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​Top tips for organising a successful fundraising event

Blog post   •   Jun 22, 2017 11:30 BST

You want your event to go with a bang. But not the kind of bang that means you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

Fundraising events and charities go together like strawberries and cream. And that’s because a good event can deliver a triple whammy – boosting coffers, raising awareness of your cause and delivering that elusive feelgood factor.

All in one easy package.

Only it’s never that simple, is it? Things can go wrong, people may not turn up in sufficient numbers and the weather can, literally, rain on your parade.

To give your event the best chance of success, rigorous planning and costing are key. And adopting the familiar ‘Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?’ approach can help.

Who?

Think carefully about your target audience – which will, to a degree, be influenced by what your charity does. Who do you want to attract to your event?

The people you persuade to come along will influence how much money you raise, both in terms of numbers through the door, as well as their likelihood of donating.

And that doesn’t mean solely on the day of your fundraiser, either. You need to think about the potential for future donations from those individuals by retaining their loyalty.

From a practical viewpoint, you should ensure you’ve got enough experienced hands on board to help with planning and organisation ­– plus enough volunteers willing to get involved on the day.

What?

Your target audience will dictate the kind of event you decide upon.

So, if you think your audience is likely to be slightly older, a sponsored Space Hopper race won’t really cut it. Equally, if you’re looking to attract families, you need something to keep the kids occupied.

Originality has its advantages. If you can come up with an idea that no one else has thought of, then you have novelty value on your side, and a potentially wider reach. But tried-and-tested fundraisers, like coffee mornings, quizzes and fun days have a cosy familiarity that appeals to many.

Think about your budget, too, and put strict controls in place to make sure you don’t overstretch yourself. There’s no point in putting on an event that costs more to stage than it raises. Cost everything first.

Why?

What’s your main reason for staging your event?

Is it fundraising? In which case, you’re going to have to maximise your opportunity to pull in hard cash. That means achieving a good margin – keeping costs as low as possible and turning a decent ‘profit’.

You can do that not only through ticket sales, but by making sure there’s plenty of ways to raise additional funds during the event itself. That can mean anything from cake stalls and face painting, to raffles and silent auctions. And don’t forget to have collection boxes strategically placed for spontaneous donations.

But if awareness raising is your main motive, then you might take a different approach. Your event might be more information-based, involving talks, presentations and films.

It doesn’t mean you can’t seek donations at the same time, though. And by the very act of raising awareness with your audience, you’re potentially recruiting the donors of the future.

Where?

The venue for your event should provide a safe environment where no one is likely to come to any harm – be that a farm, a sports club or simply someone’s sitting room.

Of course. it should be in an accessible location which people will find easy to get to. And don’t forget to provide adequate parking.

Check out the location thoroughly beforehand for any potential hazards and pitfalls. Make sure any possible danger areas are clearly flagged up and sign-posted – ­ if there’s a sudden change in the floor level, for example.

When?

It goes without saying that you don’t want to stage your event on the Saturday of the FA Cup Final, or when there’s another big event going on locally. It stands to reduce your visitor numbers and your fundraising potential.

So, make sure you check the calendar carefully before you select your date.

There’s also the weather to consider. Conditions in the UK can be notoriously unseasonal and there’s not much you can do about it. But if you do decide to run an event outdoors, you have to be prepared for the weather to do its worst.

It’s always a risk, and it can stand to turn your fundraiser into a flop. So, have a contingency plan in place if possible.

How?

So, here’s the biggie. Just how do you make sure your fundraiser’s a hit?

Above all, you’ve got to make sure people actually come to your event once you’ve organised it. That’s something you can achieve in lots of ways. You can even use a celebrity guest appearance to pull in numbers, if you can find one sympathetic to your cause.

But the most valuable thing you can do is to publicise your event, through any means possible. That can involve leaflets, ads in the newspaper, listings in local mags and on websites, posters in windows, airtime on local radio stations…the list goes on.

You can ask local companies to sponsor your event, and then piggy-back on their publicity channels to promote it. If you manage to bag yourself an estate agent, you can even ask them to print up sales boards including the event details, and plant them in supporters’ gardens.

And don’t forget the power of the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other social media platforms are a superb way of creating a buzz about your fundraiser. Ask supporters to share your posts and watch them spread far and wide.

The other thing you should do to give your event the best chance of success is a bit of housekeeping. You have to ensure all the ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s are crossed, and that there are the proper safeguards and permissions in place

That means: risk assessments, licenses and insurance.

Risk assessments

It’s your duty to keep people safe and you should scope your site thoroughly for potential dangers. That can mean trip hazards like trailing cables, a grass bank that’s slippery when it rains, or an area where there are moving vehicles.

The key is to anticipate the risk and eradicate it if you can, or at least mark it out with warning signs so people know it’s there. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

You can read the Health & Safety Executive’s advice on running events here.

Licenses
If the venue where you’re staging your event doesn’t already have a licence under the Licensing Act 2003, you’ll have to apply for a Temporary Events Notice (TEN) to tide you over. It covers selling alcohol, providing entertainment including music, dancing or indoor sporting events, and serving hot food late at night.

You’ll need to apply to your local council for a TEN at least 10 days before the event is due to take place. You can read more about it here.

Insurance

Let’s face it, no matter how well you plan your event, things can sometimes go wrong. A visitor trips over a marquee peg hidden among long grass and breaks her hip. Or a piece of equipment topples over and lands on someone’s foot, crushing it.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have public liability (PL) insurance, just in case. It pays for legal costs and compensation should anyone make a claim for alleged harm suffered. The fact is, claims can get pretty expensive, so it’s a useful fall-back.

PL also covers any accidental damage done to the venue – say a door is pulled off its hinges, or AV kit gets damaged. And don’t forget, if you’re using contractors as part of the event, you’ll also need to make sure they have the correct insurance in place.

The other type of insurance you might not think you need, but you may well do, is employer’s liability insurance. If your charity has what you’d call ‘employees’ under the normal understanding of the word, then you need it by law.

But there’s the interpretation the Health and Safety Executive puts on the word ‘employee’ to consider, too. They extend it beyond the usual ‘paid worker doing a job’ definition to cover volunteers as well.

It’s a bit of a grey area, but where employers’ liability helps out is if any of the people helping out at your event get injured. Say, for example, a volunteer falls off a stepladder while putting up bunting and slips a disc. Employers’ liability pays for legal expertise, as well as any damages awarded.

You might also want to consider event cancellation insurance if there’s the potential for your event to be wiped out by the weather. Let’s face it. Snow in June isn’t unheard of in this country.

So that’s the bare bones of event organisation – what you need to consider and what you need to do. And that’s your cue to get out there and start raising more funds.

By Lisa Carr, charity insurance specialist at MyCharityGuard from PolicyBee, online insurance brokers. 

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