Events are a great way to raise money and awareness, provided they stand out enough to draw people in – and these 5 standout fundraising events deliver the goods, says Jenny Ramage
Planning and executing a fundraising event takes time and skill, but with so many fundraising events in the calendar all competing for the public’s attention, it also requires a little magic to make it stand out – and for the cause to resonate with supporters well beyond the event’s close. Here are 5 charity events that we think make the grade.
“To truly enable your activity to stick, the challenge is finding an inextricable link between the activity and the organisation”, says Terence Lovell, deputy director of supporters and communities at Save the Children.
The charity launched its Den Day event in June 2015, with great success. It asks children to get creative and build a den, and to get sponsorship and raise money for children caught up in conflicts who don’t have safe shelter at night – aligning itself nicely with the cause.
“Den Day is a great example of where the organisation is able to highlight the cause in a fun and engaging way for a family and school’s audience” says Terence.
“Bringing to life stories of children around the world, who suffer and live in some of the most challenging circumstances, the appeal enables children at home to create magical memories while also raising money to help children who need our help.
“The event is both educational and engaging. It also builds on the much loved hobby among children of building secret and magical hideaways. The campaign is in its second year, and is set to be bigger and better than ever.”
In March 2015, British Heart Foundation launched DECHOX, which challenged members of the public to give up chocolate for the whole month. Like Den Day, the event links with something people already do – in this case give up stuff for Lent – and links back to the cause as chocolate is a fatty food, which can cause heart disease.
19,000 people signed up to the inaugural DECHOX challenge, raising over £800k for the charity. Here’s what Leah Mates, DECHOX fundraising manager, had to say:
“We recognised an increasing trend for abstinence events across the charity market and that they were delivering substantial gross income. We subsequently developed a product to capitalise on this growing trend and tapped into something that people love – chocolate!
“Abstinence challenges like DECHOX mean there is no need for the fundraiser to plan months ahead in terms of training or hosting an event. They are a fantastic way for those who are time-poor to get involved with a positive cause and challenge themselves in a fun way, while raising money for lifesaving heart research.
“There is also a team element for DECHOX, as giving something up is always easier with support. We work closely with other teams within the charity to ensure we have a motivating and relevant DECHOX journey for our supporters, as well as our bespoke DECHOX Facebook page to keep them engaged and inspired.”
Alcohol Concern aligned its Dry Humour event with the cause in a slightly different way – by uncoupling two things that frequently go together: comedy and alcohol. The campaign was launched in September 2014, and since then the charity has held three successful, teetotal comedy nights.
““Comedy and alcohol are frequently paired together here in the UK, but the Dry Humour events are our way of showing that this doesn’t have to be the case”, says Craig Beadle, Alcohol Concern’s fundraising digital and communications officer and Dry Humour organiser. “After all, 70% of comedians never touch a drop before getting on stage. So if they can perform sober, then the audience shouldn’t need to drink to enjoy it!
“These are always fantastic nights and we’ve been lucky enough to attract some of the biggest names in British comedy, including Jo Brand, Arthur Smith, Richard Herring and Milton Jones. It's a great opportunity to help people realise that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time. Plus, they’re a great way to raise much-needed funds for the organisation.”
With the first three events held in London’s Leicester Square Theatre, they have proven such a success the charity is now looking into holding Dry Humour nights around the country.
Teach First’s flagship annual challenge event, Run the River, supports the charity’s work to end educational inequality. It’s notable in particular for attracting support from the charity’s corporate partners and their staff, including Citi, and its 3,000 running places sell out every year.
With 5k and 10k runs that follow the river through the heart of London, it’s a stunning route that takes runners past some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks, including the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tower of London.
Teach First’s executive director of external relations, James Westhead, said:
“From expert runners to complete novices, the event has been successful in attracting more and more runners of all abilities.
“Since the change in 2014 to a weekday event, making the run more accessible to those working in the city, it’s been wonderful to see the number of runners increase significantly, and it has created a fantastic team building and networking environment for Citi and our other corporate supporters.
“Going forward, we aim to grow and develop the event while maintaining our high sign-up rate for this sell-out event.”
In Coventry, meanwhile, Myton Hospice slows the pace but ups the razzle-dazzle with its annual Glow in the City night walk. Another sell-out event, it has the two-pronged effect of raising both funds and awareness.
While the event itself isn’t ostensibly as closely linked with the cause as others, there is innovation in the approach, and it’s a real statement event that grabs attentions.Sarah Stallard, events fundraising manager, said:
“The challenge we faced was to create an event that stood out from our competitors. There are lots of colour runs and bubble runs in the area, so we decided to focus on the glow aspect and party element.
“Last year we had a short video made of the event, and I think that helped to sell it the second year as people could really see what it was about and how much fun it was.
“This is the second year we’ve put on this event, and we’re thrilled with the result. We couldn’t believe it when the event sold out; we even had a waiting list.”
The key to event success
As Terence Lovell concludes, “innovation is vital within the sector; it inspires supporters and future supporters and diversifies the product offering."
“Systems, infrastructure and strong supporter journeys are essential to enable an organisation to deliver. But the sector needs to realise that not every idea will land. It is important to recognise that as many lessons, if not more, can be learnt from an idea which failed to take off, compared to one that soars.”
Jenny Ramage is editor of The Fundraiser.