How do you run a successful event? We ask Water Aid

March 24th 2016 | Aaron Kiely

Last year the Water Aid team put on a brand new event and had a fantastic outcome, which even saw them get nominated for best new event by Mudstacle. So we had to sit down and ask them how they did it.

We picked the brains of Matt Smith The Event Fundraising officer - Mass participation, part of the team behind the hugely successful Water Aid Tough sh!t Campaign and asked him a few questions about putting on an event. 



  1. How far in advance do you start to plan your events? 
    It never really stops! As soon as last year was over, we started planning 2016. But everything kicks fully into gear with six months to go.

  2. How many people helped create the Tough Sh!t campaign and what do they do?
    So many people have helped us to get where we are, but the key teams are the brand, digital and events teams at WaterAid. We also work alongside InMotion Sport who are the geniuses behind creating and building the obstacles and course.

  3. What do you look to get out of your events? Fundraising, publicity, or to reach a new market?
    Our main goal is to raise money so that we reach everyone, everywhere with clean water and toilets by 2030. But these kinds of events are really helpful for raising awareness and reaching new people who may not have heard about WaterAid and our work.

  4. What’s the first thing you do when you want to plan an event?
    We think about the strategy – what are we trying to achieve and how will we make it happen? Then scope out venues that fit that strategy and how we’re going to market the idea to our target audience.

  5. How do you decide on what budget to give to your events?
    It’s a tricky process! We want to deliver high-end events that people love and want to do again. But we also need to ensure a good return on this investment to make sure it’s a viable fundraising event.

  6. What has been the most successful way of marketing your event?
    The world has most definitely changed! The vast majority of our marketing is now digital, with social media, search engines and key websites our best performing channels by far.

  7. How do you decide what merchandise you need?
    Merchandise is especially important at obstacle course races. We highlighted our technical t-shirt and finishers medal as two of our most important elements in year one. We were really happy with the final product, as were all of our participants!

  8. How do you decide on what supplier to use for your merchandise?
    We have to go through quite a rigorous process to ensure value for money, so cost was a really important factor. But we also wanted a really good final product and were delighted with both the final cost and quality of production. We have recommended Charity Clothing Co at every opportunity.

  9. If you find your sign-ups are slower than anticipated, what would you do to increase them?
    We have a section in our marketing plan that covers this eventuality and we’re not short of ideas. The great thing about social media is that there’s always more you can do and not everything comes at a high cost – there’s a lot you can do organically.

  10. Do you undertake all the event setup yourself or do you use any third party companies?
    We work with InMotion Sport who are absolutely brilliant. We come up with a lot of the ideas together and then they bring the expertise and skills to make them a reality.

  11. What did you learn from putting on the Tough Sh!t event?
    So much! We were really pleased with how the first event went and have had amazing feedback, as well as being nominated for best new event by Mudstacle! But there are always ways to make things better and up the ante in future years. We’ve got some great new obstacle ideas and are going to make significant changes to the course.

  12. Are you doing anything different or making any changes for the 2016 events?

    The course will be completely different, with new obstacles and some surprises! We will, of course, also have a brand new t-shirt and medal!

  13. When are your 2016 events and where can people sign up?
    Tough Sh!t South returns to Camberley, Surrey on Saturday 15 October and we’re also bringing our brand of muddy madness to the northwest too. Tough Sh!t North comes to Altcar, Merseyside on Saturday 8 October. Both events are live and people can enter now at
    We have a really good early bird offer, so the sooner people sign up, the better! We’re really excited already and can’t wait for October!