Awareness 2018

Awareness months – How aware do you feel these days?
In today’s society, any month has many things that will be their “AWARENESS” month as part of their fundraising platform.
In May – I had 2 specific examples.
May is Bladder Cancer Awareness month, and it is also Motorcycle Awareness month in most Canadian Provinces/Territories.

Awareness months like these – each take a different approach and meaning.

For Bladder Cancer – it is an opportunity to use a surge in promotion and outreach to help the community learn about something people don’t want to talk about – Canadas 5th most fatal Cancer.  Promotions concentrate on signs, symptoms, and education about treatment.

Motorcycle awareness month in Canada is more about reminding drivers that motorcycles are easier to not see, and a drivers attention needs to be reminded to look for the smaller vehicles on the road.  This marketing blitz is meant to bring back road sharing habits and situation awareness on the streets and highways.  This isn’t about fundraising.

All the groups have the opportunity to reach out to politicians for formal proclamations and photo opportunities.  These get shared across all streams of social media, so I am sure you have heard of a few things.

Every group/organization does awareness events in different ways.

As a Bladder Cancer patient, we have our annual awareness walk – in Sept.  This walk is just like many other awareness walks – an opportunity to fundraise, which promotes awareness when people ask for pledges, and a large event that people would notice – sometimes with TV cameras and radio announcements etc.  Global TV/Corus entertainment is a National Sponsor.

Motorcycles are also a common vehicle for any number of other awareness and fundraising events
Motorcycle events do awareness a little differently – they are about making a splash.  More appropriately, they are about making noise.  Some rides even state that – here is an example from a friends ride that I bought a shirt a couple of years ago.  I am attending the 3rd annual this weekend, check out past blogs when I talked about the first one I was going to attend.  (click photo to enlarge)
Check out the 2018 Emilys Memorial Ride

I want to talk more about the awareness event planning aspect about the success or failure of a number of ventures.

I have had many discussions with people (sometimes over drinks  -which makes it more entertaining) about the concept of an Awareness event.  What is the point of the event, and how do you measure the success of the event.

Many times the discussion revolves around fundraising.  Cash is a directly tangible and measurable item that has a quantity attached, and can be compared with previous results.  But does cash equal greater awareness?  My thoughts – yes, it can.  It likely means that more people we reached to give a donation, and so the message went farther than a previous year.
The reason I say it can – is that there are possibilities that greater corporate donations or other items may skew the results.

Participation numbers are a good discussion item too.  Increased numbers year after year show that more people are attending the event.  That demonstrates an increase in reach…. Or does it?  If the participants are patients, family, and caregivers – have you increased awareness?  They were already aware, and are now just more involved.

The internet and social media can give us a ton of information about clicks, views, and audience demographics – but the question always becomes – did we reach more of the people who didn’t know before, and know about us now?  How to ensure that an awareness event reaches new market and audience share than it did before is the strategic goal – but it is also the hardest one to achieve.  Philosophically – how you plan to use social media to reach a new audience is harder to quantify.  How do you ensure that the method you are choosing to reach a new audience can be measured?

To me, the answer about how to define the success of an awareness event is actually none of the above.

Don’t get me wrong – an increase in participation, fundraising, and traffic numbers are measurement tools of success, they are not what indicate if the event is being a success.

But, in my opinion – to truly increase the awareness and be successful, an event needs to survive.

Over the course of a number of years, I have seen a bunch of events start, last for a couple of years, and then fade away.  It makes perfect sense to me.  I have watched it on a number of organizing committees in multiple Canadian Provinces/Territories as I have moved around in my Military career.

The challenge is that many people get involved in an awareness event as it starts because they see the big successful events that make tons of money and involve hundreds or thousands of people, and think that it is easy to do.
Here is the reality – for an awareness event to get the big news coverage, and celebrity participation, it needs to have survived the early years of a small group of fundraisers walking in the rain for a small amount of funds.  They don’t just snap their fingers and get the 6pm news anchor to attend.
I mention that Bladder Cancer has a major news outlet as National sponsor.  Getting early participation like that is rare.  To get that, or major celebrity involvement, needs for someone to be substantially impacted by the supported cause.  We have that with our Global/Corus connection.

Many people who start events don’t realize that the big successful events, have been slaving away for 10 years or more to make it to that point.  There are no overnight success stories.  You will need to make all the same mistakes, and learn lessons the hard way, that they had to do.  Well, you don’t have to – but it seems everyone wants to.

To start an event, usually a couple passionate people have an idea on an event in the name of awareness.  That passion brings in some others, and the event is born.  The struggle becomes keeping it going.  The torch of passion for the success and longevity of the event needs to grow beyond the original idea people, and growth needs to happen so that the originators can allow others a hand in raising the child.
But, invariably many events suffer the fate of fading away.  Sometimes only the original people have the passion, and many of the people who were willing to help, are not willing to carry the torch.  I have also seen more than one successful event stop because the torch would not be passed.

Many times there are people who become discouraged that their event in year 2 is not achieving the success of another event – which may have been around for more than a decade longer.  Everyone compares themselves to this year’s version of another successful event – not the version that it was in year 2, and allow themselves to consider it a failure.  This causes them to close up shop.

These mindsets allow people to believe that it isn’t worth the effort anymore, and they don’t see the big picture.  Which is where the measuring tools mentioned above need to be used in the decision-making process.

Looking at the stats, numbers, and reality of an event should help people look out in the distance, beyond what you see (Disney reference intentional) and think more strategically about how to get to a point 5 years or more down the road.

I have told more than one group – 5 years is the target.  If you can make it 5, you have a chance.  One of the groups I am helping – we know that other groups are watching and waiting to see if we fail or give up before jumping on the bandwagon.  Which makes the path to success harder.

But anyway – back to the concept of an Awareness event – what events increase your awareness?  How do you interpret awareness events in your life?
Most importantly – what can you do to share awareness of anything in your world?

as always, thanks for reading along this far.

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If this made you think, please share among your friend and others that share an awareness of something unique.