Q&A with SSAFA: What’s next for the 13 Bridges Challenge
Author: Guest Author
Guest blog by Hannah Siddle, senior challenge events officer at SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity
After a very successful year in 2021, raising £76,000 for SSAFA, the 13 Bridges Challenge is back in 2022! The 13 Bridges Challenge is SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity’s annual flagship challenge event and London’s only official Armed Forces Day event. Planned by the SSAFA Events Team and a supporting committee from the military networks of several city organisations, the event provides a unique opportunity to bring the public and members of our Armed Forces together, recognising and celebrating the military’s considerable contribution to society.
The 13 Bridges Challenge is an opportunity to raise money for SSAFA while following a route criss-crossing the Thames via the thirteen bridges in Central London. If you cannot get to London, you can also take part in the event virtually and automatically track your activity to your fundraising page via Strava. If you are joining us on the day, we have slower paced groups for those of you with small children or those that just want to take it easy! It is a 10 mile walk that is suitable for all fitness levels and ages so is a fantastic event for the whole family. It is free to sign up and we ask that each person raises £50 for SSAFA to continue to support members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families.
The event is going from strength to strength. We have more than 1,000 expected to take part in our 2022 challenge. To top it all off, we have been shortlisted as a finalist for the Best Charity Event award at the Charity Event Awards 2022, alongside Alzheimer’s Society, NSPCC, and Cancer Research UK.
Q: What does the partnership with Good Thyngs mean to you?
It’s fair to say that in 2022, more than ever, there is a strong need to embrace the digital world. It’s imperative that the fundraising methods SSAFA uses are relevant to this new age to capture all potential audiences’ attention. Not only does our partnership with Good Thyngs and its numerous cashless fundraising solutions allow us to stay ahead of these modern curves, trends and giving behaviours, but it means we can improve upon our events and deliver experiences that are just as exciting, fulfilling and enriching virtually as they are in person.
We also really value our close and customised working relationship with Good Thyngs. They are a brilliant team of people, who we feel have become an extension of our SSAFA fundraising team!
Good Thyngs allow us to be creative with our work – they offer one to one support and take a hands-on approach, making sure we are aware of all the features on the platform, giving us the confidence to implement them efficiently through training sessions and all learning resources, and being available for any issues we face.
This creative freedom with our fundraising ideas and projects, and the way that GT have enabled and encouraged us, has been pivotal to the success we’ve had.
Is anything different this year? Did Good Thyng’s data from 2021 influence any improvements or decisions?
In 2021 we weren’t sure how our audience would react to QR codes and digital fundraising and how easy they would find it to follow. However, the feedback we received from participants, along with the data provided by Good Thyngs, this gave us the confidence to build on these activities in 2022. The main structure will remain the same, but we are incorporating more features such as extra selfie frames, additional pages and extra engagement pieces to entice our participants. Last year, we had members of the public stop on the bridges to enquire about the event taking place. This year we’re going to use the Good Thyngs platform to tell this story. Each bridge will have its own QR code which the public can scan. This will take them to a landing page which explains what the event is and who it is in aid for alongside a donate button should they wish to support.
Q: How is Good Thyngs helping you achieve your charity goals?
Good Thyngs is helping SSAFA achieve several of our fundraising strategic aims: keeping current donors and fundraisers engaged, reaching out to and informing new supporters, who may not necessarily have a link with the military, and, lastly, appealing to and connecting with a younger audience.
A lot of thought goes into how we give people that opportunity to find out who we are, what SSAFA does, and then to further provide an experience that elicits interest to entice people to support us and get involved.
Good Thyngs helps us do this by allowing us to offer several, varied, secure and trusted ways to enable people to offer their support and start that journey with us.
For the 2021 13 Bridges Challenge event, we collaborated with Good Thyngs and created a digital experience that supporters could access from anywhere using smartphones. This included a 13 Bridge collectibles trail, a quiz and interactive factsheet with a focus on London’s military history, a branded selfie filter, and a donation mechanism. This platform has been invaluable to us as it allowed our virtual participants to feel part of the team while also being able to engage with the participants joining us in London. The features available on Good Thyngs allowed to create a bespoke and unforgettable experience for everyone taking on this challenge.
Q: Do you have any advice for charities thinking about cashless fundraising?
Events fundraising is adjusting to the new horizon post pandemic – things are uncertain and we’re not sure what ‘normal’ is going to be anymore. As hybrid events become increasingly popular, we should all be thinking about diversifying the ways that people can engage with and, ultimately, support us.
The impact of using cashless technology at events is paramount to your supporters’ experience. It also enhances your ability to make new connections with those interested in the event, or your work, which then becomes crucial to your fundraising efforts.
Don’t be afraid of moving away from solely using traditional methods of fundraising and try digitally adapting to communicating with your supporters. There are so many exciting improvements that can be made to the supporter journey and experience by embracing digital fundraising – we are seeing repeat sign ups to events this year because we incorporated cashless fundraising across our events portfolio last year, so we know it pays to be brave and use as much of it as you can, across all of your events!
Thank you Hannah!