Stephen’s Story – People are intrinsically good

Whilst browsing the internet for my usual dose of updates from the world of sport and current affairs, I stumbled across the story of a young man, suffering from a terrible disease. This story, known as Stephen’s Story, has seen a surge in mentions and shares on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, particularly over the last 48 hours. The story has been picked up and highlighted by famous, regular twitter users including Claire Balding, Stan Collymore and Piers Morgan. Indeed, national media outlets including ITV and The Mirror and various local networks have all latched onto Stephen’s Story.

Stephen’s Story is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking: a 19-year old who was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer aged 15, and has been bravely battling the disease ever since. Two years after his initial diagnosis, Stephen was told the disease was incurable. The next steps of Stephen’s Story are inspiring beyond words. He decided that despite knowing his life was now limited, he would create a bucket list of things to achieve before he died. At the top of this list was to dedicate his time to raising funds for Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity that works to help young people suffering from cancer, including building specialist teenage cancer units across the country. His initial target was to raise £10,000: However, ITV reported last night that Stephen’s fundraising page had attracted donations of £750,000 and this morning, various social media outlets have suggested it has passed the £1million mark. Stephen has been sharing pictures from his hospital bed, knowing that the end is not far away. This is truly an incredible story, showing that in times of immense pain, people can still do something remarkable.

His social media updates, including pictures from hospital beds and goodbyes to his friends and family are deeply moving. Despite the obvious tragedy of seeing a young person suffering from a terminal illness, it is heart-warming to see the publicity this cause has gained, and the huge donations that have come in for such a fantastic cause.

Stephen's Story is one example of successful viral fundraising campaigns

Stephen’s Story is not alone in going from small-scale to viral fundraising campaign in a short space of time:

The tragic death of a 42-year old man who died running the 2014 London Marathon, resulted in a huge spike in donations to the National Osteoporosis Society. Robert Berry collapsed at the finish line, but his death has seen his initial fundraising target of £1,700 rise to an incredible £26,981. A 30-year old from Leicestershire died running in 2012 had initially aimed to raise £500 for the Samaritans, but her death led to donations surpassing the £1million mark.

Rachel’s Story, the tale of a young girl from California who wanted to help those less fortunate than herself, is another example of a huge viral fundraising campaign. Rachel had one simple wish: to help provide young people from Africa with safe, clean drinking water, and had hoped to raise $300 to do so, by urging friends and family not to buy her birthday presents, but to donate to charity. Just a month after her 9th birthday, Rachel was tragically killed in a car accident. From that point on, the donations poured in, and in Rachel’s memory, the cause raised over $1million for clean water projects in Africa.

These stories show the power that the internet can have, and indeed has had, upon fundraising campaigns. The speed with which information is now shared and the ease at which people can give, with the growth in mobile and tablet based donations, people can now give more frequently and more efficiently than ever before. Social media can at times be intrusive and all-consuming, but there is no denying that when it comes to fundraising, it has revolutionised the sector.

These are all heart-warming examples of people joining together in times of great distress, to raise vital money for great causes. As Stephen wrote last night on his Twitter page ‘Tonight’s show of love and support epitomises how great people can be’.

What do you think about viral fundraising campaigns? Have you been inspired by a personal story to do something great for charity? Let us know.

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Encouraging Entrepreneurial Spirit in your Team is Key to Success

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.

The entrepreneurial spirit is often difficult to define. If we take the word ‘entrepreneur’ in its literal context, its French roots could be defined as “between jobs” – and the ‘in-between-ness’ of the word’s original meaning is interesting.

After all, it’s often at the edge of business plans that we see the entrepreneurial company grabbing the opportunities that make it successful, and it’s the truly confident leader that allows his or her team to hunt out opportunities beyond the beaten track.

So when the sales process scares many, how do we instill teams with a passion for driving new business?

To support growth in our enterprise, Cause4, we’ve developed a graduate Entrepreneurship Programme to find future leaders for the charitable sector. We’re looking for those talented and enterprising individuals that can ‘make things happen’.

As we’ve developed our training programme we’ve talked to academics and consulted psychometric tests, but what we’ve found to be the number one indicator of entrepreneurial talent is that somebody ‘has done something before’. So the rather clichéd stories of childhood entrepreneurs selling apples to their neighbours before going on to develop a global business empire seems to hold true.
If you want to know you’re on to a winner in terms of talent, then that person will have ‘been entrepreneurial before.’

It definitely takes a special kind of self-starting person to set an idea in motion, regardless of the potential successes and failures. So after three years of developing entrepreneurial talent, we’re now really clear about the skills and attributes we’re looking for:

- Glass half full – It perhaps goes without saying, but the entrepreneurs are not the naysayers or those that always see a glass as half empty. And whilst every team needs a balance of the two, it’s those with the glass half full that feel that they can achieve things, that will get things done and will build the confidence of the team.

- Passion – At interview we’re looking for those with a passion for something. We don’t care what it is, but we need to know that there is at least one cause or passion where a person’s eyes will light up. And it can be anything – rugby or music or education – but what we know for sure is that when the passion is there, that person can sell.

- Ambition – Without raw ambition, we can’t get ahead. However small the team or organisation, there has to be scope for promotion and development, or the entrepreneurial talent will definitely leave.

- Adaptable – I know all too well that in a start up, the best-laid plans are never realised. In the best entrepreneurial cultures, staff are accepting and adaptable when things change and move – and the constant changes can lead to better ideas and plans… Sometimes.

- Leaders – The savvy entrepreneurial leader knows when it’s time to exit or time to professionalise and bring in process and structure. After all, a start up can’t stay in a state of flux and change forever. Similarly, the best entrepreneurs are really quite risk-averse; in my experience, the reckless maverick is a myth not a reality, and the true entrepreneurial spirit will lead a team by considering options carefully.

So it’s in creating room for the above attributes and developing potential that we build entrepreneurial spirit within a team… And whilst the reckless maverick might be a myth, the glass half-full, unpredictable, ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit most definitely isn’t.

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