What is Bigger Than Us
Like many big, significant things that start very small, so does this story. It started with Ethan Cole, an American radio host, making a Larry reference on air (“so look, you know that man right there, Harry styles loves Louis Tomlinson right”). It started with someone on Twitter saying “what a lovely guy, let’s send him flowers.” It started with a bunch of strangers offering to send money so those flowers can be bought. It started with a group chat to organise exactly which flowers to send, that over-night grew into “let’s send some for Louis too, and a card to tell him how much he means to us”. And more and more people indicating an interest to chip in for this little gesture of kindness. The energy in the room was palpable, fed by everyone’s love for Louis and their giving spirit.
So in truth, this story started when someone within the group suggested that with all this love and dedication at our fingertips… with such a large number of people coming together to do something nice for Louis… perhaps this can’t just be flowers. They suggested channelling all of this excitement and generosity into a fundraiser for a good cause, which was met with a resounding chorus of “oh my god, yes!” and “let’s make it happen!” Like a spark catching fire, the idea grew and started to take shape, nourished by an enthusiasm so pure and electric it was as if someone let loose a million bouncy balls in the chat room. By the next morning, we truly wondered: Who the fu*k is gonna stop us?
Basically – it all started with a little bit of magic.
(picture from JDelf)
We were thinking a lot about the album title of “Faith In The Future.” At that time, Louis was touring radio stations and doing PR for his album. And the PR was full of incredibly positive messaging: “FAITH IN THE FUTURE”? Who doesn’t have a desperate need for that, these days? His first single being about how “IT’S BIGGER THAN ME”? In that moment – looking at that group chat of diverse, eclectic humans so full of love, kindness, and devotion – we felt that. We truly felt that this could be bigger than us.
It wasn’t just those grand slogans informing our conversations. Time and again, we noted how generous Louis is with his fans, with common people, with up-and-coming bands, and with any kind of underdog. We relished in his giving nature and his caring heart. The way he treats everyone with respect and creates a safe space for everyone is something that inspires our operations to this day. He’s someone who gives out water and provides food for fans at his events and always makes sure everyone is okay and having a good time. He supports charities and arranges for special things like when he gave the Make-A-Wish kids tickets to his show in LA. He’s so dang inspirational!
And the beauty of it all is, we see these things reflected in his fandom everywhere. We see examples every day in big and small ways, in every corner of the fandom, just how exceptionally caring people are, and how much love they carry in their hearts. And we see that we are so many. Seriously: We are so many! We got goosebumps from imagining what a powerful force for good we could be.
Within the first week, the fundraiser turned into a full-blown organisation with roles for the volunteers, and a name: The Bigger Than Us Charity Challenge (or BTU, in short). If you can believe it, in only a week’s time, the mission, ground rules, and branding design were set. It was quite the moment for us when we shared our mission statement for the first time via Twitter.
The tweet was shared enthusiastically, and we gained more than 1,000 followers in just a few days. It was very reassuring to see how strongly our idea spoke to the fandom. We began recruiting ambassadors to help spread our tweets, and more volunteers.
At the end of September 2022, only a couple weeks in, we asked our followers to nominate charities that they wanted us to support. Nominations had to meet some core requirements, including having a focus on LGBTQ+ issues, working globally, showing great financial transparency and responsibility, and not being associated with any entity the fandom (or common sense) would consider unsavoury. We received a bunch of great nominations, which we researched carefully before putting the most promising finalists up for public vote on Twitter. More than 1,200 people participated in the poll that determined our first focus charity to be The “It Gets Better” Project. Their mission is to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe with each other and with great educational resources. We love how “it gets better” is basically another way of saying “have faith in the future”, and were quite excited to learn that several members of their core staff are passionate fans of 1D and/or its members!
On November 6th, we opened our fundraising page and issued the first #BiggerThanUs Charity Challenge. We asked, “Can we raise £280 for It Gets Better before Christmas?” and the fandom’s resounding answer was: Heck yes, we can! Since that day, we’ve been breezing by milestone after milestone (and yes, we made them £369, £777, and £1111). At the time of writing this, we have raised £1,711 through donations big and small. We’re so excited to see if we can hit that next £1991 milestone before Christmas… or dare we dream big and even aim for £2828?
Fun fact: This project originated from some fans organising to send 💐 to @itsethancole for his support of #LouisTomlinson... it sparked such passion & kindness that we wondered: What else can this fandom achieve when we unite? The answer: £777 (+ counting) for charity. Join us! pic.twitter.com/7t52IZUObv— BIGGER THAN US Charity Challenge (@btu_charity) November 7, 2022
When you ask us, “what have you achieved so far”, we could simply give you these numbers. But they fall short in describing what this project really achieved: In merely a few short weeks, we have rallied a sizable portion of the fandom’s active core behind a cause built on kindness. We reminded people to be good to each other, helped them care for themselves and their mental health, and educated them on LGBTQ+ rights and history. We reached out and connected and collaborated with fan projects and update-accounts from all corners of the fandom and beyond. And we are confirming, more and more strongly every day, that together, we can achieve something that’s BIGGER THAN US. Together, we can spread FAITH IN THE FUTURE. Together, we are THE GREATEST.
What would happen if we could unite the fandom behind one mission of kindness?— BIGGER THAN US Charity Challenge (@btu_charity) November 27, 2022
🔥Join us, and together we will find out!🔥 pic.twitter.com/jyUMK9vSa0
Our vision for the future of this project is grand, and might be considered a little too ambitious – but then again, we stan a boy from Doncaster who showed up to auditions one day and asked to be given a chance. We’d love for #BiggerThanUs to become well known in the fandom as THE charity fan project. We’d love to grow our community and our reach, so we’d be able to raise more funds, and help even more people. We think it would be amazing to one day have a table set up at concerts so we could raise more awareness for our charities in-person, or hand out flyers about the project.
How can people help?
It’s a little bit mind-bending, just how much work goes into coordinating an endeavour like this. The project is currently sustained through the love and dedication of half a dozen core volunteers, and we really could use more hands, hearts, and minds on board.
We’ve noticed that people in the fandom tend to doubt themselves and their skills a lot, extending to others a kindness that does not always reach within themselves. At BTU, our motto is ‘everyone can do something, and everyone can learn.’ Volunteering for our fan project has been an eye-opener for everyone involved, showing us all how much we are capable of, and providing a judgement-free, hugely supportive practice ground for real, professional skills. We taught ourselves and each other graphics design, brand creation, social media marketing strategies, video editing, outreach, communication, community management, and leadership, all of which are proving incredibly helpful in our “real” lives as well.
If being part of this great community sounds like something you might be willing to give a try, we warmly encourage you to reach out via dm’s on Twitter or Instagram.
A way to help us, without committing quite as strongly, is to join our team of ambassadors. Our ambassadors help us by sharing our content on social media and spreading the word. Without them, we would have so much less of a voice. We have a server on discord for the ambassadors and volunteers where we occasionally share content beforehand and ask for help. For example, we recently shared a flyer on our social media that we encourage people to print out and spread.
And of course, the most direct way to help us today, is to donate to It Gets Better and help us reach our fundraising goal: https://give.itgetsbetter.org/BiggerThanUs
Finally: Get to know the BTU volunteers!
We respect our volunteers’ preference of whether they would like their name / username publicly associated with the Bigger Than Us fan project, so we publicly differentiate between our core volunteers via an “emoji system”.
Tell me some fun facts about yourselves?
– “I think it’s very on point that the original group chat of people discussing the flowers had 28 members. Yes, really!” /🦓
– “My sons are the age of the 1D boys when they started and that’s why I have a strong motherly instinct to protect him even though he’s almost 31. Therefore he’ll always be a ‘little bean’ to me and I can’t really relate to his ‘daddy’ image.” /🌻
– “When I came up with the idea for the project, you could have blown me over with a feather when people heard my idea. They not only liked it but immediately jumped in to make it happen… Like literally immediately.” /🐞
– “I’m normally a metalhead who’s never even heard of neither Harry nor Louis until April 2022. And now Harry and Louis are #1 and 2 on my Spotify wrapped. It’s impossible not to fall in love with their quirky personalities.” /🐍
– “The amount of impact Louis has had on my life is undescribable. A fun fact; I come from a family who loves football and has played it professionally, but I’ve never understood it. Now, not only am I watching it out of my own free will, but I’m enjoying it. All because of Louis Tomlinson.” /🦄
– “I’m the youngest member of the team but I’m passionate about this because Louis has helped me so much that I wanted to do something for him.” /✨
– “Originally a Harry-fan, at first I was annoyed by the amount of Louis-content that came up on my social media. When I learned about why those two are a package deal, I quickly grew incredibly fond. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started to really fall in love with Louis’ voice and whole personality.” /🐝
Where are you guys from?
Our volunteers are located all over the globe, including Germany, the US, Sweden, the UK, and India.
How long have you all been fans?
Most of us have known of Louis and One Direction for a long time, but none of us fell into the Louis Tomlinson rabbit hole until 2019-2022. Of course, by now, we’re all dedicated and besotted beyond rescue.
What are your fave songs?
Pre-walls favourites are “Miss You” and “Just Like You”. “Only The Brave” will always hold a special place in our hearts, as well as “Always You”. From Faith In The Future, some of our favourites are “Silver Tongues”, “Angels Fly”, and of course “The Greatest”. Well “Written all over your face” and “Face the music” are pretty great too. Basically we love the entire album.
Have any of you met Louis?
Some of us have had the pleasure of meeting Louis, one very recently.
One of our volunteers (✨) went to an album signing with him for “Faith In The Future.” She’d brought some gifts to him and of course he was so grateful. He was very sweet and kept eye contact. Despite the broken arm and all the security, he wanted to make sure people got a special moment, something to remember for the rest of their lives. He called her ‘love’ and noticed that she was nervous, so he gave her his best and biggest comfort smile. Wanting to make sure she was okay.
She also left him a note from us (which can be seen in the hand of the security guy). She had also printed out some of our flyers that she handed out to fans.
Picture credit available from the author (our volunteer prefers to remain anonymous).
Another one of our volunteers went to one of his shows with her daughter. Her daughter was very emotional and excited and cried a bit. Louis, of course, being the amazing and caring human being he is, tried to comfort her with a huge smile and big thumbs up.
Picture credit: https://twitter.com/JenLeclerc
And some of us have not yet had a chance to meet Louis in person yet, but are tremendously excited for the FITF tour 2023!
For more info, including on how to get in touch, please visit https://linktr.ee/btu_charity 🙂