Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
05
Sep 14

Charity Events Management & Free Stuff

We work with a few charities in here and we're approached very regularly by charities looking for us to support them for free in a variety of ways. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't.

Let's be clear

My mother runs a charity and has done for the vast majority of my life. It's a charity for people with the same condition my sister has. 

I am very sympathetic to charities, their funding requirements and the passion with which people support their chosen / preferred charities. 

This post isn't designed to have a go at charities and put them off asking for free support. It is to hopefully help both sides understand the other a bit better. 

Our work with charities

Currently we have 2 large national charities as clients. We're also speaking with another one at the minute about doing some events for them. 

We working with Pieta House on their Darkness Into Light event in Malahide Castle last May. We've also done some work last year and this year with the Irish Cancer Society on their Colour Dash events

Neither of the two we currently work with feature in the top half of our billings. We don't make a fortune off either off them. 

We do, however, charge them for what we do for them - mostly. 

For instance - if the work we are doing for them is Event ManagementEvent SafetyEvent Production type work, then there's a cost for our time and expertise etc. Not everyone can perform those functions. Not everyone is insured properly to perform those functions. If we're working for free for someone, then that's time we can't spend working for a different client whom we're charging. 

So we generally charge charities for that type of work. 

Now, with that said, we've also sourced / provided a variety of staff, equipment and services for charities for free.

We've incurred costs ourselves to do this. We've called in favours to do this. We've made commitments to do this. 

We do it for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • They were clients and we like to do whatever we can for clients to help them out.
  • They're nice people.
  • They didn't have an attitude of being entitled to free stuff simply because they're a charity. 
  • We're nice people.

It's generally pretty simple - we're nice so if nice people ask for things we try to help out if we can. 

The real world

The reality is that any company (be they an event management company or otherwise), which chooses to support your charity by giving your free stuff is doing the following:

  • Giving you time that they could otherwise be charging someone else for.
  • Giving you equipment they could be otherwise hiring / selling to someone else.
  • Likely choosing to support your charity over others that may have already asked or may ask in the future.
  • Calling in favours from clients / suppliers to get you something. This has a clear opportunity cost for the company. 
  • Evaluating your approach against similar approaches from other charities.

Consider the following

If you're a charity and you're approaching companies looking for them to support you, then, along with the points above, maybe consider the following:

  • Maybe they're a small company and can't afford to give their time, equipment of expertise for free to ANYONE.
  • Maybe they have an established relationship with a different charity and so focus their efforts there.
  • Maybe they have personal involvements with other charities close to their hearts.
  • Maybe they are currently flat out and can't take on anything more, be it paid or otherwise.
  • Maybe they've dealt with representatives from your charity before and have decided not to work with you anymore. I know this to be the case in 3 separate incidences. 
  • Consider the tone and manner of your approach. You're not entitled to support, be it free or otherwise. You need to ask nicely and hope you receive a positive response. 

You're asking for a lot, in fairness. 

Frustration

This process can be frustrating for both parties. 

We've had conversations with people from charities who approach this in a certain way and are suffering because of the way OTHER charities approach it. 

With charities being 'big business' now, a lot are beginning to realise that looking for free support is a sales function. You need to sell me on why we should support you for free.

If you're successful in that then my decision is solely around can I help and what can I do to help. 

Priorities

We run events for a living. We understand where a limited budget is best spent. We are approached so many times by charities who are happy to spend money on X, Y and Z but want us to sort them out with a PA, or an Event Management Plan or staff or gazebos for their registrations area for free. 

Consider the following:

  • Without a PA with which to communicate with your attendees, you're in trouble. It's vital.
  • Without an Event Management Plan, prepared by people who are experienced, qualified and insured to do them and stand behind them in court, your event may not get permission to go ahead. It's vital. 
  • Without proper staff who understand events and how they woe land how people move and behave etc. your event will not run as well as it should and may be unsafe. Proper event staff are vital. 
  • This is Ireland. It will rain. Gazebos so that your registration area / collection area is covered is important. 

Often there's thousands spent on branding and water to hand out for free and getting a radio station to do an OB etc. which are all lovely things but the things INTEGRAL to your event actually happening are overlooked and left to someone to source for free. 

It's frustrating being expected to provide these things for free. 

The bottom line

Just because a company may turn down your request for them to give you free stuff, does not mean they see no value in your charity.

It does not mean they don't care.

It does not mean they're bad people. 

Not necessarily. 

It COULD mean any of those and more. It could also mean none of those. 

We're inundated with these types of requests and I can only imagine other companies are also. 

I would suggest you consider your approach looking for free support as a sales task. You need to convince me why I should support you. You need to be nice about doing it and you need to be gracious in victory or defeat. 

We enjoy working with and helping charities. That may be just us. 

That said, there's only so much we can do.

 
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