This academic year marks the 50th anniversary of my son’s school. The school’s Parents Association (PA) decided to kick off the year’s celebrations with a sponsored walk. I, together with another mum, agreed to organise the event, with the help of many others, of course. It was the first event I had taken on for the PA and and at times it was a little stressful but in the end we were blessed with beautiful weather and it turned out to be a really lovely afternoon. Of course, you can’t plan the weather but if you are organising a similar event there are many steps you can take which can help ensure it is a success.
Here are my top ten tips.
1.Celebrity status. Why not see if you can find yourselves a celebrity to open the event? We really wanted to make the event special for children, staff and parents and what better way than to have a star from London 2012 visit the school to inspire the children? In the early stages of preparation for the event this was the aspect that most pre-occupied me as I tried numerous avenues (Facebook, work colleagues, fellow parents) and followed up various leads most of which eventually came to nothing. In the end, we were lucky enough to be joined by Olympic hockey medallists, Jane Sixsmith and Laura Unsworth. They were fantastic - they turned up wearing their GB kits, with their Olympic medals and spent the afternoon signing autographs and encouraging the children. If this is the route you want to go down then call in favours, try as many avenues as you can to find someone who has contacts and don’t give up if initially promising leads come to nothing.
2. Pick a theme. This could be anything you like depending on what event you are celebrating. You could pick a colour theme or children could make and decorate hats in a particular style. We decided to make it a fancy dress walk with each class allocated a decade from the 1960s to the present day. Some of the older classes also incorporated this into their class work by studying fashions from previous decades. The children (or perhaps more accurately the parents!) really went to town - there were lots of leg warmers, mullet wigs, seventies flares etc. I'm sure you get the picture. Apart from being great fun for the children, it also made the walk a lot of fun for the parents and grandparents to watch.
3. Plan ahead. Our walk took place in September but planning got underway the term before so that a letter and sponsor form could be sent out before the Summer holidays. Another form was sent on return to school after the Summer break for those people who had inevitably mislaid the form over the holidays.
4. Lists, lists and more lists. I have to confess that I am a bit of a listoholic. I am not the sort of person who makes a list of the lists that I need to write. But I am rather embarrassed to say that I have been known to add something I have already done to a list just for the satisfaction of being able to cross it off the list (I know that's very sad). I had several meetings with the head teacher and would go armed with a long list of the issues to discuss. This was essential – I always had my youngest in tow and without a list I would no doubt have been side-tracked easily by toddler distractions.
5. Delegate where necessary. Although I am pretty good at knocking up Word documents and even Powerpoint presentations, anything else is way beyond my limited capabilities. So I had to get help with some of the documents we needed (admission tickets and achievement certificates for the children). Make use of skills you have among parents at your school or people involved in your organisation.
6. Practicalities. The walk took place in school time so the teachers and staff took care of many of the practicalities, such as deciding on the number of laps to be walked by different year groups. Each year group started from a different “station” on the same course. Children were given a card which they had stamped each time they passed their own station. When they had completed the maximum number of laps they were rewarded with a well-deserved chocolate bar and a much-needed drink.
7. Publicity. Children love to see themselves and their school in the newspaper so it was my mission to get some publicity for the school and the sponsored walk. I had previously had dealings with the local newspaper so I called my contact well in advance to ask if she would be interested in running an article. She told me the information she would need which I sent to her before the event. The reporter arranged for a photographer to come along but we also found a parent volunteer who was happy to take photographs of the walk. I was really pleased with the finished article which had some great pictures of the day's events and was a lovely record for the school and the children.
8. Invite supporters and sell refreshments. Coffee, tea and cakes always go down well and are an easy way of making a bit of extra cash. You could also sell ice creams or freeze pops if the weather is hot.
9. Offer rewards and incentives. Each child received a special achievement certificate after the walk. If funds allow you could give children a small gift such as a commemorative mug. We also awarded a prize (a DVD and popcorn afternoon) to the class that raised the most money. We set a deadline of two weeks after the walk for bringing in money. Any money brought in after this date was not counted for the purposes of the prize which seemed to work well. More money did trickle in after that date but the vast majority was in on time.
10. Finally, sit back and watch the money roll in. We are a small school of 210 children and we raised over £2,000 from the walk. So, if you are thinking about organising a sponsored walk, go ahead - it’s a great way to raise money and lots of fun too!