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Friday 18-Nov-05

Telethons and fund-raising

Today is Children in Need day for the BBC here in the UK, where auntie beeb does an evening of silly stuff and showing of popular old television clips. It's not often you see newsreaders doing a collective song-and-dance.

The event actually starts weeks beforehand, when the general populace is encouraged to get involved and do their own fund-raising. And all sorts of things go on, from simple dinners to sponsored strips. A guy at our place not long ago had his chest waxed. The women smirked as the men winced (and the guy wailed).

It's powerful persuasive stuff. Celebrities tap the power of similarity, persuading us that just because we want to be like them we should do as they say. Repeated appeals lower our resistance until we reach for the credit card and telephone. The allure of fame is held out as ordinaries joes like us are shown having fun, raising money and presenting over-sized checks to smiling Personalities. The association of fund-raising, fun (and the lexical overlap is significant) and fame sucks us in, time after time.

Fund-raising is not just for telethons. When I was in university I was a member of the Rag committee, which had similar aims: collect money for charity whilst being as stupid as we liked. We did things like scaling the high street, horizontally, using full climbing gear and dressing up as doctors to fool the public into telling us their ills. Yes, I know, very politically incorrect, but because it was for charity, we told ourselves, pretty much anything would go -- and it usually did.

And of course, it is all in a good cause. When I give money to charity, whether it is in popular (dare I say coercive) TV telethons or slipping a coin to a poor homeless person in the street, I feel good. When we obey our values, our conscience rewards us with good feelings, especially if what we have done is virtuous.


Is there a how to book on telethons, or documentation on what ingredients make a successful live telethon?

-- Willie S


Dave replies:
I don't know of one, Willie. I'd try searching Google on 'telethon' and maybe other key words like 'success'.


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