Running an Event
Follow the trail
Voluntary sector events can range from an anti-hunting demonstration to a community group open evening cum social to a major conference. Use your common sense in identifying what on this page applies to your particular happening.
- General tips.
- Events diaries.
- Practicalities and regulations: taking money, licensing, publicity, risks.
- Information resources.
- Activity/Event organisers (charity challenges to conferences) and Venues are on Events Services page.
- Publicising an event: see Getting the Message across.
- Find further advice from an appropriate umbrella organisation (eg Community Matters for community hall issues).
- Our Events listing (useful conferences etc. for those in the sector) is on the VoluntaryNews site.
- Display Stands: see Suppliers. Audio-visual equipment hire on Media services.
- Online system to manage community venue bookings on Web Based Services.
Important note: this page is definitely NOT a complete statement of the legal issues - we only give pointers. Check out our Legals page for further help in this area.
Year Ahead (was Awareness Campaign Register) has a calendar of all campaigns logged with them, to help avoid clashes or fit in with existing events. This is part of the Profile Group, which compiles information on all types of events and produce various diaries. However, access requires a subscription.
Fundraising UK has some information on upcoming events.
Where Can We Go, while a general 'family events' listing site, encourages community and other charity events to be added.
The VolResource/VoluntaryNews events section is mainly for a voluntary and community sector audience, rather than the general public.
'The event isn't over until you've packed up and got back to base'. Too many events fall into chaos at the end due to premature celebrations by the organisers.
Checklist from Open University 'Winning Resources and Support'
Start from the event date and work backwards in planning the lead up. Can you realistically carry out several tasks in parallel, or do you need more volunteers or time (or money to pay overtime, outside agencies etc)?
Don't forget contingency planning - 'what if .....' You can't anticipate everything, but a way to deal with a broad range of problems should be thought through early on. What is crucial to success, and how do you ensure this?
If your organisation is ever going to run any other event, a 'debrief' is very helpful, within a few days of the event finishing. What went wrong, but also what went right - it is easy to assume that the latter happened naturally and end up not giving these items enough attention next time.
Although it is helpful to divide up the work, it also needs to be co-ordinated by one person or a very active (and small) committee.
Don't forget that there are strict rules about collecting money in public places, with charities having to be particular careful. While police/local authorities may turn a blind eye to small-scale bending, it is usually better to do the homework. See Charity Commission website for leaflet CC20 - Charities and Fund-Raising.
If you are running a more sophisticated event and have the potential to process credit card payments, note that it is now possible to get hold of hand-held electronic terminals which connect via the mobile phone network. Various options out there, but changing, so best to do a web search.
A leaflet from HM Revenue and Customs, Exemption for Charities and Other Qualifying Bodies (CWL4) sets out the conditions for direct tax and VAT exemptions that apply to fund-raising events.
There are quite a few regulations around 'public' events. Unless your event is by invite only (and even then you ought to make sure on the exact status), it is likely to fall within this. Possible issues:
- Sale of alcohol. Will require application to magistrates court - check out via local council. The common tactic of selling raffle tickets and winning a 'free' drink is legally highly dubious!
- Public entertainment licence. Check with local authority. May also require Music licence - see Legal page.
- Lotteries. You need to register with the local authority.
- Street collections. Ditto.
- Food hygiene registration if you are preparing food 'on site'. Try Environmental Health section of local council.
- Fire regulations are generally the responsibility primarily of the venue management. Hirers may be required to observe particular rules, or notify them if certain hazards are present (e.g. fuel for a barbecue?).
- Street activities will probably need clearance from the police, and maybe the highways authority (local council) too.
- Also see Risks below.
Village halls and the like wishing to show films need a licence from the local authority. There are a number of exemptions to this, including:
- if there is no charge or private gain
- if the premises are used for no more than six films a year
- if you are a non profit making organisation with a Home Office exemption certificate
- if you form a non-profit making film or video society whose performances are only open to members
Copyright and royalty permissions are necessary even if a licence is not required.
The Theatres Act 1968 states that where a local authority is satisfied that a play is to be performed for a charitable or other like purpose in respect to one or more particular occasions no fee is payable for a licence. This means in practice that if a play is to be performed for charitable purposes and if dates of performances are given in advance, no fee will be required. However, in the case of an annual licence, there would be a fee payable because it relates to unspecified performances throughout the year.
(The above two items extracted from June 01 Newsline from Community First H&W. They may well be out of date, due to the Licensing Act 2005.)
Centre for Accessible Environments has produced a guide, Make your conference accessible, but now doesn't seem to be on the web site (March 07).
Also see Admin page on Access and other premises issues.
The usual marketing checklist - who's the audience (people), how do you get to them (place), what is the attraction (product) and what do they have to do to participate (price)? Don't forget to give contact details, meeting or kick offs times and how to get there. Obvious but often something is missed off - get a second person to check over what has been produced before it goes to printers/local newspaper etc.
See Marketing page.
A 'duty of care' is placed on anybody organising an event. This means looking at activities for possible health and safety problems for participants, organisers and bystanders. While challenge and other (fundraising) physical activities have obvious risks, everything from meetings in badly maintained buildings to crushes around celebrity appearances have their own unique issues. Step back and consider the (reasonable) possibilities, and plan to prevent or manage them.
The Home Office (with wider input) produced (summer 06) 'The Good Practice Safety Guide for small and sporting events taking place on the highway, roads and public places' so that such events are as safe as possible for the public and participants. Its 72 pages has specific sections on charity stunts, carnivals, charity walks, cycle races and other useful material. No longer available from website, May 2010?
Do you need first aid cover? Typically provided at charity events by volunteers from St Johns Ambulance, British Red Cross etc, but there is usually some charge for the service. There may be a commercial service available e.g. Primary Ambulance Services in Essex.
Code of Practice
The Institute of Fundraising has various Codes of Fundraising Practice which cover running events - outdoor, charity challenge etc. They have also produced a leaflet with the Association of National Park Authorities on Charity Challenge Events but no longer on the web site?
See Publications on Marketing Books page.
Society of Event Organisers run various seminars etc. on how to organise exhibitions, conferences etc. Phone 01767 316255
See Events Services page for ticketing, event booking etc.