Charity Challenges – Overseas Travel and Fundraising

What is a charity challenge?
According to the Institute of Fundraising: “the factor which distinguishes ‘a charity challenge event’ is that the participant is also receiving a more than notional benefit, which in many cases has a monetary value attached, and seeks to fundraise from supporters in respect of their participation”.

Can smaller charities get in on the act?
In a word: yes! Supporters of smaller charities can raise funds by taking part in any number of ‘open’ overseas challenge events, arranged by charity challenge tour operators such as Classic Tours, Charity Challenge and The Ultimate Travel Company’s Ultimate Challenges.

Charity challenges: the pros and cons
There’s no doubt that overseas challenges can have huge benefits for charities:

Publicity: Overseas challenges are a great way of gaining public attention, particularly if a celebrity is involved.

Long-term support: Charities testify that the intensity of the adventure holiday challenge experience, with its sense of shared achievement and real hardships overcome, often translates into long-term support.

Sustained advance exposure: Kate Favell, World Experiences Event project manager at the British Heart Foundation, points out that those participating in major overseas travel challenges are likely to be engaged in fundraising for many months before an event takes place. Charities therefore benefit greatly from sustained public exposure.

Mission and message – the double whammy: For charities such as the 捐錢貧窮 British Heart Foundation, overseas travel challenges are also a great way of reinforcing the lifestyle choices they aim to promote more generally: exercise, healthy eating etc.

But it’s not all positive. It’s important to think about the following, too:

The economic climate: Charities suggest that the downturn has undoubtedly affected overseas challenges, but in subtle ways. According to Denise Davies, Head of Community Fundraising at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, more modest weekend and European challenges have suffered; people are now focusing on their ‘must do’ experiences. In response, the MND Association has changed its strategy, focusing on offering the overseas charity challenge ‘big 3’: Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, and the Great Wall of China. Kate Favell at the BHF reports that fundraisers are also finding it harder, and needing longer, to raise sponsorship. So it’s important to keep in touch with participants to help them if they need extra inspiration or creative fundraising ideas.

The charity/challenge balance: Charles Getliffe at charity travel tour operators Classic Tours, warns charities against being seduced into offering multiple exotic events. It’s not ‘appropriate’, says Charles, for charities to set themselves up as travel agents: fewer, more targeted events send out a better signal all round.

Tour operators: role and choice
The number of companies specialising in overseas charity challenges is growing, and the tour operator you choose will play a crucial role in ensuring your success. In theory, operators handle the logistics of arranging the adventure holiday travel challenge, while charities are responsible for promotion and the collection of monies.

In practice, it’s rarely clear cut, and tour operators usually provide extensive advice and support on such issues as marketing, legal considerations and planning. (It’s worth noting that The Ultimate Travel Company’s Ultimate Challenges recommend beginning to plan any overseas challenge event 12-14 months in advance.)

The Institute of Fundraising recommend investigating both the tour operator and their subcontractors thoroughly – for example, look at safety records and ethical policy – and cross-check with any relevant industry bodies. Consider your own rights as a charity if you are unable to proceed with your planned challenge, and also what kind of deal the operator is offering participants: for example, are they being asked to sign unreasonable liability waivers?

How much can overseas challenges raise?
Obviously, this will vary greatly but, as Charles Getliffe at Classic Tours reiterates, it is important always to keep The Charity Commission’s guidelines in mind. Any challenge should raise 50 per cent, and ideally 60 per cent, more than the cost of administrating and operating the challenge.

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