Predicting the future for events fundraising

Last week I experienced a couple of IT challenges which I was unable to sort out. I’m not technologically minded (although am being forced to get better!) … it just makes me clam up. I’d be the person to go and annoy the IT department at work when I’d forgotten my password and been locked out of my PC for the 15th time…. Sorry IT guys. The first thing that went wrong, I was on a presentation I was giving to 24 event fundraisers which was a big deal for me, first in a series that I’m doing and the first time I had virtually presented. But when I went to put the attendees into the break out rooms for small group working I couldn’t find the button to press to do it. After a bit of faffing and being really aware of 24 pairs of eyes on me, I quickly tweaked the presentation to allow for my oversight and we did the exercise as one big group with some group discussion after. The second thing that went wrong, after announcing my Monday morning Facebook Live several times in my group and being all prepped and ready to go at 9am, the camera wouldn’t work on my desktop computer or laptop. So at 9.15am after some swearing, a lot of logging in and out and trying various web browsers and updates and acutely aware I was running quarter of an hour late, I decided to present to my mobile phone instead in a flustered red cheeked state. It wasn’t perfect but I got it done.

Why am I telling you this? Well, we have all had to overcome challenges these past few weeks. Everyday routines pre Coronavirus are now barely undertaken and new tasks, we never in a million years would have done pre lock-down, are now part of our ‘normal’ routine such as fixing Zoom. I wonder how many of you had even heard of Zoom pre Covid? I hadn't!

As event fundraisers we are used to changing our plans. We risk assess and implement back up plans and worst-case scenarios on a weekly basis when we organise our events. Now virtual events are becoming part of our new normal as is being beamed into our colleague’s living rooms meeting their kids and pets. What does this all mean to our events now and in the future? This lock down won’t last forever even if it currently feels like it will. We will come through the other side. And what might we be doing differently as a result? Maybe we will take new risks comforted by the fact that we are all experiencing this together; safety in numbers. We might feel braver to pilot ideas and test activities more frequently as the options available to us are fewer and far between. I don’t have a crystal ball, and sadly can’t tell you when we will be holding our gala’s and be welcoming our runners into post race receptions again, but here are some predictions based on what I'm hearing, reading and seeing and some gut instinct after two decades in the game:

1. Virtual events are here to stay, they’ll get bigger and more slick. You’ll see the big organisers of the Marathon and Great Runs look to new ways to encourage participation & accessibility such as the 2.6 challenge. Live streaming of events will accompany any physical event. We’ve all got so used to watching and taking part through our computers I think consumers will expect this going forward. 2.6 Challenge will no doubt be an annual event alongside the Marathon and concerts and dinners will have a live stream element to allow for greater accessibility, and a further reach.

2. Supporter led events or DIY events will increase in volume and sophistication, charities that can quickly and digitally support these participants in doing their own thing rather than being fixed on pushing their own activities will benefit.

3. Overseas challenges will further decline. Travel is going to look very different going forward. I can’t see many charities investing heavily in these for the next couple of years. And who knows what the long term future of these events are? Their environmental impact has long been a topic of debate. I’d be looking much closer to home for my challenge events when they can be resumed.

4. Running and cycling and other exercise that has kept people physically and mentally fit and healthy during lock-down will continue to grow in popularity but I’d be surprised if we see any of the big 3rd party events emerge pre Spring 2021 and even then expect them to look really different to pre Coronavirus. This is where I can see smaller local events such as Park Runs, local walks, runs and cycles becoming more popular as organisers can better control the logistics and participation. Voluntary led innovative activities like The Goodgym and Borrow my doggy should be closely watched. My instincts tell me more people will want to help out in their local areas going forward and charities that can offer those types of opportunities will be rewarded.

5. And not an area I know anything about but my old boss Catherine Miles spoke recently about it in one of her excellent webinars; Gaming is increasing in popularity as more people are at home looking for stuff to do. Some charities have hugely benefited from individuals taking on gaming challenges for them. War Child were one of the first charities to get into Gaming and have raised £2.5m from it and Battersea organised a Gaming challenge last year.

Short term we need to keep in touch with our supporters as we may not be physically seeing them for many months. Call them, write to them, get them on a zoom call… just keep in touch because we are going to need them more than ever when we’re through the other side of this. People want to help at a time when they feel helpless. They want to be part of the solution. Allow them to do that. Your communications need to be relevant. Show the need and what you are doing to address it.

So to recap we are all having to do things differently right now, but as event fundraisers we are resilient and used to changing our plans. 5 areas I think are worth considering and thinking about and potentially including in your plans would be 1, virtual events are here to stay, even after lock down and social distancing has eased. 2, supporter led events will increase in sophistication and volume. Events teams should be ready to support these really quickly and ensure their cause is front of mind. 3, now is not the time to invest in overseas challenges. 4, Smaller more manageable local runs, walks, cycles will grow and activities that involve a voluntary element such as Goodgym or Borrow my doggy could be worth investigating. 5, Gaming is big business. If your supporter base is in this demographic, it could be something to look into further, regardless of cause.

Till next time, keep up the awesome work you’re all doing. Keep safe and keep alert! 😊


PS I've been recording a number of short Facebook Lives on event fundraising at thist time on The Charity Event Specialists Facebook Group. You can watch them from this link regardless of whether you're on Facebook yourself.


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