Pros and cons of distanced events
With large gatherings not possible, Helen Alderson
weighs up the pros and cons of alternative events
A great place to start if you have a good base of willing
supporters. The beauty of these challenges is that they are
personal to the individual. Suggest a few ideas and then let people
- Anyone can take part: This is unique in the
events space. You're not governed by cost, difficulty levels or
- Maximum flexibility: Think of the recent 2.6
Challenge set up by the London Marathon organisers - some people
ran 26 marathons while some ran 2.6 miles. Develop a loose theme
and let supporters come up with their own personal challenge.
- Sponsors will be more invested: Think Sir Tom.
For most people, 100 lengths of their back garden isn't a big deal.
But because Tom chose something that was challenging to him as an
individual, people were more invested. Helping participants develop
a genuine challenge will get the best results.
- Get incredible case studies: We need some good
news and your event can be exactly that. Ask the school to put
details in the school newsletter (with a call to action to get more
- Little or no cost and volunteer time: No
stallholders or endless planning meetings.
- Less likely to have mass appeal: But there's
potential for the people who do take part to raise more.
- Can be difficult to promote: The challenge may
not capture the imagination of all your supporters. Speak to those
who are really warm to the PTA already - ask them to be your event
ambassadors so you can publicise what they're doing.
These can be completed individually and documented using
technology. Hold a sponsored readathon for children or whip up a
sporting competition among the dads.
- Minimal event costs: Aside from any marketing
or technology costs, the outlay is extremely low.
- Unlimited capacity: You would need to consider
health and safety limits for a 'normal' event, but the sky's the
limit for digital.
- A sense of community: By setting up a mass
participation event you are bringing people together, even when
- Potential for a good return on investment:
Spread the word and get your marketing right and things will
- Risk of being 'drowned out': Take time to plan
and promote your event. Boost posts on social media to connect with
people outside your community.
- Not everybody who signs up will take part:
Email each supporter who signs up to thank them. Show a personal
touch and people are less likely to drop out.
Third-party challenge events
While it could be some time before big events are back,
challenge events such as abseils and zip wires, where social
distancing can be implemented, may start sooner.
- Reduced responsibility: The third party will
look after all the practical aspects, so you can focus on building
- Low financial risk: By choosing your supplier
wisely and setting reasonable sponsorship targets, you will almost
guarantee a strong return on investment.
- Reach new supporters: There are people out
there who just love a challenge, whatever the cause!
- Little control over location: It's pretty
unlikely that a zip wire will be available just outside your
school, so some travel may be involved.
Think virtual Come Dine With Me, wine tastings or coffee
mornings - the opportunities are endless!
- Accessibility: Most people have worked out how
to video chat over the past few months, making virtual events more
- Familiar concept: While the virtual spin is
slightly different, little instruction is needed and everyone can
hit the ground running.
- Increased donations: When making online
donations, people are likely to give more.
- Make supporter-led decisions: Work closely
with the school and parents to come up with events that you know
everyone will support.
- Plan thoroughly: Take time to work out what
you want to achieve, how you will achieve it, and what you need to
put into place in order to do so.
- Have a clear policy on Covid-19: Explain what
will happen if your event is postponed or cancelled and how you
will ensure participants' safety.
- Communicate with your supporters: They're the
most important people. Make decisions with them, engage them and
build their excitement.
Helen Alderson is a freelance fundraising consultant and works
with a number of charities, including North Tyneside Learning
Trust, to increase their income generation. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
to discuss how she can add value to your fundraising.
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