Paul Parrish, Aspire's Director of Fundraising and Marketing, gives an update on fundraising

If someone had told me sixteen months ago that the fundraising budget that I was submitting for the year April 2021 to March 2022 was going to be accurate to within £2,000, I would have fallen off my chair laughing. 

In December 2020, we were nine months into the pandemic and nothing seemed certain. Swimming pools, so important to the Aspire Channel Swim were closed, then open, then closed again and this uncertainty remained the case for the rest of 2021. Our annual Sports Quiz Dinner, originally scheduled for April 2020 was subsequently cancelled three times. As for our open water swim events, nobody knew if more than one person could get in a boat at a time, let alone six people attempting to swim to Europe – a destination that seemed as hard to get to in 2021 as it probably did in 1621.  And, indeed, it has been a struggle...

Aspire Channel Swim

Our flagship Aspire Channel Swim event, running from September to December 2021, was hampered by challenges such as a profusion of charity events all sandwiched into these same weeks and changes to the way we could advertise that limited our ability to sign up new swimmers.  Miraculously, under the direction of Katy Boyd, we recruited 1,500 participants and raised an impressive £140,000.  Sadly, it was down on what had been planned and the budget was looking under pressure.

Open water swims

Meanwhile, on the high seas the picture was looking different.  Our Challenge Events Manager, Andrew Ogierman, managed to get 11 boats across the English Channel, 64 swimmers across the Solent and had successes on Loch Lomond and in the North Sea as swimmers pitted themselves against some testing conditions swimming from the Principality of Sealand (one to look up) to the Suffolk Coast. What had once seemed a series of events that had a marginal chance of taking place became the most successful year of open water swimming in Aspire’s history, raising over £350,000 for the charity.  

Sports Quiz Dinner

The fourth rescheduling of the Sports Quiz Dinner was set for 11th November.  We were so used to it being cancelled that the request to pay an invoice for our hire of Lord’s shocked us into activity.  Could the Quiz possibly go ahead?  Without having the chance to say “no” or book a holiday, our Fundraising Manager, Hannah Wyatt was requisitioned from her regular duties and tasked with organising an event for four hundred people with the promise of a “thank you” in Aspirations as her only incentive.  With very little time she delivered the best and most profitable Sports Quiz Dinner in the charity’s history.

Trusts and foundations

We also receive money from various Trusts and Foundations that appreciate how Aspire helps people who have sustained a spinal cord injury and wish to support Aspire’s services.  In an average year, we will receive about £180,000 of grants to help run the charity.  In 2021/22, thanks to the team effort of Emily Gobel, our Grants Manager, Alex Rankin, Director of Services and his team and Brian Carlin, Aspire’s CEO, we raised the astonishing sum of £406,000.  We were helped by our first ever grant from the NHS, which added £150,000 to the year’s figures as part of a three year grant worth £450,000.

And so, 16 months after sitting down to write a budget that seemed impossible to forecast, I am delighted to say that the funds raised in this most unpredictable time were exactly as budgeted. It has been hard to achieve, but I must thank all of you who have supported us and made the impossible happen.  Without your generosity and participation in our fundraising efforts it could have been a different story.

I would also like to thank the fundraising and marketing team who have had to extend way beyond what is normally expected of them and, despite the confusion of these strange times, have excelled at every turn.

Donate to Aspire

Sign up to one of our many challenge events

How we help