Alasdair Bachell, Project Archivist for the Brittle Bone Society collection, uses the records to explore how the charity has raised funds –
As with any charity, fundraising is a core activity of the Brittle Bone Society. In this blog I want to showcase just a few of the ways the BBS has raised money since it was founded. The Society started small, just raising enough funds to send letters and allow the members to stay in touch and organise. The founder, Margaret, sold crochet hats and other items and collected stamps and cigarette cards from other Society members to get the funds to send letters, and eventually to print the Society newsletter.
The second Society newsletter printed in March 1973 lists a “nearly new” second-hand sale which raised £96, donations from local churches and businesses, and individual donations. Within the first sixth months of becoming a recognised charity there was £490.97 in the Society’s account (roughly £6320 in today’s money). Further funds were raised though a wide variety of activities including membership fees, jumble sales, raffles, football sweeps, and sponsored walks. More unusual fundraisers included this Sponsored Mackerel Eat held in 1979, raising £1000 for the Society – a fishy fundraiser for sure, but you can’t argue with the results!
The Society also held larger sale events called “Bone-anzas”, the first of which was held in 1976
Soon after the Society was officially registered as a charity the first regional branches were established. These provided local support to families and raised money in their own areas which was sent back to the head office in Dundee. Longridge was one of the first to be established in 1973 and played an important role in fundraising for the Society until the late 2010s.
Branches gradually closed over the years, as improved communication and organisational tools through the internet made it possible to organise without the formalities and responsibilities of running a branch. In 1991 there were 10 regional branches, but over the next 20 years all of these would close. One of the last to close was Longridge in 2019. It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013 and at that stage had raised over £100,000 for the BBS.
In the early days of the Society the primary goal of fundraising was the creation of a research fund with a view to increasing awareness of the condition. Many doctors did not know about Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and poor advice was given as a result. Small grants were given to research projects on OI, and the Society also brought together volunteers for various studies. The BBS did not begin to assist with equipment until it received an unexpected windfall.
Magpie was a children’s tv show running in competition with Blue Peter which was broadcast from 1968-1980. In 1977 the BBS was selected to be the recipient of the show’s annual appeal funds and the Magpie Rally was broadcast in 1978. The appeal was astoundingly successful, raising over £330,000 (over £2 million today) and was a true watershed moment for the BBS. This fund gave the Society the much-needed cash to provide specialist equipment to children with OI including wheelchairs, carts, typewriters, and funds for specialist occupational therapists.
The fund would last for several years and continued to provide equipment and support for BBS members. Most importantly it had put the BBS on the map and drastically increased public awareness of OI.
In the late 1990s the Society was supported by several Scottish sci-fi conventions including the Continuum Star Trek conventions held in 1997 and 1998, and the Confederation Sci-Fi convention held in 1997. These events and raised thousands of pounds for the Society (including a £100 donation from “Klingons Unite”) and were supported by some big names from Star Wars and Star Trek who autographed items for auction. As a result, the archive now holds letters of thanks written from the Society to Darth Vadar, R2D2, Chewbacca, and Boba Fett!
As the BBS moved into the 21st century and the internet became a more widely available tool, new avenues for fundraising and donating could now be explored. This included the internet itself!
Care4Free was an internet provider which gave 70% of its profits to a charity of the subscriber’s choice – remember when the internet came on a CD?
Today the BBS fundraises through a massive variety of activities and more than 50 years later the Society still collect stamps to raise funds (though, to my knowledge they no longer accept cigarette cards).
Alasdair Bachell, Project Archivist.