. I want to do a Kilimanjaro trek in 2011 and have spent too much time sitting at the computer and not enough out walking or on my bike!

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