Sydney Skinny: will supporters strip for a cause?

A new event in Sydney is expected to test just how much community fundraisers will bare for a cause, explains Greg Johnson.

A new event is set to get community fundraisers in their finest birthday suit and swim in Sydney Harbour for a cause, with the announcement of the first Sydney Skinny to be held in February. The 900 metre swim at Cobblers Beach will raise funds towards a $1.5 million walkway project at Middle Headland National Park.

The event is the brainchild of Nigel Marsh, the former boss of major advertising agency George Patterson Y&R. It’s not the first time Marsh has been involved in creating a major event, having been one of the co-founders of WWF’s Earth Hour while the chief executive officer of ad agency Leo Burnett.

Entrants will be charged a fee of $35 to participate in the event, and are being encouraged to fundraise via the Everyday Hero platform. Supporters can also attend, though they will not be allowed to access the beach, for $15. No spectators will be allowed.

Marsh hadn’t intended the event to be a fundraiser initially, however as he started planning the swim, he realised the event could also make a huge impact to facilities in its host location.

“We have very big aspirations strategically, but want to build up to it from a small base,” explained Marsh, who hopes it will one day become the world’s biggest annual skinny dip. “I didn’t go ‘oh god, Middle Head is absolutely gorgeous and needs to be rejuvenated – I wonder how I can raise money to help it’.

“I wanted to do a nude annual swim and Middle Head was the place I wanted to do it, but then when I was setting it up and met the national ranger, I realised I could raise money towards what the park really needs,” he added.

Marsh has secured an appropriate corporate sponsor for the event in juice company Nudie, which has made a $5,000 donation to the national park. The event won’t be timed and isn’t a race, but is also an opportunity to ‘snub dull conformity and routine and live a bit’, according to Marsh.

“It’s a two pronged approach to fundraising,” he explained. “The first prong is the traditional approach: getting people to sponsor participants directly. That is the least important prong, just because I am a realist – I’ll be lucky if I get 1,000 people out there in the first year.

“The second prong is far more important,” he added. “This event is shining a spotlight on an area and issue in a non-judgemental and non-pressured way that I have total confidence in my head and heart will result in something happening that you and I can’t predict now that means they get lots of money.”

Marsh believes the exposure his event brings the national park’s need will attract more corporate dollars in subsequent years and boost awareness of the cause. He used an example from attracting advertising business as an example.

“When you go on a new business drive as an advertising agency, you might target three particular large accounts that you want to win,” he explains. “You go around making lots of noise about those three and you don’t get any of them – but you pick up two different major accounts. Those things could be completely unrelated, but actually it’s usually that the noise you created led to those people hearing about you.”