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.

I am going to completely change up my sequence of the when I post and what I post.  Consider subscribing to get an email when I post something.

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



  • Barry Harris

    Hey Rob, as a cause grows (using the metrics you mentioned), I find that in order to survive, they need create an administration team to handle all the planning/execution of the event. Along with this comes the admin fees that are taken off the top. This reduces the amount of money the cause receives. In order to survive, the cause needs to earn an increasingly amount of money. Finding the right balance is crucial.

    • Rob

      absolutely critical to balance – I agree.
      That committee also needs to set the conditions for a successful strategy.

  • Colleen

    In my life, I tend to learn about Awareness events through friends/family who have a personal connection to the issue. For example, I wear a blue shirt on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day to show support for my friends, who are parents of children on the Autism Spectrum. I interpret the wearing of a blue shirt on April 2nd as a way to give myself the opportunity to open up a conversation about Autism. For instance, this year, while waiting in line for a coffee, someone asked me about my blue shirt. I then shared about my 13 year-old godson who lives with Autism; I told this lady about his immense talent with drawing animated cartoon characters using computer technology and about how he helped me learn how to use my iPhone when I first got it. So, for me, this particular awareness campaign gave me a chance to help reduce the stigma surrounding autism. (It also gave me a chance to brag about my godson!)

    I’m not exactly sure why this is the case, but in my life, the events that best increase my awareness are ones that involve something physical, like wearing a t-shirt or putting a special coloured light bulb on my front porch. The news coverage of certain large awareness events does tend to get my attention. Sometimes, my awareness is triggered because of a friend’s post on Facebook, but I only every pay attention when my friend posts a personal comment about why the event is meaningful to them. Because of the sheer volume of re-posted memes, notifications, etc., I end up ignoring event notifications without the personal explanations of friends.

    Recently, I’ve gone back to school on a full-time basis as a non-traditional/mature student to a mid-size, private Midwestern college, and I have some interesting observations about raising awareness that might be helpful:

    1. There’s a higher level of participation when it’s inexpensive.

    a) For example, the college has several “nickel and quarter” fundraising awareness campaigns. When the local food bank was really short on food, one of the student groups put posters around campus that informed everyone of the issue. It was followed up by an email about the Nickel-and-Quarter Fundraiser which challenged everyone on campus to donate 30 cents; the email listed locations of where to leave the coin donations, as well as non-perishable food items. The email also listed several email addresses for contact people representing several majors. I believe that over $800 (along with a few hundred cans of food) was raised for the local food bank within a week by the college community.

    b) To raise awareness about mental illness, one student group sold $2 bracelets with the logo. These bracelets were sold at the same time that a short 45 second video made by local college students was released. It was also accompanied by a local social media campaign where people took photos of their wrists at various locations around campus. It had it’s own unique hashtag. This campaign was DELIBERATELY kept at the local level; i think that this boosted participation because we were all checking social media to try and figure out whose wrists were appearing in various locations. (My wrist got ‘outted’ because a classmate recognized my ring. In turn, I ‘outted’ one of my classmates, because I recognized her shoe in the background. It was fun!)

    2. It helps to have MANY locations if it’s a collection-based awareness campaign; convenience matters.

    3. Any group emails need to have short paragraphs, and need to list several contact people. It’s OK if the emails contain lots of information, just break it down into brief paragraphs, because most people are reading their emails on a mobile device while walking around.

    4. Simple physical gestures that are easily done are effective. For instance, in the wake of the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos, the day of wearing a hockey jersey in solidarity was effective. On my college campus, this day was accompanied by another coin collection with the proceeds to help the families of the Broncos players.

    5. Personal stories are VERY helpful in raising awareness, especially when there’s a local connection. With the above event around the Humboldt Broncos, the college forwarded an email mentioning that two of the players on the college hockey team had lost friends in that accident, and we were asked to participate as a way to show support to these two guys who were grieving. When I put on my hockey jersey that morning, I was thinking of one of these guys; we were in one of the same classes together.

    In closing, I tend to share awareness through 1:1 conversations with the people around me. If I do share a link to an awareness event on Facebook, I include an explanation of why this issue is important to me.

    Thanks for sharing this blog post, Rob. It was interesting to read, and it really got me thinking!

    • Rob

      thinking – yep, that was the point of this post.

      You hit some critical points exactly on the head. Relevance, cost, and the ability for everyone to feel there is a personal stake in it are huge to an awareness campaign.

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