Hot issue: Will charities continue to use overseas challenge events?

Cancer Research UK is to end its international challenge events because they are no longer cost-effective. Other charities are considering doing the same.


Siobhan Dillon, co-founder of events organiser Skyline

The market for challenge events is actually increasing. But why?

First, individuals are increasingly wanting to give something back, and they often find doing something active more satisfying than simply donating. Second, they want to escape from the normality of their lives. Third, the people who go on these challenges often do so on their own and it can be a great way of meeting new people. Finally, individuals are gradually becoming aware of the need to keep fit.

So why has Cancer Research UK stopped? I think the answer is that exclusive trips are not cost-effective when charities consider staff costs.

Advertising is becoming more expensive, so getting the message out there to ensure the minimum number of people are involved is also getting harder. Moreover, if colleagues or friends decide to go together, they are likely to go the 'open challenge' route, whereby each person can choose a particular charity.

Most charities scaled down their exclusive events years ago. Why go the exclusive route when there are no set-up costs for open challenges?


Tricia Barnett, director, Tourism Concern

Cancer Research UK's decision backs up anecdotal evidence that suggests many charities are abandoning international challenge events. Perhaps they have had their day.

Tourism Concern has long questioned the real value of charity challenges. We're not knocking charities. We struggle to find core funding ourselves and know how hard it is to fundraise.

But does the fact that charities do good work really make them good at everything? If a charity specialises in helping sick children, it doesn't mean they'll know anything about being a tour operator, which is what charities essentially become when they start running overseas challenges.

Prospective sponsors of participants might not be clear about who benefits most: the charity promoting the challenge and their beneficiaries, or the participant. With minimal transparency regarding where the money is actually going, this is hardly surprising.

The people who tend to benefit least are those who live in the destinations participants trek around or cycle through. The irony is that they probably won't see any of the cash the challenges raise.

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