We put a large amount of work into pre-planning our event. This really helped even though we thought that we overdid many aspects of it. It allowed us to have much more confidence when the event was happening and gave us more mental space to deal with unanticipated problems as they came up.
Cost effective events work
When we were considering many different event options, we were drawn to a walk partially due to its low cost (no need to rent space or food). Even though it was low cost, it worked at least as well as many high cost events that we were considering. The full cost of the event was under $250, and the time cost was about a month and a half, which is very low as far as events go.
Pick something that fits your demographic
We considered many different levels of walks, runs, jogs and many other physical activities. We chose a walk because our demographic was more of a walking crowd than a running one.
Many people enjoyed the dressing up as mad scientist element, even those who did not dress up themselves. It added some fun and was very eye catching as we were walking. It also made the event stand out in people's minds.
Direct and peer-to-peer donations
The walk was designed as a peer-to-peer event, but it also allowed people to donate directly to each other and to their own pages, so overall it ended up working great for both. We plan on doing events in the future that include a peer-to-peer element but also encourage direct donations.
Give prizes but make them surprises
We gave some prizes to our top fundraisers but we did not mention their existence until we handed them out. Many people commented that they liked the surprise element, and that it made the prize feel more special. Also worth noting, we excluded board members and staff from being able to win a prize and gave them personalized prizes after the event.
We tried to make everything as clear as possible. For example, we put up a map and directions the the meeting location, and put details of the time and location on Facebook, the website and the donations page, as well as emailing people the details. But even then we got many questions about this information. Some of this is inevitable no matter how clear you make things but we also think we could have improved some of this by picking a more well known starting location.
One person set up to lead on “damage control”
In the future we plan on having at least on full time staff just for “damage control”, such as helping a person who cannot find the meeting place. As we did not have that, there was always some ambiguity about who would work on each issue.
Plan some more events and volunteering around the event
Many people who came to the event asked what was coming up next and if we had volunteer opportunities. In the future we plan on having volunteering days right before the event (as it would have been very handy to have some volunteers then) and right after the event, as many people wanted to help out after having a good time at the event.
When giving volunteers roles we should make sure people have actively committed to volunteer roles and then make sure we give them a shout a week before the event to make sure they remember and are still interested.
We also could have used volunteers whose goal it is to make people who don’t know anybody feel comfortable, make introductions, etc. We also ideally would have the next large event (e.g. a Christmas event) planned by the time that the walk happens, so that we can talk about it while everyone is around.
Some other lessons that we learned:
- Showing the match on people’s fundraising pages instead of simply telling them about the match really helped (see more details here)
- Most of the donations came in during the last week.
- The signs we carried were great but we needed even more of them. We had three for 25 people.
- The whole event took about a month and a half of time to organize, spread out over several months. We would recommend giving people running similar events at the very least two months to prepare.
- We did not have a strong sense of how many people would show up until they showed up on the day. A lot of people signed up but did not come, and a lot of people came without first signing up.
- The most popular updates on Facebook were when we hit any fundraising milestones. These did substantially better than stories.
- It takes longer than expected to make signs due to the need to find the necessary equipment and then actually make them. Give yourself at least 3 days.
- Many people were intimidated by the online medium. Make an offline medium for them.
- If people say that they’ll sign up in person, there's still a huge drop off rate for actually signing up, even if you send them reminders. While organising the walk we learned a lot about both running events and how to improve them in the future. Overall the walk went very well. We wrote up this quick post so that others running similar events could learn from it as well.