The Lily Foundation logo featuring a butterfly, hearts and an 'x' for a kiss

Fighting mito,
finding hope.

Celebrating 15 years of... Lily fundraising


22 November 2022

Each month throughout our anniversary year we'll be highlighting a different asset of our charity. We kick off this month with a focus on 15 years of Lily fundraising power!

7 young adults stand outside a pub raising glasses. One is wearing a Lily running top and wearing a medal round her neck

Fundraising is the engine that powers our charity and allows us to do the important work we do. Our strength as a fundraising organisation comes down to one thing; our supporters. Their ongoing generosity and commitment over the years has been the driving force behind all the positive change we've brought to the lives of people with mitochondrial disease. 

How it all began

Giving as a way to create positive change has been at the heart of our charity from the very start. At Lily's funeral 2007, her family asked people not to send flowers but to donate money instead. Between family and friends they raised over £3,000. The money was used to buy equipment for John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, to improve diagnosis of mitochondrial diseases. In that small yet powerful act of generosity and hope, The Lily Foundation was born. Today, our charity continues to punch above its weight when it comes to fundraising. The total we've raised to fight mito is now over £8.5 million, and every penny has come from the public or corporate donors. 

Grassroots giving

While we've been fortunate enough to receive some generous donations from our corporate partners, the lion's share of our funding comes from relatively small, cash sums given by members of the public. A pound or two dropped into a collection tin, a ticket to a Lily event, a one-off online donation; it all adds up. The most significant sums come from team fundraising initiatives; groups of people, often centred around a family affected by mito, working together to raise money in their local community on behalf of The Lily Foundation. 

Our supporters never stop finding creative ways to raise funds. Some highlights include competitive sheep shearing, sailing around the world, running three ultra marathons in a month, tree sculpting, mountain climbing and some truly epic bike rides! Grassroots giving like this is super powerful, often raising hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Often inspired by a family's personal experience of mito, these stories also help to raise awareness by engaging people and involving local media.

Putting the fun into fundraising

Nothing beats the feeling of having a good time for a good cause, which is why events have always been a key part of our fundraising strategy. Events like Lily Fight Night, Lily Comedy Night and our legendary charity ball raise thousands of pounds a year through ticket sales, auctions, raffles, and corporate partnerships, while offering those who come along a genuinely great night out. Not only that, but every year we offer supporters the chance to participate in iconic sports challenges such as the London Marathon, the Great North Run and Ride London-Essex. Fundraising for Lily isn't only about giving; it's about getting fit, having fun, exploring new challenges and making incredible memories. 

Star power

There's nothing like a bit of showbiz razzle to add some oomph to a fundraising campaign, and right from start The Lily Foundation has been able to attract some big names to its cause. After all, famous people are just as likely to be moved, engaged and inspired by our mission as anyone else. Josh Widdicombe and Lucy Speed are Lily Patrons and have been actively involved with the charity from very early on. Peter Kay has supported us on numerous occasions, sometimes with headline-grabbing results, as when he donated all the proceeds from a special charity screening of Car Share to The Lily Foundation. 

Another top comedian, Alan Davies, has not only hosted The Lily Ball and performed at Lily Comedy Night, but also won us the £20,000 jackpot on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars. Not to be outdone, two years later Josh Widdicombe went on the show and repeated the feat! Over the years we've also received incredible support from the likes of Jamie Theakston, Jo Brand, Dara O'Brien, Romesh Ranganathan, Russell Howard, the cast of Cold Feet… the list goes on. As well as helping to raise funds and awareness, their involvement is a huge boost to those affected by mito who often feel forgotten by wider society. 

Lockdown love

Like all charities, Lily faced a struggle for survival during the Covid-19 pandemic. How do you raise funds when you can't hold events or even leave your own home? The solution was to move our entire funding operation online. Within weeks, our regular events schedule was replaced with a rapidly organised series of online quizzes, each one hosted by a different celebrity supporter. Not only that, but our regular givers and corporate donors really stepped up to the plate, ensuring we could keep providing vital support to mito patients who the pandemic had left even more isolated and vulnerable. Once again, our incredible 'Lily family' had pulled together when it mattered. 

Looking ahead

When we launched our charity in 2007, our fundraising target was £50,000. But here we are today, with £8.5 million raised, research and public awareness about mito on the up, and a real difference being made for patients and their families. Just imagine what we might achieve in another 15 years! 

Why not be part of it, and get involved today. With your help, we can secure a better future for people with mitochondrial disease, and get closer to that all important cure.

Making the leap into fundraising

A man and a woman strapped together flying through the sky after their parachute jump

If you’d like to take part in a fundraising challenge but you’re not sure where to start, read Sarah’s story. What began as a simple birthday fundraiser ended up with a leap from a plane and a grand total of over £20,000 raised in the fight against mitochondrial disease.

Raising money for charity isn’t as hard as you might think, especially when you have a strong community around you who are happy to sponsor you and spread the word about your challenge. So make that leap – sign up today to support The Lily Foundation and be part of something really special.

Read Sarah’s story