Social distancing and fundraising adaptation

Several upcoming fundraising events in Canberra have fallen victim to the restrictions placed on public gatherings in response to COVID-19.  The charities and not-for-profits hosting these events rely heavily on the huge boost they provide to annual incomes.  Funds and awareness raised through community fun runs and other large, group activities help charities to deliver their much-needed services throughout the year.

The recent cancellations are a particularly harsh blow as they follow a very challenging summer of bushfires, smoke haze and storms leaving many charities reeling.

In Canberra, the following fundraisers have been shut down so far:

  • 22 March, The Children’s Tumour Foundation Cupids undie run.
  • 28-29 March, Canberra Cancer Council’s Relay for Life
  • 29 March, Canberra MS Walk Run + Roll.
  • 2-3 May, Canberra MS 24 Hour Mega Swim

Others are in doubt, with further announcements to be made.

However, some charities with adequate time and resources have been able innovative and extend their use of social media and online tools to create ‘virtual events’.  These virtual events are helping charities to retain a sense of community and raise funds in a world where people are required to stay 1.5 metres from each other.

Laps for Life – ahead of the virus

Rather than gathering en masse, participants in virtual events complete their run, walk or swim on a nominated day, or within a fixed time period, at a venue of their choosing – eliminating the need to congregate.

Examples of this approach include ReachOut Australia’s Laps for Life event.  This swimming challenge, held over the month of March, was conceived as a ‘virtual’ community event, asking participants to set their own distance and fundraising goals.  There is no entry fee.  Participants undertake peer-to-peer fundraising in support of ReachOut’s suicide prevention program. 

Choose your lane – Laps for Life

Participants can swim wherever and whenever they like during March. They receive motivational tips, prizes and technique advice as a means of keeping participants engaged in the Laps for Life community. There’s no need for people to be in close proximity to each other to be part of this event. 

Mothers’ Day Classic 2020 – adapting to change

One of my favourite annual events, the Mothers’ Day Classic fun run, scheduled to be held in Canberra on 10 May in support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, will this year shift its format to a ‘virtual event’.

On 18 March all participants were notified that we have been automatically transferred to the virtual event.  So this year, instead of thousands of competitors gathering at Lake Burley Griffin to complete our walk or run, participants will now complete a 4k or 8k run/walk on, or before 10 May and log our activity via fitness apps FitBit or Strava.  Those who complete the activity will receive an event medal and chance to win a sponsor prize, just as we would have done in the ‘real’ event.  Peer-to-peer fundraising remains an important component of the Mothers’ Day Classic.  Participants will continue to be supported in their individual fundraising efforts for the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Mother and daughter celebrating at the Mothers’ Day Classic 2019

What a great adaptation to these extraordinary circumstances!  The changes will help keep supporters engaged in the Breast Cancer Foundation’s cause during this very challenging period.

Whilst I’ll miss the opportunity to continue the tradition of sharing muffins and champagne with my mum at the Mothers’ Day Classic, I’m pleased that we can still walk together, log our efforts and share a more intimate post-walk breakfast at home. All while maintaining our support for the Breast Cancer Foundation.

And, perhaps some of the adaptations made to accommodate the extreme circumstances of 2020 will be retained and allow charities to engage new participant groups outside of major city centres?  That would be a very positive outcome.

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