2016 is the 30th anniversary of the first ever Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal. Since 1986 it has raised over £73 million with hopes this year will be the best yet.
Daffodils may be the official flower of Wales but the charity fundraiser most associated with the yellow emblem actually started in Scotland.
In 1986 a group of volunteers from the Borders decided to raise money for Marie Curie by offering real daffodils to the public in return for donations and one of the UK’s most successful fundraisers was born.
Thirty years on a lot has changed, including the charity now handing out fabric daffodils instead of real ones, but one thing is for sure - the Great Daffodil Appeal is still blooming.
Every March, thousands of people, now across the whole of the UK, join together to get behind the campaign and raise money for Marie Curie Nurses. By collecting, donating, shopping or doing something they love, they’re supporting people living with a terminal illness and their families.
Since 1986 it has raised over £73 million across the country.
Volunteers are key
Marie Curie fundraising volunteers carry out over 25,000 two hour shifts every March and incredibly three loyal souls have volunteered since the very beginning.
Jeannie Brady of Galashiels, Malcolm Macintyre of Kelso and Prilla Thorburn of Prestwick all took part in the first ever appeal back in 1986.
They will be honoured this Wednesday (March 9) at the charity’s annual Scottish Parliament event.
Jeannie, 74, who has supported Marie Curie for over 40 years and is a member of the Galashiels Fundraising Group, told TFN she initially used to volunteer for the charity Crossroads before a friend told her about Marie Curie and asked if she was interested in getting involved.
“I always enjoy helping out at the collections for Marie Curie as I know the money raised will go towards supporting the wonderful Marie Curie nurses and the job they do in ensuring that people can be cared for in the comfort of their own home,” she says.
“To me it is really important that people have the option to stay at home and be cared for there but without people volunteering and raising money from the collections this is something that wouldn’t be possible. If we don’t raise the money then we can’t afford to pay for the nurses to do their jobs and help the families.
“I don’t really have any secret tips but the one thing I always do is to make sure you are polite and smile at people. I never want to put pressure on people to donate as this can put them off and they then just try and avoid you.
“Those who have been helped by Marie Curie in the past usually come and say thank you and comment on how the nurses helped them to care for a family member. It is nice to hear people share their stories and it brings it home how worthwhile helping out and volunteering for Marie Curie is.”
As well as being the night to recognise the trio, the Scottish Parliament event doubles up as the official launch night of the Great Daffodil Appeal 2016 in Scotland.
It is attended by fundraising volunteers from around the country, as well as MSPs who will also host a debate in the chamber about Marie Curie beforehand.
No longer just a cancer charity, the money is used by Marie Curie to provide end of life care for anyone regardless of illness. The charity provides care and support for more than 7,400 people living with a terminal illness in Scotland each year.
It has residential hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow and a team of 200 nurses to provide care for terminally ill people and their families in their homes.
The March appeal is the charity’s “jewel in the crown” according to Paul Thompson, head of community fundraising for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Last year it raised over £8m in the UK and north of the border its 82 local fundraising volunteer networks helped raise over £500,000.
It’s this local support that Thompson insists make the appeal a success.
“The kind of fundraising we do is done by people in their local communities,” Thompson told TFN. “It’s the teacher, nursery assistant, accountant or ladies on the rotary doing this. It is people you know.
“It’s important for people to understand that the money they raise in Scotland stays in Scotland, their donation will probably help someone in their own street.
“It’s quite a traditional means of fundraising and it kind of went against the received wisdom of the sector; which was that people don’t like to sign up for something long-term, but what we found is if you get the right people in the room and just ask them directly to form a fundraising group and explain exactly what you want them to do people have said yes.
“Those groups are crucial to running the campaign.”
It could also be this localness that helps Marie Curie’s supporters continue to trust the charity.
Marie Curie hasn’t felt the impact of criticism of the fundraising sector, according to Thompson.
People are still incredibly generous, he says - around 2,000 have volunteered to do shifts at 5,000 collection in Scotland so far this year.
Despite a winning formula, the charity isn’t adverse to change. In fact, this anniversary year might see one of the biggest changes since it scrapped handing out real daffodils in 1995.
With an ambition one day to become similar in size to the poppy appeal, with almost everyone wearing a daffodil throughout March, the charity is adding ways to how it raises money.
“This year we are trying to expand the appeal from just being about collections and boxes on counters,” he continued.
“The feedback has been that people have been keen to support us but might not want to or be able to stand on the street. Until now we haven’t really encouraged people or made it easy for them to do that so this year people can do whatever they want for their own fundraising.
“The message this year is "get behind the daffodil", which is aimed to be as broad as possible so that people can do whatever they want. We call it "fundraising my way".
“We think the more prescriptive you are with fundraising the less successful it is. You need to allow people to have their own ideas and then support them.
“It’s a very simple ask but it’s an opportunity we haven’t taken in the past because our attention has been focussed so heavily on the collection.”
Another thing Marie Curie is trialling this year is a ‘city takeover’, where on certain days in Glasgow (March 11-12), Belfast and Leeds, the charity will really push the appeal.
Shops have been lined up to pin daffodils on mannequins, hotels are leaving daffodils on pillows, schools are being asked to get involved and celebrities and politicians will tweet their support.
“The idea is to create a bit of a buzz around one day of collections. One of the challenges for Marie Curie is that the campaign is a whole month. Obviously that is great for giving us opportunities to collect but it’s hard to create a focus. There is not a Great Daffodil day like there is a Children in Need day so trying to create a focus is a challenge.”
The charity isn’t however ready to take the plunge too deeply into digital technology just yet.
Thompson says although it is conscious of how even things like people carrying cash in their pockets is changing it isn’t quite ready to try contactless payments and would prefer another charity to try it first.
Whatever the future holds, one thing is for sure it is unlikely the Great Daffodil Appeal will be wilting any time soon.
The Great Daffodil Appeal in numbers
1986 – the 1st appeal is held
1995 – fabric daffodil pins replace real flowers with three milliongiven out.
2005 –the first year the appeal was given the title: Great Daffodil Appeal.
2011 – the charity launched its first ever TV advert for the appeal – and raised over£5m.
2014– the most successful appeal to date, raising £8.26m.
£73m – the amount raised over the past 30 years.
£500,000 – just over this was raised in Scotland in 2015.
£8.5m –what Marie Curie aims to raise this year.
2,000 – volunteers will carry out 5,000 collections north of the border and hand out 750,000 daffodils.
Sign up to collect at mariecurie.org.uk and share photos using #getbehindthedaff.