How to ... Run a hiccup-free outdoor charity challenge event

Charities are finding themselves increasingly responsible for the welfare of participants and the environment during outdoor fundraising events.

The Institute of Fundraising is carrying out a legal review of the charity challenge section of its code of practice Outdoor Fundraising in the UK because of new obligations under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 that came into force on 6 April. The law means charities could be sued and, if they are found to have been negligent, could face unlimited fines (Third Sector, 9 April). The review will ensure that charities have access to advice on how to protect themselves if a participant dies during an event.

Many organisations choose to hold events and challenges in areas of natural beauty such as the UK's national parks, but charities have a responsibility to consider the environmental impact they may have. Below are some of the issues to consider when planning a successful event.

1. Choose your event wisely Plan an event that appeals to your supporters and, before selecting a location, find out what local residents are likely to support.

"There is no point holding a bike event in an area where people are not bike-friendly," says Nadja Stansall, deputy head of events at the British Heart Foundation. "It's not financially feasible and it's a wasted PR opportunity if no one is watching."

Check whether there is another charity event happening in the area. If there is, consider collaborating. "It is unethical and environmentally irresponsible to set up an outdoor event in competition with another charity," says Stansall.

2. Assess the risks and consult key stakeholders Consider what specialist knowledge is needed to organise the event. "A charity must have the expertise to undertake the challenge," says Megan Pacey, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising. "Health and safety are paramount. You have to be well prepared, and part of that means doing a risk assessment. Consider whether you need a third party to organise it for you."

Talking to landowners and local authorities to evaluate any environmental impact and assess safety is also important, according to Susan Crossley, senior events manager at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

"Before you can even think about successfully marketing an event, you have to make sure your location is safe and that the route, if applicable, can be realistically completed," she says.

3. Brief everyone thoroughly before the day Send out information packs with comprehensive details of any health and safety considerations such as appropriate clothing and hydration. Include a map of the area, marking details of accommodation, parking, refreshment, first aid and toilet facilities. Provide details of public transport to help reduce the environmental impact. "Knowing your audience and briefing participants is a huge consideration," says Beth Swarbrigg, regional events manager at Macmillan Cancer Support. "We often have participants who are affected by cancer, and having stiles or no loo for three miles can affect their ability to take part."

4. Prepare for the worst A good communication system and an emergency procedure plan should be worked out before the event. "Planning is the key," says Stansall. "Test everything in advance. Radios may be great in some places, but in the mountains you'll need mobile phones. The whole team should have clear lines of communication and must be fully briefed and practised in your charity's serious incident policy."

5. Leave the site as you found it Clearing up afterwards can be a huge operation, but it is your responsibility to ensure you leave the event site as you found it. Damage to the environment means potential damage to the reputation of the charity.

Hold a debrief meeting no more than two weeks after the event so that any issues can be resolved while they are fresh, and plans for the next event can be touched on while everyone is still enthusiastic about the success of the last one, says Crossley.

"Make sure you let your supporters and participants know how much they raised and where the money will go," she says. "You have to involve them. They didn't just turn up somewhere and put a couple of quid in the box. It's much more tangible and personal to them if we let them know what a huge difference their hard work and training has made."

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