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An evening of escapism

Tillie Sklair is an organiser and co-founder of YTFN, an organisation that raises money for social change projects and hopes to inspire young people to give more creatively.

 “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never spent a night in a room with a mosquito.” 

Imagine a room filled with young people, all shouting out numbers ‘£10’, ‘£20’ or more. These amounts are entered into a running total on a screen. As it rises the excitement in the room mounts. People egg each other on, offer to contribute more if someone else puts in the same amount and within just half an hour many thousands of pounds have been raised to support social change projects and improve lives.

Do you ever get a bit bored of constant requests to sponsor your friends to run marathons and climb mountains? It is usually in aid of some huge charity that, of course, does amazing work and should be supported by lots of people. But people like you, intelligent, discerning and innovative, might like something a little more interesting and new to whet your funding appetite.

The why and how

Back in 2008 freshly graduated, I, along with a committee of other young people founded an organisation called YTFN. We had all been to events run by The Funding Network and been impressed with their model of pitching and pledging, and thought that it would appeal to younger audiences with a few tweaks. It is now moving into its fifth year and has held more than ten events.

The events are fun, interesting and have even been known to get a bit rowdy. There are people out there who have amazing ideas, ways of solving social problems in London and further afield. What they need is a room full of people listening to what they have to say, asking probing questions and ultimately getting together to support them.

The projects vary, from providing education in the developing world, to music projects working with at risk young people in East London. There are always three projects at each event, they are always presented by someone who really cares about the work they do and they are always willing to answer questions and take feedback from the audience.

As a participant at the event, you can choose to support one of the projects, or two or three. You can give your £10 entry donation and leave it at that, you can donate more or you can get involved volunteering or on going support.

Giving with control

This model puts the control firmly in your capable hands. There are no gimmicks; no one is sitting in a bath of cold baked beans (ick). With the help of a few slides someone will explain their vision for social change, answer your questions and invite you to join them in their journey. Often these are brand new ideas that need small amounts of seed funding to enable a pilot, which will make the project more enticing to larger funders.

For me one of the most inspiring stories from YTFN is an organisation called the Choir With No Name. Marie Benton, an escapee herself, had the idea to start a choir for people who had been affected by homelessness. She presented her plan to 150 people at the first ever YTFN event back in 2008, she even led us in song, demonstrating how fabulous belting out a tune makes you feel.

The attendees at that first event supported her with around £2,000 and many offers of voluntary help.

It was the first piece of funding Marie had received and was a huge practical help as well as encouraging her that it was indeed a great idea.

Four years later the Choir With No Name has become incredibly successful, with sell out gigs, TV appearances, they have even supported Coldplay and two satellite choirs have been founded in Birmingham and South London.

They have helped countless people get back on their feet and been a source of support to many people experiencing difficult times. It has also served to keep the issue of homelessness in the public’s thoughts. It certainly feels fantastic to know that we had a hand in that.