8 Leading Fundraisers Reveal Their Plans to Increase Event Attendance in 2016

Increase Event Attendance

With more than 200,000 registered charities across the UK all vying for support, securing attendees for your fundraising events can be a challenge.

In conjunction with our survey looking at what motivates people to attend charity events, we’ve also reached out to a selection of successful fundraisers to find out their strategy for boosting attendee numbers – and donations – this year.

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David_Graham Increase Event AttendanceDavid Graham, Head of Community and Events Fundraising, Action Medical Research for Children

“We run a massive range of fundraising events, from bike rides and overnight walks to big gala dinners. Because customers are blessed with a huge amount of choice, it can be a struggle for every operator to maintain a level of visibility so every year we try to find new ways to encourage participants, particularly for our big sporting events.

“We are lucky enough to have Davina McCall as a supporter so we enlist her help each year to promote her Big Sussex Bike Ride, which she recently mentioned on Loose Women!

“To boost numbers at our other cycling events we are targeting new markets, like encouraging more women to take part in our cycling events, and we have created offers to encourage past participants to join us again. We’ve also launched direct corporate recruitment and engagement to get more teams on board.

“We’re improving the content of the events themselves, whether it’s a new route or a new venue, and we’re looking for other new additions where we can.”

Chris-Bray resized Increase Event AttendanceChris Bray, Head of Marketing and Income Generation at Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw, Cumbria’s Children’s Hospice

“In 2016 the hospice is producing a wide variety of events aimed at different types of supporters. We have a Colour Run, aimed at all of the family, Bad Hair Day, which school children especially like to be involved with and, at the other end of the spectrum, our Garden of Memories gathering, which traditionally attracts an older audience.

“We launched a new website at the end of last year and it gives a much smoother and slicker registration process. Our bounce rates have dropped significantly and people are engaging more with us, as they can easily access the site from a smartphone or tablet.

“Something not many hospices sites are good at is social media. We use Twitter and Facebook more effectively and have increasingly seen supporters help promote our events for us to their networks. This makes a huge difference to the number of sign ups. We are looking to make better use of LinkedIn and growing our supporter base and promoting activities to business and commercial audiences.

“We also regularly engage with local community groups, going out and giving talks in schools and in offices as well as using our shops to promote our events and our army of 400 wonderful volunteers to help shout about what we are doing and getting more people on board.

“The hospice is 25 this year, so we are celebrating the event with a Guinness World Record attempt… 7,500 pompoms to be made by October – everyone can make a pompom, you just need a ball of wool and some card. It is helping to raise our profile, with local radio stations getting involved to help with the challenge and it is something ‘real’ – you can’t make one on a computer!”

katie mosses Increase Event AttendanceKatie Mosses, Fundraising and Marketing Manager, LEAF (Leukaemia Educating and Fundraising)

“We are really lucky to have a great bunch of dedicated donors and fundraisers, but we need to ensure that we are reaching a new audience, as well as continuing to engage our existing supporters, in order for our small charity to grow.

“2016 marks our 10th anniversary and we know this is a good hook to engage our supporters. This year, we will continue to organise events that have a proven track record of success for us, and we will be implementing a number of new events to help us mark our 10th anniversary celebrations. We know that our supporters, both old and new, will want to be a part of marking this special year, and we anticipate that local media outlets will be more interested in reporting on this newsworthy year.

“Social media is a key tool in our plans to reach new supporters and increase attendance at our fundraising events. We will be taking part in Twitter chats, regularly communicating with and thanking our supporters, ensuring that we are on top of trends and making sure we participate in awareness months, such as Blood Cancer Awareness Month – this will increase our reach and help us in our aim of securing new support during 2016.”

sally burton graham Increase Event AttendanceSally Burton-Graham, Director of Fundraising, Worldwide Cancer Research

“Our next big event is an concert at Australia House in London in April. One of our Ambassadors is Deborah Humble, a famous opera singer and she will be performing. The plan is to make maximum use of our emailing tool, Campaign Monitor, as well as our social networks.

“This worked quite well for the first event we ran with Eventbrite, so for the next one we will be running some advertising on Facebook aimed at a geographical audience around the venue and also by creating an audience of people whose interests mesh with the type of event we are putting on. It’s a great way to target the type of people who would be interested in coming along.

“We will be targeting opera lovers in the London area, Australians, people who run businesses which operate in Australia, people who like certain Facebook pages relating to opera and opera singers. We will apply the same logic across the board for all our fundraising events.”

camilla james Increase Event AttendanceCamilla James, Communications and Marketing Manger, NACUE (The National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs)

“As an organisation that works on a grass roots level with student entrepreneurs, we’re focusing on growing event attendance by creating events with irresistible content at an affordable price. We source high profile, inspirational speakers, facilitate networking opportunities and find interesting venues to complement the content. We listen to feedback from our community and use this to improve each year.

“From our research, we know that a lot of them are keen to start their own businesses so we bring in entrepreneurs to speak about their journey. We also give them the opportunity to hear from large tech startups such as Microsoft and Google because we know those companies are invested in helping young people launch businesses.

“This year we are running our usual calendar of events, starting with the Student Enterprise Conference 2016 on February 20-21 at UCL. In it’s seventh year, it brings over 600 students from across the UK for a weekend of inspirational talks, practical workshops and networking. It is important to us that delegates leave feeling energised and inspired to take on their ventures – that’s the best feedback for us.

“We had an email recently from a graduate who attended the conference in Liverpool last year. She said that the event inspired her to quit her job and launch her own modest fashion business – it’s now thriving. For us, that is a sign we’re doing a good job.

“We also always ask attendees to undertake post event surveys, with prizes on offer to encourage compliance. We often have paper versions and digital versions and collate the information together. We had some feedback about the pricing and content of our Leaders Summit event last year, so this year we are shaking things up and doing things differently. We’re making the tickets cheaper and we’re turning it into a pitching style event, where the students get to present their achievements for awards and prizes. We want our events to be as accessible and useful as possible to fulfil our charitable mission.

“We work with corporate partners such as Tata, Microsoft and BVCA to make these events possible. These companies provide more than just money; they take an active role in the events and enjoy the opportunity to work with our community.”

heather smith Increase Event AttendanceHeather Smith, Events & Fundraising Manager, Harrison’s Fund

 “At Harrison’s Fund we really focus on giving our supporters a personal touch through our marketing. We are a team of three and our fundraisers and event attendees often comment on how quick we are to respond which is something we are proud of.

“We tend to use social media, e-newsletters and good old-fashioned emails to recruit event participants. We have found Facebook ads to be a very successful and cost effective way to engage new potential fundraisers and this year have secured an additional six runners for our Surrey Half Marathon team as a direct result of one advert.

“We find that many of our guests and participants are repeat ‘customers’ and we regularly pick up the phone or write emails to key individuals to help us spread the word.

“We have a committee for our gala ball who last year helped grow attendance by 50 guests which was fantastic and helped to achieve almost double our income from the previous year. Our guests and supporters know how passionate we are about finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and they are showing their commitment to helping us in any way they can.”

jamie veitch Increase Event AttendanceJamie Veitch, Fundraising Consultant, Rotherham Hospice

“Rotherham Hospice started a series of business breakfast events halfway through 2015. This year – thanks to the popularity of the three events we ran in 2015 – we’ll be running at least six. They are free for businesses to attend but they help us to develop great new relationships with potential corporate supporters and cement existing relationships.

“We’ll be boosting attendance with a mixture of targeted PR, profiles of the fantastic speakers we attract, LinkedIn and Facebook marketing (including paid posts), ongoing relationship development phone calls, and referrals.

“We’re thrilled that the events have taken off so far and are really looking forward to our next one, at world-renowned steel business Outokumpu on Thursday February 25, which is already live on Eventbrite.”

gary kernahan Increase Event AttendanceGary Kernahan, Head of Regional Development, Muscular Dystrophy UK

“The changes in communication preferences present an interesting challenge for increasing attendance at fundraising events. Traditional methods to make your target audience aware of your event are in decline as highlighted by the falling circulation of newspapers.

“Digitally new opportunities are presenting themselves but to maximise these we need to grow our understanding of the audience. Who are the people who will be attending your event? What are they interested in? How did they find out about your events? These are just three key questions; the answers to which will present insights that will help you place adverts or editorials in the right places. It will also help you create digital communications that your target audience will want to interact with and will be engaging enough for them to share with their own networks.”

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belbooker@gmail.com'

Bel Booker

Bel is an experienced journalist specialising in events. Formerly deputy editor at leading trade magazine Meetings & Incentive Travel and its website meetpie.com, she now writes for a range of publications on a freelance basis.

Interested in contributing to a future article on the Eventbrite blog? Connect with Bel on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/belinda-booker-a6a697a or Twitter: @BelBooker