Simon Albert: Challenging events are getting more challenging

Simon Albert, of Charity Challenge, looks at ways to ensure your charity challenges are a success

Simon Albert, managing director, Charity Challenge
Simon Albert, managing director, Charity Challenge

Times are changing fast. Charities are being hit hard by the recession and expected sources of income might not materialise. Raising funds now requires more thought, innovation and strategy.

There's a Chinese proverb that says: "Only a fool would do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result."

For almost a decade, charities have been organising annual treks or bike rides to promote to their supporters. They have focused all their marketing efforts on one exclusive challenge, in one country, at one time of year. Ten years ago, charities were recruiting hundreds of supporters this way and raising significant sums of money. But recruiting new supporters in this way has gradually become more of a challenge.

The increased frequency and popularity of such events has led people to expect more choice and flexibility. Participants want to decide exactly what they will do, how they will raise funds, how tough it will be, when they'll go and for how long. By offering just one fixed challenge, many charities have been slow to move with the times and are subsequently losing out. And it will get even tougher over the next 12 to 18 months.

So what should charities do to ensure they meet their budgets for challenge events? The answer is to think, plan and target supporters separately. Each one is different, with different needs. Do all major donors think alike? Are all corporates going to respond to the same call to action? Obviously, the answer is no. Charities need to stop doing things just because that's the way they have always been done in the past.

They have to take a step back, look at what resources they have and explore what might appeal to each target audience. A more focused approach is likely to generate better results and greater income.

Another common problem is that fundraisers - normally community fundraisers - are blocking the involvement of corporates, major donors and celebrities in such events because the money raised through such channels will not be reflected in their own budgets. The same often applies to regional fundraisers: because they won't see any of the funds raised in their own budgets, they don't get engaged. It doesn't make sense: corporates and major donors are the income sources that are least likely to be affected by the economic downturn, so charities should be doing everything they can to target them.

If, as a fundraising manager, you don't credit the people who recruit challenge supporters with the funds they raise, how can you expect them to be motivated? And if you are not targeting the audiences that could be increasing your challenge income significantly, shouldn't you review your strategy?

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