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Tips to Help Your Charity Event Go Off with a Bang

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As most people’s thoughts turn towards the big push for Christmas sales and the lull that will follow in January, I’m already thinking about next summer. Not just because I am averse to cold to a reptilian degree, but because that’s when the charity event that I’m helping to organise takes place. I volunteered after this year’s seemed to fall a little flat, despite all the hard work that had gone into it. The low turnout can probably be blamed on the English weather, but we could have done more to make the day more of an event.

This year there were posters and flyers up, but I don’t think they were widely circulated. In fact, most of the publicity that was done was largely redundant, as most of the people who saw the  publicity were the same ones we were relying on to pull the whole thing off! Next year, we’re going to have to step it up a bit, placing ads in the local paper and posting the details on local forums and bulletin boards. The local radio stations may even be willing to give some free publicity (it’s for charity, after all) closer to the time. Increased awareness means more people, which means more money for the fundraising.

Secondary Events
It’s a charity event, so there is something going on for people to get involved with and to hold their attention for an afternoon. But not everyone can take part, so those who are mere spectators will need something else to keep them amused, especially if it rains. In previous years, along with the main event, there was face-painting for children, arts and crafts for sale, fête-style stalls with games to play, all manned by people donating their time and everything went towards the fundraising  total. The same didn’t happen this year, so when kids started to get fidgety or audience attention spans shortened, people started to drift away. It would be useful to have something diverting next year, and perhaps charge anyone setting up a stall a fee so it would be worth everyone’s while to make the day a success.

Money Out of Wallets
In addition to the secondary events, there is food and drink for sale (at very reasonable prices). Now, not all food will be to everyone’s taste, so in the past we turned a blind eye to the mother with the finicky children who brought her own sandwiches, or the gent in the Panama hat who turned up with his own ale because he didn’t fancy any of the stuff we were serving. But this year people were turning up with crates and hampers. That simply won’t do. Either we sell food and drink that people can buy, or they can fend for themselves. One idea might be to sell tickets for entry which would then include food and drink, or if we do find people at the gate bringing in enough of their own to start a rival catering operation, that could be subject to a surcharge. Harsh, but fair. We are not the entertainment for the family picnic.

We do get quite a bit of help from local businesses, with most willing to donate a prize for the raffle that is held at the end of the day.In return, we give them ad space in the (heavily discounted by our community-minded printer) programme, which is also sold at the event. It’s good for us, as otherwise we’d have to shell out for the prizes ourselves, and it also helps to publicise the event in advance if the sponsors display our publicity material in their premises. For them, they get to polish their charitable credentials, while also getting a marketing boost that is far more targeted than a city-wide campaign. And for those who turn up to the event itself, it’s a good day out where they can talk to potential customers without having to give the hard sell.

This is “the draw,” the one element of the event that increases the likelihood of people turning up and staying until the end of the day: a celebrity. It doesn’t have to be an A-lister (I dread to think what they charge for public appearances), there are plenty of people around who would probably be willing to spend a couple of hours meeting and greeting their public if it was going to benefit a charity. Stars need good PR too! It could be a media personality, a local boy or girl made good, an athlete from one of the local teams, anyone really, as long as they generated some interest. Always a good idea to see if the charity you are fundraising for has any celebrity patrons who might be willing to drop in; they are more likely to turn up with the cause is one they care about. Luckily for us, we have our celebrity locked in for next year, autographed raffle prizes and all.

It’s one thing to market a must-attend event, but charity dos do tend to have a Cinderella air about them if they are not the celebrity galas that I can never get my head around. For the particular event I’m helping with, bad weather and a lacklustre effort on the publicity front let us down this year. That, and lower bar takings. Next year though, with a little bit of forward planning and some imagination, we should be able to raise significantly more money. I just hope it’s sunny next July.

[Image by Rain Rabbit]


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