When it comes to fundraising events, mud is in. We’re going to tell you why mud events are so hot and also share some best practices we’ve picked up from producing the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MuckRuckus MS™.
For years, nonprofits have hosted all sorts of walks, runs and rides. Sensing that participants are looking for something fresh, though, many organizations have started to diversify their event portfolio. Thus the rise of “alternative” events.
In addition to mud, we’re seeing color runs, glow runs, rappelling events, dance marathons, zombie walks and more. Another big trend involves walks, runs and rides that offer participants a unique experience, like running across the Golden Gate Bridge or biking on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. That is, location becomes the differentiator.
And differentiating your event is what it’s all about. When you do something different — whether it’s the nature of the event or where it takes place — you’re more likely to draw new types of participants and expand your donor base. The 28-year-old adventure seeker who is tired of running 5Ks might be thrilled with the opportunity to rappel down the side of a high-rise hotel.
Striking the Right Balance
Mud events range from the extreme (for the hardcore athletic types) to the just-for-fun (think light obstacle courses). At Event 360, we’ve worked with the MS Society to strike the right balance between the two.
Earlier this year, we started producing MuckRuckus MS, a series of nine events that began in March in Jacksonville and ended earlier this month in Atlanta. The events are a blast and allow teams to take part recreationally or competitively.
Here are few key takeaways we’ve picked up from our MuckRuckus experience:
- Site selection can be tricky. Physically, the site must be big enough for the course and allow you to build obstacles, dig pits and fill them with mud. It must also be close enough to a metropolitan area to draw participants.
Sites on private property let you get around much of the permitting issues and other paperwork that come with public grounds. Farms, not so much (those pretty fields are often littered with animal poop).
- Safety is priority #1. At Event 360, we demand that courses be challenging, but never dangerous. That means leaving ample time to plan the obstacles and then build the course the right away.
We usually need about 10 days to prepare a MuckRuckus course — much more than the typical 5K. It takes a lot of time (and heavy machinery) to dig those pits. Then you have to confirm the pits are just the right depth and the obstacles are structurally sound. Never compromise on safety!
Also, keep in mind that participants notice attention to detail. They appreciate it when obstacles are structurally sound; volunteers are in place to look after their safety; course-wide signage lets them concentrate on the run rather than directions; and medical professionals or lifeguards are there to assist. People want not only a challenge, but also to know that you know what you’re doing.
- Spectators matter, too. Watching participants fight their way through a muddy obstacle course should be just as fun as doing it yourself. Make sure there’s a place (e.g. next to a small hill) where spectators and other participants can get an excellent view of all the mucky action.
Based on results from a series-wide participant survey, participants have been very pleased with their MuckRuckus experience.
- 85% of participants said they plan to participate again next year.
- 94% of participants said they had a blast.
- 87% of participants gave the course very high marks. As one participant wrote, “It was a bad ass course. I loved it!”
As we’ve seen, mud events and other alternative events are a great way to stand out from the crowd. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss the possibilities.
“Patrick and Sarah’s Experience Hub” blog posts are featured monthly. Directors of production projects Patrick Riley and Sarah Coniglio each have many years of hands-on experience in almost every aspect of event operations and production.