London Marathon. Tough Mudder. Three Peaks. So many fundraising events involve a high degree of physical fitness. While these are hugely popular, they can exclude a lot of people from participating.
Disabilities affect 14.1 million people in the UK, across all age groups, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. Around half of those have mobility challenges.
Having a disability should not stop someone from supporting their favourite charity – whether it relates to their disability or something else.
But without careful planning, even a bake sale or Zoom quiz can be inaccessible for people with disabilities. So how can we make sure that our fundraisers are accessible to all?
Physical challenge events
If you’re planning a challenge event, think about how to adapt it adapted for different abilities. As you might expect, disability charity Scope is one organisation doing this really well. Their Make It Count event invited fundraisers to design their own physical challenge, with targets set in minutes, not miles.
Meanwhile, their Parallel Windsor Virtual event invited participants to “run, walk, push or be pushed” for their chosen distance. This approach acknowledges that while some people might choose to run 100 miles, for someone else walking 100 steps is a huge achievement.
Of course, the ultimate recent example of this is Captain Sir Tom Moore. He raised money for the NHS to mark his 100th birthday, by completing 100 laps of his garden with his rollator. In the process he captured the hearts of the nation and raised an astonishing £32.8 million.
The beauty of these types of fundraisers is they can take place on the volunteer’s own terms and in their own time. All the charity needs to do is promote and organise the event in an inclusive way. In your comms, show people that their contribution matters, no matter how big or small. Simply offer the inspiration and resources people need to participate.
Remember that not everyone is comfortable with technology, so don’t exclude people by making everything online. Instead of setting up a fundraising page, can people collect sponsorship with a printed form? Is there a number to call to request a branded t-shirt, as well as an online form?
A challenge about something other than physical achievement can widen participation even further. In spring 2021, the “Captain Tom 100” captured the spirit of his accessible approach to fundraising. Numerous charities encouraged participation and physical activity wasn’t a requirement.
Fundraisers of all ages and abilities were encouraged to take on a challenge based on the number 100. Ideas included walking 100 steps, picking up 100 pieces of litter, drawing 100 doodles, or baking 100 cakes.
BBC Children in Need listed 100 ideas on the theme, which makes a great starting point. Be creative and link the challenge in with your charity. And you could adapt it into a team event too, to take people with different abilities into account.
Hosting in-person fundraising events
Of course, not everyone wants to take on a challenge, but they can support charities in other ways. Fundraising events from charity auctions to summer fêtes have always been a popular way to raise money, have fun, and engage with supporters.
With COVID-19 restrictions more relaxed now, these will hopefully make a comeback throughout 2022. But to make these events inclusive, consider physical accessibility as well as other forms of disability.
Take this into account when choosing where to hold your event and talk to the venue’s event team to understand what they can offer. This events disability and access checklist from Creative Lives offers a wealth of tips on everything you should consider when planning an event.
A ‘perfect’ event that’s accessible for everyone probably doesn’t exist. For example, lower lighting might make your event more comfortable for people with autism but make things difficult for people who are partially sighted or need to lip-read. But we all have a responsibility to do our best and make everyone feel welcome where we can.
Communication will be key:
- Ask: If you’re taking advance registrations for your event, ask up front about accessibility requirements. Rather than make assumptions, let people tell you in their own words what they need. Then do your best to accommodate them and be honest and apologetic if it’s something beyond your control
- Tell: Make it clear if there are steps at your venue, or other obstacles you can’t control. Be upfront so that people can make an informed decision about attending. Including this information in your publicity materials should be as natural as sharing public transport and parking details
The charity sector was forced to innovate during the pandemic. This resulted in lots of brilliant virtual alternatives to in-person events. These allowed some people to take part for the first time, either because of their location or other factors. With tools like Otter.ai for live captioning, we can make digital events accessible and keep remote audiences engaged with good causes.
So, while most of us can now meet in person again, don’t say goodbye to virtual events. Some people are still vulnerable to Covid and will prefer to access your events in this way. Others simply don’t have the time or inclination to travel.
Having reached these broader audiences during the lockdowns, let’s keep them feeling included by maintaining a ‘hybrid’ approach.