How to make a fundraiser successful

How far would you go for charity? A local fundraiser down the road? A cross country run? How about halfway around the world?

Students from Trinity, NUIG, UCD and UCC raced against the clock and each other last week to get as far away from Ireland as possible for charity in Trinity’s Jailbreak. 

The Jailbreak gained nationwide media coverage, raising over €36,000 with one team making it all the way to Sydney. Last year they even featured in Time magazine.

So what is it that makes an event successful? It is hard to pin down what makes one event a success and another struggle but many successful events do have common characteristics.

In the modern world connecting and communicating with people is one of the most important challenges. One of the things Jailbreak 2014 did particularly well was their massive presence on social media with hourly updates on the participants and a live map to track the teams.

DCU’s MPS and their 24 hour Broadcast also followed the strong social media presence route, taking it further with a video that went viral. The Anchorman spoof, which the team created, gained over 30,000 views over a small number of days, as well as receiving huge media coverage.

Other events take a different route; DCU’s very own St Vincent De Paul Society runs an annual 24 hour sleepout in the middle of the campus. The event raises money and awareness of the plight of homelessness in Dublin. During their 24 hours, wrapped up and bracing the cold, you cannot help but to notice them and as hour 24 approaches, you can hear them too.

All three of these events captured the imagination of people by emphasising their points in different but interesting ways. Fundraising isn’t just about raising money, it is about getting your message out there and being noticed.

Another aspect that seems to be important for fundraising success is having a new and unique idea. Anyone who has ever fundraised has run a table quiz, gone bag packing or sold some tickets to all their friends and family. 

The reason students are so successful in fundraising is due to the time and resources that are generally available to them. A lot of work goes into each and every fundraiser, no matter the size, so it is important that events are a success.

Sandra Sims, a coach with Step-By Step Fundraising, has a great guide to fundraising in her book, The 5 Keys To Successful Fundraising. She identifies five key elements. Firstly having conviction in your cause; knowing you are fundraising for something you believe in.

The second most important thing is having the right fundraiser. There is no point in having a BBQ to raise funds for the vegetarian society. Organisation is also a key factor in having an event. People need to know what the plan is. Team work is the most important part of college events. With limited resources a dedicated team furiously working away behind the scenes can really make the difference. Sims’ final piece of advice is to take action, get out there and do it.

Just as the Jailbreak ticked all the boxes there are many fundraising events that just get it wrong. NUI Galway’s infamous RAG week is a clear example of fundraising getting out of control. Raising And Giving week in Galway was officially stopped in 2012, in response to increasing opposition from local residents, reports of anti-social behaviour and a large number of arrests by Gardaí. The university officially withdrew its support in 2009 after approximately 25 arrests were made during the Monday and Tuesday of the official RAG week. Despite the popularity of RAG week in NUIG it is estimated that in 2011 the college only raised roughly €1.29 per student in a college of 13,000 students.

Since RAG week in Galway has given the event a bad name, DCU is now having a ‘Charity Week’ instead of RAG week. The event does have success in some other colleges such as the RAG week in Sligo and Carlow IT, which successfully balances both the fundraising and fun aspects.

The main driving force that makes any event successful is not just having a good idea but being prepared to commit the hours that go into planning the event beforehand to ensure it all goes off without a hitch.

Eimear Phelan

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