Queensland FloodsWhat everybody would have done
This is the story about how I raised some money for very dear friends of mine who had lost their farm in the Queensland floods of January 2011.
Early January of 2011, South East Queensland was hit by massive floods. Video footage from Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley area made it onto German news broadcasts. I immediately got in touch with very dear friends of mine who live in the Lockyer Valley, an area of rich farmlands that lies to the west of Brisbane. I needed to know they were safe. My friends replied by saying that they had been flooded in on their farm, but that everything was fine. They expected the water to soon run off, just like many times before. It’s something that just happens every now and then. And it’s nothing to worry about, as long as you got enough food and (perhaps more importantly) beer in the fridge. But this time things were going to be different. The water level kept rising.
My friends kept me informed that day, until at one point the messages suddenly stopped. Two days later, I finally heard from them again. My friends explained to me that first they had lost power and then the whole family (five grown-ups and a toddler) had to be evacuated by an army helicopter, because the situation was getting a little hairy. All they were allowed to take was one suitcase and some diapers. I was glad to hear my friends voice speak about the incidents so calmly, but I was in shock. And I instantly knew what losing their crops meant for them financially. It took a couple of days until my friends were able to safely return to their farm again. They sent me some photos. The place was a hell hole. It looked nothing like the farm that I still have so many fond memories of.
Impressions from the QLD Floods in 2011
(Double-click video for fullscreen)
Chapter #1: My Desire to Help
Days earlier – even before I had lost contact to my beloved friends – I had written a song called “Team of Superheroes”. It was inspired by the many videos on Australian news websites that portrayed the scope of the catastrophe. At the time, it helped me process what had happened. But when I heard how badly affected my friends were, things changed. I felt the desire to make more of the song. So I made a living room recording, drew up a concept of how the song could potentially be used to generate donations for QLD flood victims and sent it to TV stations in Germany and Australia. I specifically addressed some of those 60 minute news programs. That didn’t help much, though. I didn’t get a single response. In hindsight, I believe one of the problems with that approach was that support from all over the world was overwhelming. Governments donated money, people donated money, musicians donated instruments etc. etc. I believe, the song must have not been interesting (not sure if that’s really the word I’m after) enough to cut through the noise.
The more I spoke with my beloved friends, the more I felt the desire to help rebuild the farm. I was stuck in Germany, though. So I got in touch with Social Corporate Responsibility divisions of Qantas, Virgin and other airlines. I was hoping they could put me on one of their flights that wasn’t booked out. But that didn’t work either. I figured that I had relied on other’s to help me for too long. It was time to take matters into my own hands.
Meanwhile in Australia: To my surprise, cleaning up the house and the farm was only a matter of weeks. My friends had experienced a lot of support from the community. Strangers turned up and helped. It was, as if the team of superheroes that I so desperately wanted to hire in my song, was actually there. In the floods however, my friends had lost an awful lot work equipment. I asked what they needed most to get back on track and they said that among a lot of other things a cold room to store their produce would help immensely. That gave me a clear goal of how I could help. I decided to do fundraising in Germany.
Chapter #2: The Fundraising Process
The idea of just walking up to people, telling them about the cause and asking for money didn’t seem likely to be successful, though. I didn’t really want to come across as a fraud. Plus, I wanted the donations to be tax deductible. So I needed some sort of an official framework, I needed to make the cause legitimate. I thought about different people and associations who could potentially and ended up speaking with a church minister. At the end of the day, churches do fundraising for a broad range of different causes all the time, right? It took a fair bit of effort to convince the minister to support the matter, but it worked. He agreed to help. Three weeks later, I was finally able to start the fundraising.
So I created fliers and handed them to everyone I knew. They weren’t particularly fancy or anything, but they did the trick. I also asked friends to share my undertaking with their families and friends, too. On weekends, I tried face-to-face marketing in our city central – trust me, that’s some experience. I got the uttermost respect for people who give up spare time for NPOs. The fundraising period was limited to six weeks. In week six, I didn’t know how much money had been contributed, though. I simply hadn’t wanted to bother the minister with queries about preliminary results. So when the minister called a couple of days later, I was super-excited. He congratulated me to a total contribution of just above 6,000 Euros.