Fundraising events are a charity mainstay. Did you know that the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon raised £61.6 million, more than ever before and the largest amount for an annual single-day charity event?
While your charity event may not be on the same level as the London Marathon, it’s still going to require a lot of work, as you well know! You have to plan it and promote it. On the day of the event, you have to staff it and run it. There are countless small details to organise and you’ll need to lean on your staff, your volunteers and your supporters to make it a true success.
So, it’s important to make the most of every event – whether it’s a fundraising gala, a 5K fun run or a marathon. This post provides four ways to get more from your events this year, from smarter promotion to more memorable merchandise.
Printed invitations and postcards are a lovely touch, but they cost money and take valuable time to produce and send. So, take your correspondence online when promoting your next event! Not only will you save time and money, but you’ll have more opportunities to closely target your communications by audience segment, such as age, gender or location. Start with your charity website and social media channels as the main platforms to promote your event.
In addition, look for established (and often free or low-cost) sites to help you with registration and payment logistics, such as Eventbrite for Charities. If you’re charging a fee for your fundraising event, Eventbrite can also help your charity manage sales through data and reports. In general, look for a service that’s optimised to look good and function on mobile screens or other devices – the number of online donations that were made via mobile device was up 3 three percent in 2016 from the prior year and that number is expected to grow.
Don’t forget social media. An Eventbrite blog post suggests that nearly a quarter of traffic to registration and ticketing sites originates from social media. Early on in your event planning process, develop a short and clever hashtag to help aggregate event buzz. For example, Beat, an eating disorder charity in the UK, launched a Sock It To Eating Disorders campaign. It asks supporters to wear their boldest socks, take a photo and post it on social media with the hashtag #SockItToEastingDisorders.
Another tip is to let others help you with some of the heavy lifting! Social media is a great platform to empower your supporters to help spread the message. Give them the tools they need to share your event, like some ready-to-share Twitter posts that they can copy and paste on their personal or professional channels. Do you have a newsletter or mailing list for your charity? Reach out to your list a few times and ask for their help to promote your event, perhaps by providing them with a short script they can use at their workplace or with friends and family.
Another idea is to provide a link to a downloadable sign they can print and hang in their window or place in their yard to proudly announce their support of your event. For your super fans, you could even offer items for sale to help drive donations while promoting the event, like this fun, customisable car and shop window sign.
And while digital is certainly the way to go, don’t completely forget the power of offline communication. If you have the budget and resources, send a postcard to your mailing list or recruit your volunteers to pick up the phone and make a few calls.
Are you planning a charity fun run or cycle ride? Make it easy for all of your supporters to get involved, no matter their fitness level or interest. One great example is the British Heart Foundation, which offers a variety of different events to get people involved, including cycle rides, runs, walks, overseas challenges, swims, triathlons and even skydives. (In fact, charity skydiving might just be the next big thing; we saw that Team Ovacome organises tandem skydives for charity for those who “fancy jumping out of a plane”!)
Invest in a few pieces of customised event merchandise or “supporter wear” so that those not inclined to participate in physical activity can still contribute to your event. One newer item that we love is this fundraising bracelet, made from high-quality fabric versus the traditional silicon gel.
Another proven way to get people involved with your event occurs online. Take advantage of your social media channels and create a Facebook group so that event participants can engage with one another before, during and after the event. Use your event hashtag to help generate buzz around your event – for charity races, you might engage people by asking them for their favourite training tips or to share pictures from race day. Consider hosting a contest and raffle off a few customised products, like a bracelet or a water bottle, for everyone that likes and comments on your page.
To get the most out of your event, think of ways to tie into other events to make it last longer and reach a bigger audience. For example, in what ways could you tie your event to a larger campaign, such as an established charity awareness month? (See this post for a helpful colour guide to cancer charities.)
The ovarian cancer charity Ovacome is a great example. During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in March, the charity arranged not just one event, but 31 days of events to fill the entire month. Talk about making the most of it! Ovacome asked its community to host their own events in March, which the charity would fill in on its online calendar.
Aside from hosting a great event, give your supporters something to remember it by. Selling customised charity badges, wristbands and t-shirts is a way for participants to support your cause during the event as well as long after it ends. Many of these items can be made at a low cost, so you can offer great supporter gear and stay within your budget. This supporter badge from Marie Curie is a great example:
However, consider offering one higher-ticket item for your most ardent supporters, such as a coveted charity fleece for year-round comfort.
Lastly, while it’s not a competition, the fact is that your charity event is up against many other great events, like neighbourhood festivals and corporate-sponsored races. If you have the resources to do so, or can seek help from a funder, consistent branding will go a long way to make your event slick and memorable. Create customised t-shirts for all staff and volunteers working at your event. If you’re planning a race event, consider placing customised signs along the racecourse that feature your charity name and logo, along with some clever or motivational words!
We hope this post helps you make the most of your event this year. There’s a reason to do so – a Charities Aid Foundation UK Giving report shows that £9.7 billion was donated to charities in 2016! Not to mention that with the right planning, these events are just plain fun for all involved.
Do you have other tips you’ve learned along the way? We’d love to hear them. Please get in touch with us today.