Gillian Kemp draws on her work with Shelter’s annual Vertical Rush event, to provide a summary of key considerations for successful challenge fundraising
In 2010, Shelter’s mass participation event, Vertical Rush, won ‘best use of events’ at the Institute of Fundraising Awards. It is a demanding endurance challenge, which sees participants racing up 920 steps to the top of Tower 42 in London.
Originally inspired by the Empire State Building Run-up in New York, Vertical Rush is organised into hourly slots, with individual runners and teams aiming to set their personal bests (the times are monitored using microchips).
The current fundraising market is saturated with different running events so it is essential that we develop unique challenges that enable us to increase our revenue and reputation in this area. The following ten steps ensure that we are successful:
1. Plan health and safety
Compile a structured event timeline that highlights the key activities planned throughout the day, including set-up and close down.
Shelter works with an external events company that assists with the logistics on the day and ensures all areas are supervised, to guarantee health and safety is at a high standard for all our participants.
2. Mitigate risk
Risk assessmentsneed to be performed throughout the build-up to the event and on the day itself. Also check whether additional insurance needs to be purchased for the venue.
3. Plan for accidents
For mass participation events, it may be appropriate to recruit external first aiders to manage the high volume of participants.
4. Engage your participants
Providing regular communication and support to participants helps to reduce withdrawal rates and ensure that sponsorship targets are met.
At Shelter, we work hard to provide a strong level of customer service for our event competitors. We maintain regular contact with our runners to ensure they feel supported and have all the tools they need in order to train and fundraise with minimum fuss.
5. Go to market
Devise an integrated marketing plan targeting potential event participants, any relevant local companies or interest groups, associated businesses, charity supporters and emergency services.
Shelter also runs an outdoor advertising campaign in London’s tube stations and sends an HTML campaign to various databases owned by the charity and its event partners.
6. Know your audience
Keep in mind the type of participant that you are looking to get on board and why your event will be attractive to them.
Shelter targets the following audience: city workers and companies with proximity to Tower 42; people who enjoy keeping fit and taking on new challenges; current supporters who have taken part in other similar events for the charity; and, corporate supporters.
7. Red-hot branding
Any charity organised event must have a unique, recognisable and attractive brand that instantly stands out. This will help ensure the event raises awareness and boosts recruitment levels.
8. Involve the media
Each year we have a dedicated press and publicity team, including staff from Shelter and Tower 42’s public relations agency. By running a unique event, we have attracted in-depth media coverage of the build-up to the event and on the day itself. For the 2010 event, the BBC’s Mike Bushall took part as a runner and filmed the event on the day. Celebrity endorsement and participation has also helped raise the event’s profile.
9. Get equipped
For this kind of event, you will need event signage, participant numbers and t-shirts, microchip timing tags and equipment to record race results, and a radio communications system.
10. The sky’s the limit
Aim to grow or improve your event year on year to ensure it remains successful. Wherever possible, it’s important to include something new every time. This needs to appeal to both new and previous participants.
For Vertical Rush 2010, we were excited to be part of the Vertical World Circuit – the Formula One of tower running. Other events in the circuit include the Empire State Building Run-Up in New York, and the Taipei 101 in Taiwan.
We’re looking forward to reaching the summit of Tower 42 once again – so roll on 2011!
Gillian Kemp is community and events manager at Shelter