Piers White is head of fundraising for the Mark Pollock Trust and their global running series, Life Style Sports Run in the Dark. The event has grown from 3k participants across four locations in 2011, to an expected 12k runners in five main cities and six pop-up locations for this year’s event on Wednesday 13th November. Piers shares his thoughts with us on what charities need to consider when organising and growing their events.
Make sure your event is something people actually want to do
Charities have to make their event different, but at the same time, you need to create an event that people want to do.
With Life Style Sports Run in the Dark there’s a cool and inspiring back story, but at the end of the day there are a lot of people that just want to do a run in some cool cities, in the middle of November, at night, and have a lot of fun.
Make your event relevant to your cause
Every charity needs to find something that works for them.
Initially our event was called Run In The Dark For Mark, symbolising his blindness. We decided a simple run wasn’t right when we thought about Mark’s drive and ambition. So we created a multi location event that works for us.
Success comes from a combination of vision and evolution
Each year you’ll learn something new and this will change the direction of your event.
After year one we dropped Galway as a location and added London and New York. And for year three, we’ve dropped New York because it just didn’t work from a logistic perspective.
We didn’t start out wanting to be the biggest running series in the world, but we’re slowly being more detailed and clear in what our ambitions are.
Overcome challenges through communication and a willingness to establish relationships
Charities have to prove themselves to local authorities. Show a willingness to work and engage with councils and police, and take the time to build relationships with them.
Once you have them on board and have the go ahead for your event, then you actually have to get people there. And that’s another major challenge in itself.
You have to approach your event like a business strategy
You have to plan your marketing strategy, just like you would for any other campaign.
You have to look at it as a business model and ask “is this going to work?” If it isn’t, then don’t do it. Your event should be minimum liability for you.
We’ve gone further with Life Style Sports Run in the Dark because we’ve established our liability and know, worse case scenario, if one location totally failed, we could absorb it.
You have to start with one small step and move on from there. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug on an event if you think it’s just not going to be worth it.
Consider a sponsor for your event
Having a sponsor is incredibly important to us, but you have to think long and hard about whether it’s right for your organisation.
There’s the money, added professionalism, credibility and security, but you could lose empathy from supporters.
Make sure your ambitions are aligned and that the end user, your supporters, will also get something back from the relationship.
Importance of social media to promote and grow your event
If social media is used in the right way then it can be very effective, but it’s also something that people get very wrong. It all comes back to being relevant to your supporters.
And it’s not just social, it’s your whole online presence. A flyer at the end of the run works very well, but that can’t be your only mechanism.
Think about your demographic and target them through the channels they’re engaging with.
Top takeaway for growing your event
Make your event relevant to your cause and be realistic about the time your committed volunteers can give.
If you don’t have enough volunteers for your idea, do something different. For Life Style Sports Run in the Dark we ask people to give their time one night a year, and that works for them and us.
There’s nothing to stop you from growing the right event
The great thing is that there are seven billion people in the world – there’s no reason why your event can’t just keep on growing.
Be aware of your supporter base, and your business model. If you concentrate on one event and make it kick-ass, there’s no reason it won’t and can’t grow, and make a huge difference to your cause.
The Mark Pollock Trust has opened up the Life Style Sports Run in the Dark to other charities to use it as a fundraising platform. Simply tell your followers to sign up at runinthedark.org and start using JustGiving to raise funds for your cause.
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