Last weekend we put on a super fun sounding event called the Zombie Run. The idea was that it would be similar to a 5k… but participants would be chased by zombies the whole way, making it more like an epic-scale game of tag. We spent over a month planning it and we paired up with another on-campus group, Humans Vs Zombies, to make sure everyone on campus interested in either global health or zombies would be there. We spent a lot of time advertising too, with giant posters, window painting, a Facebook event, emails on emails spamming all the listservs.
Despite the fun premise and the fairly thorough (or so we thought) advertising, the event was a complete flop. We had 20 volunteers from our chapter and another handful of HvZ people to help us run the event… and we were more or less the only people to show up. We tend to be pretty reasonable in our estimates for our fundraising, so that when we overshoot our goals (as we usually do) it’s a pleasant surprise. We tried to brainstorm what the potential problem with this event was, and what we could do to make sure future events are both fun and profitable.
– Most of our campaigns target the same population of kind-of-broke college students. When we plan fundraisers we try to go for events or products that would appeal to students anyways, because it is hard to ask our peers for donations. Parents weekend fundraisers and individual giving campaigns tend to be our most successful fundraisers since they break out of this cycle.
– Exercise. The culture on our campus emphasizes this idea that everyone is athletic and outdoorsy when, in reality, people are actually pretty lazy. It’s hard enough to motivate most people to exercise when they aren’t paying for it, so an event like this on a cold, foggy day might not have appealed. Also, running in an event like this would have publicly outted the people who are not in as good shape as they pretend to be. In the future, if we plan more exercise related events, we will make sure the student athletes at the school who ARE passionate about being active, can make it and we will specifically aim to them.
– Our staff members were volunteering, not running. I know, in trying to sell the event to my friends, it was hard to convince them to come when I wasn’t even going to do it. This event was supposed to be very numbers dependent, where a bigger crowd would be the most fun. Popularity of the event would have drawn more students, and we could have at least created the illusion of more runners by having our staff members run rather than helpfully pointing out the route.
– People don’t realize it’s a fundraiser. I’m never sure why this comes up as frequently as it does, since we always say all profits go to BHM, but students are always surprised (and then I like to think more likely to support us) when they hear that all the profits are working to help our partner organization, and not us personally.
If you have any other ideas/ suggestions about campaigns and why they do or don’t work, please let us know your thoughts!