Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Three mountains to climb for the Duke

Helen Barrett

The charity raised more than £140,000 from its Three Peaks event, which challenged 40 corporate teams to complete the three climbs in the shortest time. The event reflected the activities that young people working towards the award take part in.


The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is a registered charity that was established in 1956 to provide young people with a programme of personal development. More than five million young people have completed the award and today almost 7 per cent of 14 to 17-year-olds in the UK are working towards it. The charity's 50th Anniversary Jubilee Fund has been set up to secure its future and to extend its reach.

The charity aims to raise £10m by 2009.

The Three Peaks event is part of the fundraising efforts. Businesses were invited to enter staff teams to take part in the challenge, which involves scaling Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours without sleep. Each team was asked to raise £5,000 in sponsorship.

How it worked

The challenge was held in May because it was early enough in the year to avoid the busy climbing months of June and July, and weather and mountain conditions are favourable. The charity also wanted to hold the event in the first half of the year to raise the profile of the anniversary.

Teams were recruited by asking supporters and the charity's wider network to promote the event within their companies. The charity also cold-called organisations and sent promotional material to those that were interested.

It targeted companies because it hoped their teams would be the most successful at reaching - and exceeding - the £5,000 target, and because it wanted to hold an event that mirrored the challenges young people face when they complete the award.

Forty teams entered the challenge, including gas company BOC and internet search engine Google.


The challenge raised £140,000. With Gift Aid, this total is expected to rise to more than £150,000. The cash will go to the charity's general Jubilee Fund.

To reduce the negative impact on the environment, 2 per cent will be donated to footpath maintenance and conservation projects in the climb areas.

Phil Trevelen, project manager of the charity's 50th anniversary, said: "We felt the event reflected the spirit of the award. The challenge was a personal one for all those involved."


Many charities currently focus on encouraging mass audiences to feel closer to campaigns by offering an invitation to join in. The Jubilee Fund Three Peaks Challenge, with its drenched cagoules and blistered heels, certainly offers participation, but in a different way.

An impressive number of teenagers take part in the scheme, yet the concept has a whiff of Olde Englande middle classness about it - the image it conjures up is one of respectable teenagers getting something 'meaningful' onto their CVs. The institution recognises the challenge it faces in broadening its appeal, but this was a fundraising campaign, so changing these perceptions was not key.

Targeting businesses is an effective method of talking to deep-pocketed donors. Managers inevitably pounce on the synergy between climbing mountains and meeting business challenges head on. Posters on work noticeboards and the 'member get member' approach are both cost-effective - but they are easy to ignore amid general information and 'sponsor-me' requests.

It could all have appeared dull without a particularly motivational leader.

In this time of donor fatigue, raising the required sponsorship would have been as tough as the haul up the Three Peaks.

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