Saturday, October 2, 2010

How to Effectively Organize a Fundraising Event: Learning from Free the Children's We Day

On Thursday, I had the privilege of attending We Day, Free the Children’s annual kick-off party in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. As a result, not only was I able to skip school, but I was blessed to be a part of such a feverish and inspirational event. Around 18,000 youth leaders set their alarms for 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, to cram themselves into the Air Canada Centre by 8:30. And even so, they had the energy to scream, sing, and do the “We Day Dance” throughout five spectacular hours of inspirational programming.

The scene seemed more like a Justin Bieber concert than your old charity event. But the amazing thing was that teens― yes, hormone-filled, good-for-nothing teens― screamed for world- renowned philanthropists, inspirational speakers, and newspaper editors rather than pop stars with obscenely high-pitched voices.

Simply put, each year, We Day is a feat in humanity’s collective quest to make the world a better place.

So how did Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free the Children create such a successful event? Well, it’s a combination of two crucial things:

Remembering the Target Audience

Ask any successful speechwriter, business owner, or marketing manager; remembering the target audience is crucial. The basis of Free the Children’s outreach efforts is young people. Thus, We Day was made to cater to young people in every way possible. Down with Webster and K’naan, two hugely popular Canadian musical acts were invited to perform, while the atmosphere throughout the ceremonies was designed to encourage teens to scream and project their enthusiasm. We gladly participated in the usual “how’s-it-going―good―I can’t hear you― good!” routine, then moved onto stunts like a simultaneous photograph with flash on and an empowering chant of “Freedom!”

Setting a Good Example

So remembering the target audience pumped us up during the event. But what’s going to keep us pumped up for the rest of the school year is the example Free the Children set. Every inspirational speaker talked about dreaming big and following through in a youth-friendly way. Above all though, Free the Children exhibited what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it just by the kick-off party’s extravagance. Seeing everything that they were able to achieve with We Day inspired me to think about what I can achieve.

Now, if you’re running a fundraising event, just apply these two principles that Free the Children has perfected, and you’ll be seeing results in no time.