You think sales team managers are constantly under pressure, try talking to directors or heads of fundraising for charities. In my experience, the biggest difference and the reason why charity sales teams can handle it is because of the emotional weight attached to the charity they are working for.
Apart from that, the process of income generation between a charity and a normal business with a sales department is the same. Both have basic targets and goals and ways to achieve them. The marketing of the charity slightly differs in respect to the emotional weight which can be used, to add relevance to the reason why you should be giving them money.
When it comes to events and event management there are a few interesting and quirky obstacles you may need to overcome when deciding what’s best for the charity and how to organise a good charity event. Some of these quirks I have come across, in my opinion, are to the detriment to the main goal of raising money. The biggest mistake I see charities make is losing focus of that main goal.
What is the best way for a charity to raise the maximum amount of cash from an event?
“Simple. Beg, steal, and borrow everything to run the event. That way we have no or very little costs. All the money goes to the charity, BOOM!”
I have come across this mentality time and time again. In practice it sounds like a great idea. Traditionally this is how most legacy events have been organised. Where it falls is in the quality of the service. Who is responsible for the quality and how will it affect the event and the ability to raise those vital funds. I could give so many examples of situations like this.
Charity balls where bands have dropped out at the last minute, because they were doing it for cheap. Small festivals and gala’s where the stage and sound nearly covers 100 people, never mind the 2900 other who have turned up. Prize auctions that have gone on for hours, boring the audience to sleep. WE MUST RAISE AS MUCH MONEY, gets in front of organising an event everybody enjoyed.
There are so many levels you need to look at when organising a charity event. I wish I had £1 for every time an event organiser has told me after the event, “If they knew how complicated it was to arrange at the start, I wouldn’t have bothered.”
Let’s have a look at the real world issues I have faced when working with charities over the past 20 or so years. And How to organise a good charity event.
So, what’s the solution to a fantastically organised charity event?
It’s not personal it’s business. Events must be looked at like you are starting a business venture or new product. A good old S.W.A.T. analysis of the theme, practicality and achievement goals is a great start. What paperwork needs to be done, services you need to hire and a tight hold of what the balance sheet looks like.
I have worked with and consulted on Cancer Research UK Race for Life events for over a decade. Their events run like clockwork because each event is managed like a product or service would. But the event managers are still able to have a deep emotional connection with each of the fun runs they produce. They know how much money they need to generate from entry fees to fund raising amounts per town. The costs of the event down to the last penny. This is why the 20+ events they organise in the Yorkshire region have been going for over 20 years.
Please sir, I want some more!
Standing there like Oliver with your begging bowl and sad eyes, sounds like an effective way to cut costs but you have to be careful. Private donors will help, but when it comes to commercial services, they come at a price. In my opinion charities and organisers have to respect that. Most companies will give a discount when helping a charity. The old proverb, you get what you pay for, still applies.
Companies like private donors get donation fatigue too. Running an events company, we get two or three enquiries a week asking if we can ‘help out’. Which usually means for as little cost to the charity as possible. That’s over 100 enquiries a year. Like charities we have to make money, or we simply don’t survive. Like charities, the events industry is still trying to recover from the pandemic. And now the cost-of-living challenges are affecting events too.
The pros of paying for services are that you should get the highest level of service that a company has to offer. In respect to larger events, this could massively affect the amount of income generated. If your charity ball looks, sounds and entertains effectively. People will part with their hard-earned cash more easily. Like with all services you have to give value for money. Even at non ticketed events, people will donate more generously on the day.
Like all services, ask around and get three quotes from suppliers. Play them off against each other. Offer marketing and promotional opportunities too. Companies often like the PR from helping charities and will shout about it and the event you are organising.
When the mentality changes to a more business-like model, you get your cake and eat it. Be more in charge of quality control and the purse strings. On annual events, constantly improve the quality year on year.
How do I organise a successful charity event.
Sounds like a million-dollar question. Events normally fall into two categories. Charity led events and volunteer lead events. Most larger charities will have an events manager. Whose sole job is to manage and run events for the charity. I have worked with some fantastic events managers over the years and helped with educating people in a more junior role. Charity based organisers generally have a good handle on how to organise fund raisers.
There are still some hurdles to overcome for charity-based events teams I have seen. Especially when working with volunteer focus groups who assist the charity. The biggest hurdles tend to come with how the event has been managed previously. The fine balancing act starts when trying to not upset the committee when changes need to be made. In my experience, this resistance has been at the detriment to the events and the amount of money that could have been raised.
That leads me nicely into volunteer-lead events organising. Charities love it when outside organisers run events, as it takes the pressure off the events and income generation teams. Where potential issues arrive, they come in the form of two main questions. How much effective experience does the committee have, and who makes the final decisions. The best volunteer lead events work when a head of the event listens to the committee but has the final say. Sadly, politics and opinions have to be managed. All too often when decisions are managed by the masses, they don’t transcribe into a well-managed event.
I have seen situations where the charities fund raising potential has been severely affected because the volunteer committee reverts back to “this is how it has always been done.”
I’m new to organising a charity event, How to organise a good charity event?
Ha ha, lots!
Start with contacting the charity first, they may have a consultant who knows the charity and specialises in event management. They would be able to help from the start. Speak to people who have organised events before. Experience counts for everything when planning a successful event. I love the phrase, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. That’s the elephant in the room. Because it’s true. And people with experience will save you a lot of unnecessary time, effort, and tears. Helping you fill in the large number of blanks you didn’t know you had in the first place. Here are the main steps condensed down. There are multiple small criteria within each step which you will need to identify and address along the way.
- Create your objectives and S.W.A.T. analysis.
- Who is doing what.
- What do we need, services and people.
- Financial plan and viability.
- Pre event timeline, meetings, actions, documentation, and services.
- Event day timeline, actions and services.
- Post events debrief and succession planning.
Is organising a charity event worth it?
Now I’ve given you a glimpse into it, absolutely! Charities that are close to your heart really need your help. I know there is a fine balance to be had but if you get the right people around you, supporting your efforts. It really will make all the difference. And if you’re still not sure, I’m happy to put you in touch with some inspirational people who really are superhuman. Run their own lives while organising life changing events for the people they raise the money for.
For more info on how to organise a good charity event. please get in touch. Click Here.
We offer lots of services for charities, more info Click Here.