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Leah's Arctic Experience

Arctic 2023 11

Among our intrepid Arctic explorers last year was Leah Attwood, Publishing Operations Executive at Penguin Random House. She has kindly agreed to give us an account of her experience fundraising and of the Arctic Challenge itself...

Why did you decide to do the Arctic Challenge?

After I volunteered with the National Literacy Trust’s Early Words Together programme, and got to see the amazing impact the various initiatives make within children’s lives, I thought raising money would be an incredibly exciting way to support the work! I actually started with the ArcelorMittal Orbit Abseil in 2022, which I highly recommend to anyone that can deal with heights, and when I saw the page pop up for the Arctic Challenge it seemed right up my street. I’m not experienced in outdoor adventures but do love to challenge myself, and both the actual trip as well as the fundraising portion felt like an exciting challenge with an incredibly worthy cause.

What was your most successful fundraising activity?

It is hard to pick activities on this scale, because they all either raised money or awareness which I’d still see as a success. As a team one of our most successful campaigns was handing out candy canes across the company with messages from colleagues, while in full Penguin costume – think Mean Girls. By asking for donations to send candy cane messages we were able to raise over £200 across the company and lots of people approached us asking what we were doing and how they could support in different ways as well! I would say this was also one of our higher ‘spend’ activities, so it is worth considering the investment you’re making when planning activities as this shouldn’t be larger than the realistic goal you set for that activity.

Did you do all your fundraising with your team or did you also do some on your own?

As a team we organised quite a bit of fundraising together, based around events at our company or seasonal activities that we could become a part of. This included the candy canes in December, or our seasonal sales of book products where we contributed a stand for people to buy presents from toy donations we’d received. We did all of this dressed as Penguins, so an eye-catching costume has seemed to be key 😃

On my own I also organised activities for work, family and friends to be a part of, including:

  • being sponsored to run a mile a day in November as a personal challenge;
  • a Bookish New Year Raffle of my pre-loved book collection (entries to the raffle acted as donations);
  • organising a FRIENDS-style ‘The One With the Apartment Bet’ quiz for my friends to test our knowledge of each other;
  • parading around in a Penguin costume during a Penguin Fun Day to promote both the Arctic Challenge, National Literacy Trust, and offer people chances to win chocolate prizes!

Other people on my team also organised brunches with family and friends to showcase their activities, and the results of our challenge. This proved to be a really simple way to spread the message! Overall, we all agreed that offering an activity or prize in exchange for donations was a great way to garner support. It was also a great opportunity to highlight the National Literacy Trust’s amazing work as it was essential for people to understand how their donations would be making a difference.

Had you done any fundraising prior to taking part in the Arctic Challenge? If so, do you think that helped you?

I had done a tiny bit of fundraising for the National Literacy Trust abseil but that was on a much smaller scale, so it had mainly given me the benefit of understanding JustGiving as a portal. I was most helped by the training and support from the National Literacy Trust’s fundraising team who offered great ideas and insight to build upon for our own activities – and above all encouragement that it would be possible to reach our goal!

What was your favourite part of the Arctic Challenge?

My personal highlights were experiencing the incredibly freezing cold temperatures (while bundled up well), being in the pitch dark from around 2pm – and most of all getting to dog sled and cuddle with the most amazing huskies (and new-born puppies)!

Is there anything that you wish you’d brought with you?

I did have quite a few last-minute panic buys (including at the airport) that were really essential in the end, so I can recommend everyone take plenty of hand and feet warmers (multiple per day), a second set of thermals in case one gets wet as there are a lot of activities happening each day, so you’ll need to be able to change, and cable headphones for the full day of skiing, especially if you’re like me and need music or an audio book on the go!

Do you have any advice for anyone doing the Arctic Challenge this year?

As ridiculous as it sounds, just keep believing that you can do it. The fundraising goal can seem really daunting but if I can do it then truly anyone can - I’d strongly recommend building a plan and using the resources the National Literacy Trust offer to understand your network and what different activities you can organise that tie in to the cause you are supporting or the challenge you are taking on.

Take on the Arctic Challenge for yourself

If you are inspired by Leah's story and are interested in taking on the Arctic Challenge yourself, please email Places for December this year are going fast but we will also be running the challenge in early 2025 if you'd like to secure an early spot!

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