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Working in charities means we get to see the very best of people

So, earlier this month was my first ever Institute of Fundraising National Awards. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home was shortlisted for three awards, including best fundraising team, and we were hopeful of success.

I’ve been to lots of awards ceremonies throughout my varied work career and realised that they are a good synopsis of the industry they’re representing. The travel awards, which I attended as a guest, were astonishingly bawdy. It made me realise just how many people in travel start their careers as overseas reps. The music industry awards were, in my opinion, a series of shouty conversations with people who are always looking over your shoulder to see if there is someone more interesting, better connected or (deep breath) famous to speak to. And as for the media and sales awards…well let’s just say I wasn’t that ambitious.

So I was curious to experience a voluntary sector awards event. What would the crowd tell me about the industry I have recently joined? Lots of earnest beard-stroking, a proliferation of people who were all very worthy? What I certainly didn’t expect was to feel humbled and end up in tears, over-whelmed by so much courage and generosity. 

The winner of the voluntary fundraiser of the year was an eleven year old boy, Harry Moseley. Harry was diagnosed with an operable brain tumour aged 10. During one spell in hospital Harry met Robert, and when Robert became very ill Harry started creating bracelets to raise money for brain cancer research.

Harry Moseley's mum Georgina picks up her son's award from Natasha Kaplinsky

In just over two years Harry organised and attended nearly 100 events to raise money for and awareness of brain cancer, including setting up stalls outside supermarkets to sell his bracelets and speaking at large public events. At just 11 years old, Harry fundraised and spoke to thousands of people and he did it with humour, passion and integrity.

Sadly Harry’s health took a sudden turn for the worse following brain surgery in August 2011 and after 14 weeks in a coma he died at the beginning of October 2011. His family, who tragically describe themselves as ‘broken’, have vowed to continue fundraising in his honour and to support other families with brain cancer. They, like Bobby Moore’s widow Stephanie, want to make a difference in memory of their loved ones. When Harry Moseley won voluntary fundraiser of the year there was a standing ovation and very few dry eyes in the room. I am sure that I was not alone in feeling both humbled and inspired.

Working for a charity doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be a nice person (sorry!), but it does mean that you’ll get to see and experience the very best of people. Like Betty, our oldest volunteer at Battersea, who sits for hours on a cold concrete kennel floor offering comfort to sick or stressed dogs, Harry shows us how truly amazing people can be.

Many charities deal with the fallout from the worst of human behaviour. At Battersea we see abused or starved animals every day and other charities witness the terrible damage that torture, disease, poverty or child abuse (to name but a few) can wreak. It can often feel like we are a ridiculously damaging and malfunctioning species. What Harry reminds us is that true acts of generosity, bravery and selflessness happen every single day.

As professional fundraisers we set targets on spreadsheets or in strategy documents, but these stem from the same vision of a better world as Harry’s fundraising target, which is ‘to find a cure’.

So the Institute of Fundraising National Awards were moving and inspiring. Sadly, Battersea didn’t win an award – but there’s always next year.