Denovo Designs on fundraising for the Orangutans

It was just your average, saucepan-grey, autumn weekend.

The Denovo Design architectural crew had downed pencils and dispersed across Liverpool City Centre (and surrounding areas!), and were chilling with friends and families after a busy working week. Nothing unusual there, except something happened that was to create a spark – a call to action.

Denovo’s PA, Lynda Smith, was on the Wirral on a particularly drizzly Sunday in October 2015 – browsing Twitter, the same time as, across the water in Liverpool, her workmate, Architect, Nicola Toomey, was having a quick catch-up on her Facebook account. They didn’t know it at the time but, simultaneously, they both saw the same image, and it moved them.

The image was of two charity support workers – one carrying an obviously distressed orangutan on his back. There weren’t many words, but the powerful image alone conveyed so much – of pain, of suffering and compassion – but also of hope, of people trying to help.

This image, along with many others, had gone viral, epitomising the crisis that was taking place at the time (and which is ongoing).

Indonesia was ablaze. And, forest fires, (often allegedly started in a programme of ‘slash and burn’ to clear the forests for the production of highly profitable *palm oil*), were decimating the natural habitat of this wonderful species – the world’s most intelligent animal apart from man. Orangutans share 97% of our DNA.

“…the situation as far as orang-utans and rainforests are concerned is critical. The ever increasing demand in developed countries for palm oil and timber is decimating the rainforests of Borneo, and consequently its orang-utan population as well. If nothing is done to halt this devastation, the orang-utan could be facing extinction in the wild within the next 10 years”

Back on Merseyside, Lynda and Nicola’s associated families and friends reacted, moved by the poignant image. But it seemed a hopeless scenario. They said: “It was impossible to address… it was too far away, too political, too big a task”.

Monday morning came, and, thousands of miles away from the scorching Indonesian terrain, amidst the urban hubbub of Liverpool’s Ropewalks Area, in the tiny Wood Street kitchen at Denovo Design’s Architectural Practice, the team gathered. After a quick catch-up, and in less time than it takes to boil a kettle, the ‘hopeless task’ in Borneo was put on the agenda for the next staff meeting.

Denovo Design staff voted in the Orangutan Protection Foundation as their nominated charity for 2016.

And the rest is history.

The team all knew that they might only be able to make only a small difference, but were are going to give it their best shot!

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” Mother Teresa


The Denovo crew firstly took to their social media channels and connected to OPF. This enabled them to support the charity with Likes, Retweets, Shares, etc, and to generally help to spread awareness.

A large ginger ‘Cuddly’ soon arrived from OPF. Intended to front any fundraising campaigns throughout the year, he also provided an immediate opportunity to start the ball rolling. A competition was set up on ‘Just Giving’ inviting people to suggest names for the plush orangutan for a small donation.

The Daddy orangutan was swiftly named ‘Tango’, and had started earning his keep! This competition raised £120!

The practice hosted various cake sales etc throughout the year, but by far the most successful fundraiser was an auction of art/artefacts and experiences, which took place in September 2016, being aptly named ‘OrangeAid’.


Holding the event on the top floor of the View Two art gallery, (now sadly closed), in Liverpool’s Mathew Street, meant that the right atmosphere was created right from the start. Bidders were treated to the 3 floors of art for sale in the gallery, and, by the time they had reached the auction itself on the top floor, they were definitely in the mood!

The auction pieces were sourced locally from a wide range of Liverpool artists and donators, many of whom gifted Beatles themed pieces, including a yellow submarine collage, and tickets for the Beatles Story Experience.

Using social media enabled Denovo to cast its fundraising net further afield, and resulted in many diverse donations from across UK, ranging from unique ‘nail art’ to beeswax candles and china plate art! Throughout the 3 month planning period, online relationships continued to develop, increasing coverage and support for the event. Kim Cattrall, (of Sex and the City fame), was linked to one of the artists and kindly retweeted the event to her 217,000 followers. TV Presenter, Michaela Strachan, herself an avid supporter of the orangutan cause, donated signed books and photos.

Companies such as the Body Shop, Brew Dog and local restaurants were also approached, donating their services/products for the auction, and making the overall offering more diverse. It was realised from the outset that a charismatic auctioneer would be key to the success of the event, and Denovo Design was fortunate to secure the services of BBC ‘Flog It’/’Dickenson’s Real Deal’ auctioneer, Adam Partridge. Adam was also able to provide some top tips to ensure that the event ran as smoothly as possible, for example the use of an online bidding platform to widen reach, the registration of guests, and issue of bidding numbers. A raffle for appropriately named, ‘Monkey Gin’, got the evening off to a fine start, raising over £100 before the main event, and by the time the auction began at 7.30pm, the bidders were in the mood for spending!

A total of just under £3,000 was raised in under 2 hours – not a bad night’s work Undoubtedly, securing Adam Partridge, as auctioneer, helped to ensure the event’s success! Also key was sourcing over 52 diverse auction items from generous artists/donators, not only from Liverpool and the North West, but also from across the UK and even internationally! A star item was Lot No 50, a signed limited edition Beatles poster from the late Tony Booth, Brian Epstein’s original ‘poster boy’, which attracted much interest on the run up to the event.

It was a night to remember and we share this story in the hopes that others will be inspired to do something memorable for the Orangutans too.

Article provided by Lynda Smith, Denovo Design.

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