What's next for Walking With The Wounded's fundraising team?
We speak to WWTW's Andy Sloan about the charity's busy events calendar!
After an already busy year of fundraising, we speak to Andy Sloan, Partnerships & Events Manager at Walking With The Wounded about what's next in store for those who'd like to support us.
In your own words, how would you describe what you do?
So I’m the Partnerships & Events Manager at Walking With The Wounded. Essentially I’m the event lead for our flagship events: Walking Home For Christmas, the Cumbrian Challenge and the Balmoral Challenge, but I also manage other key events for fundraisers such as the London Marathon and the Great North Run.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Oh…the best thing…I think events are a lot of fun. They’re a lot of hard work but when they come together and you see people taking part and see what they get out of it, that’s it, that’s got to be the highlight. Particularly events like the Cumbrian Challenge and the Balmoral Challenge where fundraisers are coming and meeting our beneficiaries. It’s incredibly rewarding for those fundraisers, and they start a challenge with an extra spring in their step and more committed to the cause. What I really like is seeing the fundraiser’s success at the end. It’s talking to them and hearing their enthusiasm for it. Particularly post event when people are coming off the hill and those who didn’t think that they were going to be able to do it come down with a big smile on their face and a huge sense of achievement. They immediately want to come back next year. And when the weather is worse, they want to come back even more because it’s been more of a challenge and more of an achievement.
They are also generally pretty amazed with what they are able to fundraise when they get going and are rightly proud of their achievements.
What do you find most challenging about your job and about putting on these events?
There are lots of moving parts with events. They’re a lot of fun and they can raise a lot of money, but they can also take a lot of time to organise and populate. So we’re always looking for individuals and organisations that can help us to spread the word and fill the events with the minimum amount of resource from HQ. We’re a very compact team – and it’s important that we are because the emphasis is upon delivering our programmes; the focus has to be on the fundraising outcome. So the challenge is often trying to find that balance. It’s also difficult to get sponsors on board who truly understand the benefits of getting involved in the event, especially the tangible value for them which is inspiring their staff. We work hard to ensure that we try and build relationships to meet everyone’s goals which mean sponsors do keep coming back for more and – most importantly - enable us to raise more money for the cause.
What’s the future of fundraising at Walking With The Wounded? Where do you see yourself, and the charity, going next?
Events continually evolve and we need to understand what our fundraisers want to do and what they enjoy. At the moment, the Cumbrian Challenge is bringing continued success…it’s into its sixth year and that’s great. If it keeps growing and people are still keen to take part, all the better. But we’re constantly looking ahead to ‘future proof’ what we do and our income streams. There’s more and more online activity now and we’ve seen Walking Home For Christmas grow this way. Walking Home For Christmas is a campaign platform that people anywhere can get involved with. It’s super accessible because whether you can walk 1 mile or 100 miles, you can raise money for the charity in the way that suits you best.
But the weekend events (like the Cumbrian and Balmoral Challenges) are still going to have their place because they’re excellent touch points for the charity. So whilst you might enjoy taking part in Walking Home For Christmas, with Cumbria or Balmoral or a talk evening at the Royal Geographical Society for example, you’re actually meeting our beneficiaries, meeting staff from the charity and you’re getting a real first hand flavour of what we’re about and the issues that we’re supporting as well as the outcomes – which can be very inspiring
What’s coming up?
Well we’ve just launched the Cumbrian Challenge 2018 and the Balmoral Challenge 2018 which is very exciting and great to see some faithful supporters of the charity already signed up. We’re also looking forward to building new relationships through our sponsors for Cumbria this year: BAE Systems and FDM Group, and through Artemis who are sponsoring Balmoral.
Coming up fast on the rails though is Christmas, of course. We love talking about Christmas. So our next major event is Walking Home For Christmas which is a fantastic event. It’s a really easy event to take part in,in order to serve those who have served us by doing a walk or organising a walk to raise funds. You register on the website, you get sent a Santa hat, you plan a walk, set up a fundraising page, rope in your friends, raise money and go for a walk anytime between Friday 8th December and Sunday 17th December – so it can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.
Every £675 raised can support an ex-serviceman or woman through a course of one-to-one mental health care.
And what challenges do you face with Walking Home For Christmas? Because obviously you’re trying to run an event at an expensive time of year, where every other charity is also asking the public to take part in their own Christmas appeals?
Yes, Christmas is a very crowded time of year for charity appeals, but it’s also a time of year where people think most about giving and it’s actually when they give the most. We should all be thinking about the wounded ex-servicemen and women who don’t have a lot to look forward to this Christmas – those who are homeless, or struggling with mental health issues or unable to enjoy the time with their family and loved ones for whatever reason. There are also those who are unemployed so not able to cope with the financial pressures of Christmas.
We’ve seen some wonderful testimonials recently of the impact of our fundraisers - beneficiaries of the charity who are now back in work and able to buy presents for their children and family. They are also now able to visit their relatives and cope in crowded, busy rooms on Christmas day.
Walking Home For Christmas is an easy campaign to get involved with. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends, family, colleagues – so there’s a reunion aspect – and it’s great to take time out and go for a walk, whether an hour or longer, and get out of the Christmas madness and really enjoy catching up with people whilst raising money for a good cause. And of course this is good for your mental health as well…getting outside and being active.
What’s the next step for someone looking to get involved?
Well for a start, please sign up to Walking Home For Christmas. It's so simple to sign-up!
But if you have your own ideas, give us a call. Talk to myself or Viveca and we’ll take it from there. We can work out something that is realistic and focuses on the fundraising. It’s very easy with a lot of events to get too focused on the event itself and not the outcome of the event, which is critical. Why are we doing it? To raise funds to support men and women who served this country and are now having a pretty miserable time but have the determination to get back into society.