Back in 1997, Joyce Rothschild received the news everyone dreads; a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer. It really was the last news a 40 year old mum of two boys aged five and seven wanted to hear, especially as she had just started a new job.
Rather than moping during her chemotherapy (which lasted for nine months), Joyce’s positive attitude on life shone through. Along with a mastectomy, Joyce also had to endure the removal of lymph nodes, as the hospital didn’t have the equipment necessary to measure the spread of cancer.
As if raising her children wasn’t enough, she also wanted to set about raising money for this additional piece of equipment. And so, her annual quiz was born, and is now on track to top £250,000 in total donations. To say it’s been successful is an understatement – the first year raised over £2,000 and last year, the twenty-fifth quiz raised over £20,000 – rather more than the couple of hundred pounds she originally intended to raise.
The early years
Joyce’s idea for raising money was simple, but effective. In the run up to the festive season, she created a quiz sheet and asked for a donation. She chose this time of year as people tend to be a little more generous and sometimes want to have something to do other than eating, drinking and watching TV. The quiz can be completed by one person or as a group making it an ideal festive activity.
A close friend, Yasmi Roberts, was keen to help and over a quarter of a century later is still involved each year. In a stroke of luck, Yasmi used to work at Barclays Bank who agreed to match the funds that were raised for the first couple of years.
Since then, the quiz has grown from strength to strength. With the advent of the internet, it’s now easier to spread the message as at first, the quiz was mainly distributed by photocopies and lots of stamps and envelopes – along with cheques and cash to be put in the bank. Even now, Joyce is still more than happy to send the answers to anyone who has entered the quiz and sends a stamped addressed envelope.
A different theme each year
Setting the quiz is a team effort with family and friends keen to help. A hundred questions are set around a theme.
The first quiz was all about numbers. Since then, themes have included everything from countries ending with an “a”, animals, plants, places, even threesomes. (No, not that sort of threesome, it’s all great family fun!) The threesome was the connection between three words.
Some themes are really ingenious, such as in 2021 when each answer contained a vehicle, for example the answer to “A Meat Eater” was “CARnivore”. There’s a feline theme this year as all answers contain the word “cat”. Perhaps one of the questions this year could have been “What is the opposite of Joyce’s Successful Quiz?” (Answer – “a CATastrophe”!)
Over the years, people have asked if they can use her quizzes, so Joyce came up with an ingenious way of raising more money by putting the previous quizzes into two books, available on Amazon, with all proceeds going to Macmillan. Simply search for “Joyce’s Quiz” – the book is available both as a paperback and a Kindle version.
You can even increase your donation for this book – and all Amazon purchases – by joining “Amazon Smile” where a small percent of your purchase goes to a charity of your choice, with Macmillan one of the charity options available.
Each year, Joyce sends a reminder email out and is always very glad to see people join in the fun time and time again. She’s also heartened that it attracts a wide range of participants, from people who take it very seriously to those who are more casual and are simply delighted to have a fun way to donate to a charity they support.
Five prizes are on offer for anyone returning the quiz – a top prize of £35, a second prize of £20 and three prizes of £10 Marks and Spencer Vouchers. The closing date for entries is 9 January 2023 and the answers will be announced around a week later when all entries have been checked.
Where the money goes
At first, the money raised went locally to the Oasis Cancer Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. As the quiz grew in popularity, money began to come from all areas of the country (and even internationally), so Joyce thought it only fair to give the money to a charity with a wider reach, so chose Macmillan Cancer Support. Sadly, Joyce has first-hand experience of Macmillan’s wonderful work when they supported her late father during his battle with cancer. She was incredibly grateful for the practical support they offered during those dark days.
For 25 years, Joyce suggested a minimum £2 donation for the quiz. In these inflationary times the suggested minimum has now been raised to £3, which Joyce hopes is still an affordable sum for most. Many people give more than this, especially if they’ve distributed the quiz around their friends and family, all of whom have given a donation.
Joyce is a great believer that charities know how to spend money more wisely than her, so doesn’t like to put any stipulations on how the money raised should be spent. She is mindful that even though it can be easier to raise money for a specific project, general donations are just as important to ensure the charity can run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
I’m delighted to say that there’s no stopping Joyce who seemed in fine fettle when we spoke. Incredibly, she has just returned from a dream trip to Bhutan of all places. Even there, on the other side of the world, she was thinking about the quiz which she says has become like an additional member of her family as it certainly seems to have a life of its own!
Many people are often surprised that the quiz hasn’t got a huge team behind it, and Joyce is happy to go on running the quiz for as long as she’s able and can come up with some new ideas. Joyce is always hugely grateful to everyone who plays a part in keeping the quiz going in whatever way they can, and most especially to anyone who makes a donation and gets the overall total raised nearer to £250,000 and hopefully beyond.
How to get involved
As Joyce says, the quiz has a life of its own and word of mouth is the main way that the message gets out. If you’d like to get involved, Joyce is always happy to receive an email, which enables her to keep in touch each year and send a general reminder – [email protected].
The quiz can also be downloaded from the website which also contains a “Just Giving” page where UK taxpayers can increase their donation through the Gift Aid scheme as the quiz itself is free to download.