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Advice from our Fundraisers: Dirty Dancing Day

Posted by: Fundraising 19 November 2013
Firstly Nicola, congratulations on your successful event! It was a little different, so we thought our community would benefit from hearing from the horses mouth how you went about promoting the event?
To help promote Dirty Dancing Day, I did it the easiest way I knew how to reach people fast, and that was with Twitter. I was never a big tweeter before organising this event, but once I realised how easy it was to search for like minded people interested in fundraising, pancreatic cancer, and Dirty Dancing using Twitter, I immediately became a great believer in the #hashtag!!

I spread the word first with my personal email and Facebook and asked for friends and family to help me by liking the Dirty Dancing Day Facebook page specifically set up for the event, and then I hoped that by posting on the FB wall frequently, it would be seen by others and slowly it would grow. 

Once I'd established the basics, I searched Twitter every day for people who might be interested in joining in Dirty Dancing Day but also for people and organisations who might help spread the word. 

I wrote over 300 emails to magazines around the world from weekly glossies to health magazines but received only one reply, and sadly it was a no.  I left all of my local press coverage until the last 7 days as I wanted it to be fresh in the minds of Bristolians in the hope that they'd come along to the cinema that I had arranged less than 14 days before the event! 

The event grew from an at-home event to having a 'flagship' viewing of Dirty Dancing at your local cinema…
I approached the Vue Cinema at Longwell Green on a whim really, thinking I'd maybe left it too late or it simply wouldn't be something that they'd go for (but another fundraiser for Pancreatic Cancer in Cambridge told me of an event she was organising at her local cinema and I thought I'd give it a go, after all, they could only say no right?!), but they loved the idea and suddenly I was off again!

When I approached the manager I explained that I was organising The World's First Global Movie Night (and it was!!) on September 14th in aid of Pancreatic Cancer and told him the name of the event and explained why I had chosen Pancreatic Cancer for my chosen charity (the date of the 14th being significant as it was the day that the leading role of the film, Patrick Swayze, lost his battle with PC). 

I don't know if it's because everything seemed to tie in, date, name, charity, first of it's kind and the fact that I had only approached one cinema, theirs, and not all cinemas in the Bristol area, but they loved the idea and began by explaining a few things to me. Firstly they said that whatever happened with Lionsgate (the company that released Dirty Dancing 26 years ago), if they didn't allow the film download fee to be waived for the event, then they would look into playing a Blu-Ray of the film instead as the layout would only be £15-30 instead of the usual £300 plus for downloading the film from the distributors.  I took that as a good sign. Four days later however, they got in touch and said that Lionsgate had agreed to waive the cost of the download fee on the proviso that no entrance fee was charged to see the film, that it was purely donations.  No problem! I could work with that. That did also mean that no tickets could be issued as it wouldn't be able to go through the system as the cinema couldn't take money for the film, so they asked me if I could draw up a make-shift ticket so they could keep track of the amount of guests coming in so they didn't overbook the seats.

Sadly the cinema wasn't over powered by adoring fans wanting to watch this great film for charity, but they did come, and I still had fabulous tickets for them as I wrote to a few people on Etsy (allowing each one the opportunity to say yes or no before asking the next!) asking if they'd like to design a ticket for my charity event so that those coming could have a keepsake at the end of it.

Brilliantly,  Deanna or Deanna Moore Design in Seal Beach, California (yep, all the way over there!) agreed to do it and made an amazing ticket for the event: 

Dirty Dancing Day

So the cinema was done, the tickets were done, and still I was wondering how I could raise more money. Then it struck me, a raffle table! Easy. So I once again contacted the cinema and asked if I'd be able to put a small table outside the screen selling raffle tickets (for 50p each) and cupcakes (for £1 each!) and was told it would be no problem.

Brilliant! So you had the cinema, the online presence…what was next?
So I then beat the streets of Bristol for three days asking independent businesses and large companies, if they would like to donate anything to the table, and so many people who contributed prizes had had some close contact with Pancreatic Cancer and loved the whole idea of the event so I was quite overwhelmed with some 45 gifts.

I'm so cheeky, I'm a massive eBayer so I even approached people on eBay that were selling Dirty Dancing memorabilia. I have no shame! Yet again, people overwhelmed me with their kindness and generosity in posting me (at their own expense) the items that they were selling for my event. 

With each generous prize giver I received, I linked their FB page to the Dirty Dancing Day page and thanked them on my wall so that it showed up on their wall. That brought in a few more interested people and continued to spread the word about the event and also showed anybody who came onto my wall, that was interested in coming to see the film at the Vue Cinema, what kind of prizes were being offered. And truly the prizes were amazing, they ranged from Elizabeth Arden filled cosmetics bags to proof copies of not yet released books, and bottles of wine to Dirty Dancing stage tickets for March of next year when the stage show comes to The Hippodrome in Bristol!! Sadly I didn't win those tickets, the cinema manager did actually which was great because she says she never wins at raffles and after all that they'd allowed me to have and do, for free, I thought it the best person to win the prize to be honest. 

Not forgetting those kind enough to donate to the Dirty Dancing Day Just Giving Page, I put an individual 'Thank You' photo on my FB page so that they knew how special they were, so that those who had donated knew that the amount was growing, and for those that hadn't yet donated but hoped to, it sort of served as a gentle reminder that the event hadn't yet taken place and that it was never going to be too late to donate. 

Closer to the event - what were the main things you did for that final promotion push?
All in all, I think I had all of the bases covered so when I finally turned my attention to the local press in my area, I had it all under control.

Once again I used Twitter to contact those who could help spread the word (magazines, newspapers, bloggers, radio stations etc) and then I emailed all of the local newspapers to Bristol, as well as BBC Radio Bristol and BFBS. It had been my hope to get it into the SSVC cinemas across the forces camps but three weeks simply wasn't enough time, I am assured though that if I do something like this again, that, as they are a charitable organisation, they would be interested. 

I managed to make an appearance on three radio stations (all beginning with 'B'!) BBC Radio Bristol, BFBS and Bradley Stoke Radio, so I was very pleased with that. And after being called by Vicki Mathias of The Bristol Post after receiving my email, managed to make an appearance in the paper 4 times with the event. 

I even approached my son's primary school, Wheatfield Primary School in Bradley Stoke and asked if they would allow the children to wear purple (obvious colour choice!) on Friday the 13th September to raise money towards Pancreatic Cancer UK. Brilliantly they agreed and supported me in the event which was great, and even though they have to send the amount direct to PCUK for auditing purposes, I know that there is an additional £211 on it's way, making the total £2325.40, a staggering amount for three months work, and a total of which I am incredibly proud. (Justifiably! - the Pancreatic Cancer UK team)

I also made sure that at the end of the event, just before midnight, that I thanked everybody for their involvement, their support and their donations, by putting the above photo on the FB page, and saying Goodnight. 

I never had a figure in mind for the total I hoped to reach, and that was helpful as I never suffered from disappointment, in fact, I was utterly overwhelmed at my final figure and still am. I have a great support network of friends and family and having become a Twit ;) I know that the Pancreatic Cancer community on Twitter is incredibly encouraging, supportive and go above and beyond to help and support each other both emotionally and with all aspects of fundraising and charity and for that reason alone, I hope to continue to help them, and raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK while doing so, so watch out, Dirty Dancing Day's Global Movie Nights could be coming to your front room soon!