Pros and cons of distanced events

With large gatherings not possible, Helen Alderson weighs up the pros and cons of alternative events

Individual challenges

A great place to start if you have a good base of willing supporters. The beauty of these challenges is that they are personal to the individual. Suggest a few ideas and then let people get creative!


  • Anyone can take part: This is unique in the events space. You’re not governed by cost, difficulty levels or accessibility restrictions.
  • Maximum flexibility: Think of the recent 2.6 Challenge set up by the London Marathon organisers – some people ran 26 marathons while some ran 2.6 miles. Develop a loose theme and let supporters come up with their own personal challenge.
  • Sponsors will be more invested: Think Sir Tom. For most people, 100 lengths of their back garden isn’t a big deal. But because Tom chose something that was challenging to him as an individual, people were more invested. Helping participants develop a genuine challenge will get the best results.
  • Get incredible case studies: We need some good news and your event can be exactly that. Ask the school to put details in the school newsletter (with a call to action to get more people involved).
    Little or no cost and volunteer time: No stallholders or endless planning meetings.


  • Less likely to have mass appeal: But there’s potential for the people who do take part to raise more.
  • Can be difficult to promote: The challenge may not capture the imagination of all your supporters. Speak to those who are really warm to the PTA already – ask them to be your event ambassadors so you can publicise what they’re doing.

Group challenges

These can be completed individually and documented using technology. Hold a sponsored readathon for children or whip up a sporting competition among the dads.


  • Minimal event costs: Aside from any marketing or technology costs, the outlay is extremely low.
  • Unlimited capacity: You would need to consider health and safety limits for a normal event, but the sky’s the limit for digital.
  • A sense of community: By setting up a mass participation event you are bringing people together, even when they’re apart.
    Potential for a good return on investment: Spread the word and get your marketing right and things will snowball.


  • Risk of being ‘drowned out’: Take time to plan and promote your event. Boost posts on social media to connect with people outside your community.
  • Not everybody who signs up will take part: Email each supporter who signs up to thank them. Show a personal touch and people are less likely to drop out.

Third-party challenge events

While it could be some time before big events are back, challenge events such as abseils and zip wires, where social distancing can be implemented, may start sooner.


  • Reduced responsibility: The third party will look after all the practical aspects, so you can focus on building relationships.
  • Low financial risk: By choosing your supplier wisely and setting reasonable sponsorship targets, you will almost guarantee a strong return on investment.
  • Reach new supporters: There are people out there who just love a challenge, whatever the cause!


  • Little control over location: It’s pretty unlikely that a zip wire will be available just outside your school, so some travel may be involved.

Virtual Events

Think virtual Come Dine With Me, wine tastings or coffee mornings – the opportunities are endless!


  • Accessibility: Most people have worked out how to video chat over the past few months, making virtual events more accessible now.
  • Familiar concept: While the virtual spin is slightly different, little instruction is needed and everyone can hit the ground running.
  • Increased donations: When making online donations, people are likely to give more.

Top tips

  • Make supporter-led decisions: Work closely with the school and parents to come up with events that you know everyone will support.
  • Plan thoroughly: Take time to work out what you want to achieve, how you will achieve it, and what you need to put into place in order to do so.
  • Have a clear policy on Covid-19: Explain what will happen if your event is postponed or cancelled and how you will ensure participants’ safety.
  • Communicate with your supporters: They’re the most important people. Make decisions with them, engage them and build their excitement.

Helen Alderson is a freelance fundraising consultant and works with a number of charities, including North Tyneside Learning Trust, to increase their income generation. Get in touch on to discuss how she can add value to your fundraising.

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