How do you run a successful supporter event?

13 April 2015

Hi Amanda, tell us a little about your role.

I moved internally to join the new Legacy Fundraising team at World Vision two months ago. I’m mainly responsible for running our events and the Remember A Charity Week campaign.

What was the incentive for your event?

Before I moved, word had already got out that something interesting was afoot. Justin Byworth, our CEO, who had worked with the organisation for 26 years, stepped down at the end of 2014.

Our Head of Specialist Giving, Mary Smith, felt this was an opportunity not to be missed and suggested to our Legacy Fundraising Manager, Sam Hall, that we should do something special to say farewell to Justin and thank and honour our most loyal supporters.

How long did it take to plan?

In a very short space of time, around 6 weeks, Sam had pulled together some artwork, hired a room at St Paul’s Cathedral and working closely with our data manager, Fiona East, had identified 1000 of our most loyal child sponsors to invite to a celebration tea with optional tour of the cathedral.

Was this the first event of its kind?

Yes, we had never really done anything like this before, and although Sam had a good idea of industry norms, we still had also no real idea of response.

What was the response from your supporters?

They loved it, we loved it, it was a real win-win.

The atmosphere was great, the food was just right. This was hard to achieve to ensure supporters did not feel we were wasting money, but still enjoyed the experience.

We especially noticed how our supporters loved comparing notes and talking about their own sponsored children. Some of our dear supporters even brought scrap books with the letters and photos they had received from their children over the years.

Why do you think the celebration tea was such a success?

There have been lots of reasons for the unprecedented response; first that our supporters had never been asked to something like this before, second the departure of our much loved CEO, Justin, and finally the loyalty of our amazing sponsors.

It truly was a celebration, for Justin and for our supporters. It was lovely to be able to thank them in person for their remarkable support. We are still reading the letters they have written in response after the event.

‘ A huge thank you all for organising such a memorable time…may World Vision’s work go from strength to strength’

‘This was a good opportunity for me to see the faces behind the names.’

‘I really did appreciate the personal and human way everything was presented’.

Were there any challenges you had to overcome?

When you have any new initiative the key thing is to get buy in from those organising internal systems. While we could run the first event on good will after a thorough learning review, subsequent events had to be scheduled on our public engagement calendar.

We have also made minor improvements to systems allowing us to more effectively manage the numbers of supporters attending. This has all been done with a keen eye to ensure we are not reducing the quality of our interactions with supporters.

Do you have any plans for future events?

Well, all I can say is that one event has turned into six and our supporters have loved meeting each other and hearing the legacy message for the first time.

I am in the midst of organising events with the daughter of our founder, Bob Pierce and this has proved popular in regional centres, so we are exploring the feasibility of rolling this out more widely in future.

Are you pleased with how the event went?

I definitely feel the event was a success. Not surprisingly, the first task in my new role has been to write thank you cards by hand to all our supporters who attended.

Despite hand ache there is a deep satisfaction in this sort of work, meeting such committed people and simply saying ‘thank you’.

Find out more about World Vision UK.

Amanda Marshall, legacy marketing officer at World Vision UK