Putting the ‘Fun’ back in ‘Fundraising’

Or: How We Violated Several Zoning Regulations for Charity

“You know what we should do?” Cara says, as we squint against morning the sun and drink too-strong (and therefore perfect) coffee, “we should do a fundraiser for the victims of xenophobic violence at the Ethiopian restaurant.”

“That’s a good idea,” I tell her, because it is, but I don’t even know where to begin.

I had recently introduced Cara and a few other friends to the Queen Sheba Ethiopian restaurant, having discovered it myself just a few weeks prior and feeling very adventurous and pan-African-cool as a result.

While many good ideas would have gotten as far as that coffee-table chat and no further, Cara’s tenacity and enthusiasm, her friend Steven’s connections with the African Diaspora Forum, and my friend Michelle’s donation of her time to create our graphic design elements meant that, just 2 weeks after its vague conception, we had a fundraiser to host.

I’m no stranger to events. I started my content career at event planners extraordinaire OMAGE, and while I can’t tell my own arse from an AutoCAD file, I thought I had a pretty good handle on how things were going to go down.

I did not.

Firstly, we invited a lot of people, all of whom we assumed would want to come, 400 to be exact. Of this number, about 30 said ‘Yeah, okay, maybe. I’ll see.’ Cara had previously bemoaned the flaky nature of Johannesburg city dwellers and their fear of social commitments, but here it was in neatly presented Facebook stats for us all to see.

So nervous were we that the restaurant would be deserted that we maybe went a little ‘Amway’ on our friends and family (i.e. we pushed them into making sudden and binding financial decisions against their better instincts).

We shouldn’t have worried though, as once the ADF (the African Diaspora Forum) got involved, the event took on a life of its own. The forum members turned out in droves, filling the restaurant beyond its maximum capacity and forcing the ever-obliging owners of Queen Sheba to get increasingly creative with our seating.

“Where will the dancers go?” asked one of the ADF organisers.

“Say what now?” I asked over my second (maybe) glass of wine.

“Are you drinking wine?” he asked, cleverly changing the subject.

“Of course not. That would be irresponsible,” I guffawed, and downed the remnants of my glass.

So, in addition to registering more guests than you could shake an empty wine glass at, we had to quickly improvise a dance floor for a troupe of traditional Cote D’Ivoirian dancers. Their presence was a delightful surprise to everyone in attendance… including Cara and I. You know, the ‘organisers’.

Their energetic routine included rhythmic drumming, frenetic steps and an array of colourful costumes.

Oh, and fire. Of course.

Now I don’t want to admit that over-filling a public place and holding a low-level pyrotechnic display without any form of indemnity insurance or fire-safety measure in place is against the rule of law… so I won’t do that.

What I will do is thank, from the bottom of my fundraising-frazzled heart, everyone who came, or gave a donation, or helped us get this chaotic, incredible, unforgettable night off the ground.

We managed to raise a decent R6 000 in donations, which was split between the ADF, the Red Cross and The Gift of the Givers to help them continue to assist foreign nationals in South Africa who have been affected by the recent spate of attacks.

If you’d like to donate to any of these charities, be a legend and do it.

Red Cross South Africa

The Gift of the Givers

The African Diaspora Forum

And if you want to eat a delicious, traditional Ethipian lamb or vegetable wot with injera, check out Queen Sheba in Norwood.