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400k in 40 days: Interview with Fundraiser Tim Burns

5 min

We interviewed Tim Burns about the highs and lows of his fundraising challenge raising money for Big House, Northern Ireland.

1. What motivated you to fundraise?

As the youth officer for Down and Dromore diocese, I can see that many young people are finding life difficult. The pandemic and lockdown has brought so much uncertainty and many extra challenges to their school life, friendships and home. The Big House is a charity based in Northern Ireland that has created a home specifically for young people. A place where they can come and feel that they are entering someone’s home – where they will be cared for, looked after and loved. A place where God is present, laughter is heard, joy is unbounded and love is shared.

The charity has just found a found a house to make their permanent home from which they could run camps, training and retreat opportunities and much more. It was the perfect fundraising challenge to have for my 40th birthday.

2. Why are you passionate about this cause? What do you love about this organisation?

The Big House is a small charity with a big vision and its purchase of a property and areas of expertise make it a key vehicle of support and training for many young people and youth leaders across Northern Ireland. This is really significant work and through my experience it’s clear that there is a continual and growing need for support like this.

3. Describe how you raised the funds?

I set myself the challenge of running 400km in 40 days. The challenge started 40 days before my 40th birthday which is the 26th of December. A friend also took up the challenge and although we couldn’t run together every day we did manage to get in quite a few, including one dressed as Santa and his elf. For that one we invited individuals and families to dress up in Christmas gear, walk or run 5-10km with us and donate to the page. I also had a number of guest runners join me and my dog Bear accompanied me on a lot of the runs. This all helped get me through the challenge.

4. What or who inspired you to do this?

I was inspired by a neighbour who turned 50 and ran 5 miles a day for 50 days for a cancer charity. Initially I was over-ambitious with 400 miles, but thankfully my wife talked me down to 10k a day which was challenging but more realistic.

5. How did you set a target and were you nervous about it?

Initially I had set a small target of £500, which on reflection was very conservative. Once a friend joined, we settled on £2000. Initially I was nervous about raising that amount, I thought we would do well to get there. However, I underestimated the generosity of people and we met that target before we were halfway through the challenge.

After that it was a matter of seeing where we could get to, and honestly, every £5/£10 or whatever size donation felt like a real achievement. In the end we raised over £5700 before Gift Aid which is an incredible figure and one I didn’t expect to reach. Thank you so much to everyone who donated and supported David and I and more significantly, The Big House.

6. How did you promote your campaign?

The main place I promoted the campaign was through Facebook. Every day before a run I posted a short video of where I was running and the Big House regularly shared what was happening on their social media. The challenge was also shared through the diocese that I work for on social networks and news stories. I am not a huge social media user beyond using it for work, so it felt a little alien to post a video and photos each day of the challenge and to promote things like the Santa run. But it was really important in promoting the campaign. Once the challenge had finished I was happy to disappear back into social media obscurity again.

7. Has anything surprised or challenged you during the challenge?

The biggest disappointment was that on Boxing Day, the last day of the challenge, due to new Covid restrictions David and I were unable to do the last run together.

I think the biggest surprise was the support that the challenge garnered. It was incredible to run knowing that there were lots of people cheering you on, praying for you and also donating to a brilliant cause.

The biggest obstacles were the ones in my head: the what-ifs, like what if I get injured, or have to isolate, or realise I can’t actually do 40 days. Initially we were both tired, and then in the middle even more tired! However, knowing that we had been sharing the campaign far and wide and knowing the support that we had as well as being able to run with different people definitely carried us through those difficult moments.

8. Are you likely to run a fundraising campaign again?

I think I will, but maybe not for a while. The personal connection and the belief in what The Big House does and the potential that they have to develop into an even more significant resource for so many young people across Northern Ireland was a real motivation.

Running this campaign has opened my eyes to the effort that people put into their fundraising and it has made me more likely to support others.

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