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My fundraising journey with Melissa

Thanks for joining us on our Blog Melissa. To start off, when and why did you sign up to climb Kilimanjaro and fundraise for Dig Deep?

I still remember sitting on the kitchen floor of our little London flat with my best friend Elise Machin in November 2020 during the lockdown, the moment we decided to sign ourselves up for an adventure of a lifetime (and that it has been in more ways than we could have ever anticipated). We both signed up because we wanted a challenge, we wanted to travel and we wanted to help communities without access to clean water. The continuing pandemic was making us increasingly aware of just how lucky we are to live in a country with easy access to hygiene and sanitary facilities/equipment.

What has happened between signing up in November 2020 and now?

Well... to put it simply, quite a lot!

Our trip has been postponed due to Covid, Elise and I now live in different countries from one another and I've tried my hand at ten different fundraising techniques (some have been a great success and others a massive flop). There have been points when I genuinely doubted the trip would ever go ahead, but here I am. I have under four months until I board my flight to Kilimanjaro and I'm just under £200 away from reaching my fundraising target of £2950.

I have also recently been offered a job as Fundraising Officer for a charity called Fire and Peace in Scotland. This is something that I probably would have never applied for or gotten without my experience of fundraising with Dig Deep, so thank you!

Which of your fundraising events went well and which didn't?

The two highlights of my fundraising journey have definitely been hosting The Dig Deep Digital Dash and the Dig Deep at Dance Base Danceathon Challenge.

The Dig Deep Digital Dash was a three-month-long event that ran from 11th January 2021 to 12th March 2021. Elise and I created a digital community that encouraged its members to get outside to reach a collective distance target of 1300km during lockdown (which we absolutely smashed by traveling a total of 7500km!). The event raised over £1500 and won the National Student Fundraising Association's "Virtual Event of the Year" award alongside "Fundraising Event of the Year" at the Dig Deep Fundraising Awards 2021.

The Dig Deep at Dance Base Danceathon Challenge was a week-long event in March 2023 that raised money for both Dig Deep and Dance Base. During the week I challenged myself to take part in 40 hours of Dance Base dance classes, averaging at seven classes per day. I took part in 24 different styles over the week and danced with people aged 18 months to 70+ years. The week was tough but inspiring and it raised over £1500 for both causes which when shared between the two charities came to over £750 for each.

Other fundraisers we've done that also deserve a mention are the Instagram shop that Elise and myself set up in 2021 called @Wet.Ur.Plants, the @Wet.Ur.Plants Christmas market stall we arranged at our university, a whiskey tasting night, quizzes and sweepstakes.

Now, I believe it's always good to talk about the things that didn't go so well. Some of the fundraising techniques that Elise and I planned and tried just didn't go to plan or didn't raise as much as we had hoped. Some of these included raffles, depop sales and a live music night.

I think one of our lowest moments was the day we had to cancel our Deptford Live Music Night Fundraiser in October 2021. We did this for three reasons. One, we found out last minute that the sound system we had planned to use didn't work. Two, one of our live acts had to cancel, and three, we hadn't sold nearly enough tickets to ensure that the venue would make its usual sales in drinks orders that night (this was the agreement we had made with them in return for letting us hire the space for free).

What have you learned from your fundraising experience?

Planning and communication need to be your top priority.

The reality of setting up any fundraising event is that you are going to need to plan. Planning the date, the time, the venue, the advertising, etc, etc, etc... I could go on forever. On top of that you need to communicate that your event is actually happening to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. The more people you can get the word out too, the more potential donations you will receive.

Don’t underestimate the power of cash.

If you are hosting an in-person event then PUT OUT CASH BUCKETS. I honestly didn’t think I'd get many cash donations at all when doing the Danceathon challenge this year because "no one carries cash anymore" but I was very wrong. During that week people donated over £450 in cash alone. I'm not sure if this is because everyone wanted an excuse to get rid of the unused cash they had lying at the bottom of their pockets or if it's because cash is having a comeback, but nevertheless I'm glad I had those buckets.

Building community spirit pays off.

The events that I enjoyed most and that were most successful were both focused on the community. The Digital Dash was about creating one when people needed it most and the Danceathon was about tapping into a pre-existing one to learn more about it. The connections I made with people during those events are invaluable. I met people who had their own stories and tips to share from their time on Kilimanjaro or during other similar high-peak treks.

Asking people for help will only benefit your events.

Spitballing your ideas with as many people as possible only widens your horizons and increases the potential for you to host a successful fundraiser. Talking to people about your fundraising ideas can be daunting - some people can be pessimistic and also reluctant to support what might seem like an impossible venture to them. This doesn't mean your idea is impossible or bad - it means they don’t have the same ambition as you.

Look for people with a similar drive to you or expertise in the area you are trying out. When hosting my event at Dance Base I spent a lot of time going back and forth with the team there to brainstorm how we could make improvements to the event. When planning and hosting the Digital Dash I spoke to family and friends who had experiences of online races and most importantly I spoke to Simon and Harriet at Dig Deep, who gave me suggestions that I'd never thought of before - like asking The Digital Dash participants to set their own individual fundraising goals - which then added to the event's total.

Draw on all of the knowledge and support that surrounds you and get talking to other ambitious and like-minded people.

How do you plan on fundraising your final £200?

In all honesty... I don't know right now.

Fundraising isn't easy. It takes creativity and commitment and it is (at times) very time-consuming. I currently have two jobs and little spare time so I need to do some more brainstorming before I move forward with my next event. What I do know is that pulling off an event that once seemed impossible or unlikely is one of the best feelings ever, especially because you've done it all for such an amazing cause.

Any final bits of advice?

Focus on hosting fundraising events that you'll genuinely enjoy, set your donation targets high and good luck!

A massive thank you again to Melissa for joining us on the blog this month, and for all of her fundraising efforts over the past few years, we're so excited to see you climb later this summer!

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