The Power of Harnessing a DIY Fundraiser

Not only do firefighters save lives, but they’re also fantastic at fundraising! The Firies Climb for MND is a fundraising event supporting the Macquarie University’s Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Research Centre and Clinic. We spoke to the Head of Individual Giving at Macquarie University, Megan Pope about how this community fundraising event became such an important fundraiser for the university.

Fundraising for a university vs. a charity

To shed light on why the Firies Climb for MND is such a significant fundraising event, lets looks at how fundraising generally works for universities in comparison to charities.

 Charities

  • Fundraising for a common cause
  • Big focus on fundraising events and campaigns including signature events and community fundraising.
  • Regular giving
  • Major gifts and bequests
  • Workplace giving

 Universities

  • Fundraising for hundreds of different causes – some have an immediate need (like MND), whereas others are world changing in the long-term (e.g. climate change research)
  • Focus on major donors, trusts and foundations, bequests, and alumni appeals
  • Rare to have fundraising events – the variety of causes makes it hard to have a clear community fundraising program

Of course, each charity and university have different fundraising structures and challenges but Megan Pope, Head of Individual Giving at Macquarie University says,

There is a misconception that universities don’t need donations, but a lot of important research wouldn’t happen without fundraising.

The Firies Climb for MND helped Macquarie University overcome some of these barriers

How it all started – The inspiration for the event


Matt Pridham (right) with Adam Regal (centre) and his family.

Meet Matt Pridham (right of picture). After his best friend Adam Regal (centre of picture) was diagnosed with MND, Matt decided to help make a difference. Motor neuron disease (MND) is a terminal, rapidly progressing neurological disease. Every year in Australia around 800 people are diagnosed with this disease. Adam was being treated by Professor Dominic Roe at the Macquarie University MND patient clinic. Macquarie University MND Research Centre is the biggest research centre for MND in Australia, and with their patient clinic they can follow a ‘bench to bedside’ process.

Sadly, Adam lost the fight against MND in August 2018. He continues to be an inspiration for the climb along with all other people and families in Australia living with MND.

The 2018 fundraising leader board.

The idea

Sydney firefighters have regular training and practice drills in city buildings like the Sydney Tower Eye. In 2015 Matt decided to turn this training into a yearly fundraiser for the clinic supporting Adam. Firefighters climb the 1,504 steps of Sydney Tower Eye wearing over 20kg of firefighting gear – it’s a gruelling challenge but not half as gruelling as MND.

“We had no precedent for community fundraising, we’d never done anything like this before at Macquarie University. We created a website and later worked with GoFundraise to add registration and fundraising to our site,” said Megan.

In 2015, Matt’s aim was to get 50 firefighters to raise $50K. Matt’s idea turned into a hugely successful fundraising event. That year they had 165 participants raise $184,000!

After four years of events growing in success, in 2019 the Firies Climb for MND had 700 participants and has raised nearly $800K. There’s still time to make a secure donation!

A special round of applause

“The community rallied behind the event and made it what it is today. It’s made a fantastic difference to how we fundraise for MND research at Macquarie University, and it’s helping raise awareness in the wider community,” said Megan.

The Firies Climb has turned into a signature event for Macquarie University managed by a committee of volunteers.

The Firies Climb for MND has helped us improve the GoFundraise event registration forms. “Being able to create or join an existing fundraising team during registration made it easier for so many of our participants. We received no questions about fundraising pages at all this year, the GoFundraise Support Team are always there to help if any fundraisers have technical questions,” said Megan.

Watch this live video from the Firies Climb, and check out live donation updates shown on the screen! GoFundraise gave their film crew API access, allowing them to pull data into a number of spreadsheets that their system could read. The figures automatically updated every 30 seconds. From there they pulled in the last 5 donations as well as the last 15 donations with messages and displayed them is different graphics.

GoFundraise are proud to work with such an incredible fundraising event.