FBR 2023

The power of storytelling in fundraising – our Fred's Big Run journey so far

Marketing manager Tami Iseli takes stock of Luminary’s involvement in charity initiative ‘Fred’s Big Run’ over the past four years, and the role that storytelling has played in rallying our team to get behind the cause.

Tami Iseli

By Tami Iseli, 10 September 20237 minute read

This year marked Luminary’s fourth campaign for Fred’s Big Run, a virtual fitness initiative of The Fred Hollows Foundation aimed at raising funds to treat avoidable blindness. In our first year (2020), we started out with a team of 23 and raised $3711. Fast forward to 2023 and our team has swelled to 53, raising a grand total of $13,685 and placing us at number four on the workplace leaderboard, out of a field of 248. 

Over the course of the four years we’ve been involved, we’ve raised $35,330 and restored sight to as many as 1413 people. Over this time, our team has walked and run a whopping 13,046 kilometres! (To put that into context, that’s further than one side of the earth to the other if you drilled a hole through the centre! 😮)

Some pretty impressive figures, right? So how did we get to this point? 

It all began with a story…

[**Trigger warning for Melburnians**] Cast your mind back to July 2020. Melbourne was in the murky depths of lockdown no.2, on its way to becoming the most locked down city in the world. Tensions were high, morale was low. As we scrambled to find ways to lift our team’s spirits and keep everyone connected, an idea presented itself. Fred’s Big Run. It had all the ingredients we needed – team camaraderie, promoting individual wellbeing, and supporting a great cause (for an organisation that also just happened to be a client).

But how to get the team on board? With city folk barred from visiting regional Victoria, we decided to set up our Big Run as a virtual tour around Victoria – and hopefully inspire our team to eventually bring some much-needed post-lockdown tourism to the regions. The campaign became known as ‘Tour de Vic’.

Each Monday, as our team members reported in with the distances they’d walked or run for the previous week, the kilometres would be tallied up and plotted on a map, arriving at a destination that matched the collective distance travelled. This would then be turned into a story, complete with fun facts - and some fictional adventures - crafted around the places we came across on our journey. (You can read more about it here). 

Our Tour de Vic ‘travel journal’ would be posted each Monday afternoon on Slack (our internal messaging platform) and became a much-anticipated spot of relief from the monotony of lockdown isolation. 

Here’s a snippet from one of the weekly updates:

This week we covered an impressive 405 kms around Victoria's goldfields country – starting at Trentham and finishing up at Maldon, just south of Bendigo. The original plan was to then start heading up towards Wodonga. However, the team completely eclipsed the Stage 2 target distance of 250 km so we decided to take a leaf out of the Village People's book and GO WEST instead, towards the Grampians.

En route we decided to stop off at Ballarat's Sovereign Hill and try our luck panning for gold. From there, we passed through the birthplace of Australia's ninth Prime Minister (glory points if you can name the town; double glory points if you can also name the PM). Next stop was the westernmost part of our Tour de Vic, The Grampians National Park. From there, we legged it up to Dadswells Bridge (home of the slightly scary-looking Giant Koala – refer to pic).

Heading back east, we tried to go to Nowhere Creek, but Google Maps wouldn't even let us nav there, confirming that the name of this place must really be fitting… 

Giant scary koala

As the momentum built, so did the level of engagement. Here are some snapshots from the Slack channel we used for the campaign…

Andy at the Sphinx
2020 rock
Tess mask

A dash of rivalry thickens the plot

When our second Fred’s Big Run campaign rolled around, in 2021, we decided to introduce a bit of friendly competition to turn up the heat, challenging the Fred Hollows’ communications team at their own game. Following on from the success of the ‘virtual tour’ format, this time we set a virtual race course from the Fred Hollows’ office in Sydney to Bourke in outback NSW (the final resting place of Fred Hollows) and then down to Luminary’s office in Melbourne. Like the year before, there would be an update each week – this time with the progress of each team plotted on a map. In the end, Luminary emerged victorious, but a valiant effort was made by all. 

The competition theme continued in 2022, where we challenged rival digital agency Revium to a virtual race. For a bit of added spice, this time the CEO of the losing agency would have to wear the branded t-shirt of the winning agency in a client meeting. Needless to say, the agency leaders were pretty active in encouraging their respective teams to pound the pavement and pump out the kilometres! This time we fell on our own sword with CEO Marty Drill reluctantly donning a Revium t-shirt.

Marty in Revium top

Ever the good sport, our CEO, Marty Drill, accepted his fate as the leader of the losing team in 2022.

In 2023, we took the industry rivalry to another level, taking on not just one but two digital agency competitors in Devotion and Hardhat. The ‘FBR Agency Challenge’ even attracted the attention of media industry publication Mumbrella. With Luminary having a much larger team of participants than our rivals, the challenge was pivoted from one of 'most overall kilometres' to who could achieve the biggest per-person kilometre average. Again, we didn’t quite achieve our lofty ambitions, coming in at third behind Devotion and Hardhat, respectively. However, with a collective tally of $17,420 raised for The Fred Hollows Foundation and sight restored to up to 697 people, we definitely still chalked it up to a win!

FBR Agency Challenge leaderboard

Every story needs a hero… 

Alongside the storyline of virtual tours and agency rivalries, another sub-plot had begun to develop throughout our Fred’s Big Run campaigns… In our first year of involvement, one of our team members, Tony Duan, set himself a target to run 30 km throughout the month. A self-confessed ‘non-runner’, Tony ended up smashing his goal, running every day of the challenge and hitting over 220 kilometres! 

But it didn’t end there. While the rest of the team settled back into their more sedate routines, Tony kept running. Every day. In fact, he credits our first Fred’s Big Run campaign with literally changing his life.

Tony was an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things. And so, in 2023 – as he prepared to enter the fourth year of his unbroken running streak – he became something of a ‘mascot’ for our Fred’s Big Run campaign. Our kick-off event for the 2023 campaign was a team run with Tony around Melbourne’s famous ‘Tan’ track. Early on in the month, he also did a Friday afternoon presentation to our team about his tips for developing a positive long-term habit. 

Former ‘non-runner’ Tony Duan crossing the line at the Melbourne Marathon in 2021. 

Former ‘non-runner’ Tony Duan crossing the line at the Melbourne Marathon in 2021. 

A narrative that empowers

Luminary’s FBR legacy by the numbers

Total funds raised: $35,330

Sight restored to up to 1413 people

Collective funds raised by Luminary and agencies challenged: $45,027

Funds raised by year:

  • 2020 - $3711
  • 2021 - $7754
  • 2022 - $10,181
  • 2023 - $13,685

Team size by year:

  • 2020 - 23 members
  • 2021 - 29 members
  • 2022 - 45 members 
  • 2023 - 53 members

Total distance covered: 13,046

Distance covered by year: 

  • 2020 - 1943 km 
  • 2021 - 2642 km 
  • 2022 - 3640 km 
  • 2023 - 4821 km 

A common theme underpinning our Fred’s Big Run campaign messaging is a sense of relatable optimism. You don’t have to run a marathon – or even run, for that matter. It’s a story that most people can see themselves as having a role in. We also don’t require team members to fundraise if it’s not their thing (although we certainly don’t discourage it!). 

The focus throughout our campaigns has always been on getting involved – however that might look for you – and of feeling like part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about inspiring, mobilising, and instilling a sense of empowerment about a situation that you might not really feel like you could have much of an impact on by yourself.

The midst of Melbourne’s long lockdowns in 2020, where this journey started, was a particularly powerful platform from which to launch our mission. Our team really got behind the idea that they could make a difference to their own lives (an escape from the feeling of entrapment) and in doing so, make a difference to others. 

Fred’s Big Run provided a target that was easily achievable for everyone, with the rallying catch-cry being that “an operation that costs as little as $25 can help restore sight to someone who is needlessly blind”.

Luminary might not have ‘won’ the agency challenges in 2022 or 2023 but that was beside the point. For the team members involved, it was enough to be part of something bigger - where every step, and every dollar raised, was amplified by the flow-on effect it had on other members of our team and the wider agency challenge. And most importantly, on up to 1800 people who have potentially had their sight restored as a result of our collective efforts.

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