Sunday, 24 November 2013

"I shall withold my subscription" he said, with all the pomp he could muster.

Last Friday (22 November) I hosted my third fundraising event in three weeks, the combination of which has raised around £3,000 for party funds. None of these events were major high value dinners - they were all informal £10 - £14 pp suppers from which we provided food, paid for hall hire and covered all the related expenses.

Friday's event was a Cheese & Wine. We had just ten days to organise it, as it was precisely ten days previously that Tom Tugendhat told us that he unexpectedly had an evening free and asked if we could arrange something for him to meet people and raise a few pounds for the party. It took Jon and I thirty minutes to book a room at Tonbridge Castle (£50) and mock-up an invitation, which we circulated by email. We informed people that due to the short timescale, we were only accepting reservation by phone with payment by credit/debit card. Not only was this fast and efficient, it also saved money on printing and
postage. E-tickets for attendees were returned by email also.

Catering for the event took me an hour pushing a trolley around Tesco and perhaps another hour displaying the six cheeses on platters and decorating them with grapes and celery. Good quality paper plates and wooden disposable knives meant no hire costs and washing-up.  The wine (a decent Claret and a not too rough Chablis) came from the village off licence who also lent their glasses free of charge. The provision of cheese and wine and hall hire cost £7 pp, leaving us £3 pp profit.   The ubiquitous raffle (ably run by Janet and Vivian) raised £170, and the sale of additional glasses of wine raised another £40.  Result: £330 profit for what was perhaps 3 hours work.

What's more - people enjoyed it. It lasted just over an hour - so everyone was gone by 8.30pm and we were cleared away by 9pm.

The week before it was a Race Night for Chatham & Aylesford. Apart from help setting-up the room, I organised this single handed. This was just £12 per head, so £5 pp profit having paid for the fish and chips, hall hire and prizes for the race winners. The raffle proceeds and a share of the tote brought the profit to over £1,000. 

And the week before that it was an informal supper with Ann Widdecombe.  Rather than pay caterers, I asked ten members, each of whom were coming to the event, if they would each bake a lasagne in exchange for a complimentary ticket. They all readily agreed and each brought a cooked lasagne with them (which we kept warm in the oven). Apart from halln hire charges, salads and puddings, everything was profit - another £1,300 for party funds.

I have never found fund raising either difficult or arduous, yet listening to some branches you would think asking them to raise a few quid towards the Association's running costs was like asking them to knit with spaghetti or juggle red hot coals. Sadly, raising funds to pay the bills is a necessity - membership income covers just 25% of costs. The money has to come from somewhere. Some branches raise four-figure sums each and every year, whilst others haven't managed a penny in five years - and it's those who contribute least are usually the ones who have most to say at the Executive Council about how the money raised by others is spent! 

One branch sent details of a proposed Christmas dinner at a local gastro-pub. As I read the flyer I realised that it was outstanding value for money. Then I read on; they had invited not one but two Members of Parliament, both of whom had accepted but each unaware of the presence of the other. I then discovered why it was such good value - they were not charging full price as they expected the raffle to cover the shortfall!  "So let me see if I are holding a fundraising dinner for 15 friends, selling tickets at a loss, and using the proceeds of the raffle to make up the shortfall. Not only that, you are expecting two MPs to give up a Friday evening just before Christmas to keep you entertained?"  The organiser of the dinner didn't seem to think this was a problem.  I explained that I had no issue with a group of friends holding a private dinner party, but using party funds to subsidise the cost and inviting two MPs under the false pretence that it was a fundraiser, was just not on.  "I shall withhold my subscription in protest at your actions" announced the organiser, with all the pomp he could muster.  "That's fine", I replied, "you haven't actually paid for two years".

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