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How to Organise a Challenge Walk - Chapter Three - The Administrative Side


3.1 Finances

It is important to ensure the financial success of an event. Challenge walks are not generally intended to make a profit, but a financial disaster will deter enthusiasm for future events. Somebody has to cover any loss and this can lead to ill-will and recrimination.

An event budget can be substantial, over £10,000 for a large scale event, and organisers must be seen to handle the finances in a careful and proper manner. Except for a very small event, a separate Treasurer, who should have some financial acumen, is essential. Avoid using an individual's bank account. Often a local group or club account can be used for handling payments, though check on the charges for paying in a large number of cheques. For larger events, a bank account should be opened to keep event funds separate from other finances.

The Treasurer is responsible for preparing a budget for the event, for maintaining a proper set of accounts, backed up by receipts, and for exercising financial control to ensure that those involved in the organisation do not overspend. As protection for the Treasurer another committee member should check over the accounts from time to time.

A detailed budget must be prepared early on, certainly before deciding the entry fee. The budget should be discussed and approved by the whole committee; if the event is run under the auspices of a club its approval may also be required. Some costs, such as catering, will vary with the number of walkers whereas fixed costs, such as checkpoint hire, will be independent of the number of entries. Thus it is a good idea to consider budgets based on 'minimum' and 'maximum' entry numbers, as well as the 'expected' number. As costs and numbers become clearer, the budget can be refined.

The following headings might appear in the budget and accounts:

Income

  • entry fees
  • sale of badges
  • sponsorship
  • other sales

Expenditure

  • hire of walk HQ
  • checkcards/tallies
  • hire of checkpoint premises
  • certificates
  • checkpoint catering
  • badges
  • catering at finish
  • postage
  • transport
  • donations
  • communications
  • organisers' expenses
  • medical/first aid
  • miscellaneous
  • marshals' expenses
  • contingency allowance
  • printing

Allow for donations to deserving organisations and individuals who provide voluntary help. For example, a small contribution to farmers who have loaned barns or scout troops who have helped marshal the event fosters good relations. Similarly, a donation to a charitable trust (e.g. National Trust or a nature reserve) may be appropriate if the walk goes over its land.

Remember when budgeting for food that marshals and helpers will expect food at checkpoints and at the finish in return for their services. Helpers sometimes waive expenses to which they are reasonably entitled and sponsorship may be obtained later on so outlay under some headings may be less than anticipated; nevertheless prudent planning is advised.

Inevitably, there will be some initial expenditure before any entry fee income is received, for example booking fees for halls, organisers' travel, etc. If the event is organised by or on behalf of a club a float can often be provided, and for annual events, enough surplus may be built up to cover initial expenses in subsequent years. As a last resort individuals sometimes cover the initial costs themselves in the expectation of recovering them later, but such expenditure must be recorded carefully and done with the full knowledge of the committee.

3.2 Entry fees

Once the nature of the event has been determined and a budget prepared, give careful thought to the level of the entry fee which should be set to make a small surplus. The 'Future Event' pages of Strider give an idea of typical entry fees for events of various lengths and styles. The fee should be related to the costs of putting on the event. Those events with excessive or unjustifiable fees will be avoided by long distance walkers and will gain a bad reputation. If the fee includes a component which is a charitable donation, for example to a school or scout group helping to run the event, make this clear in event details and publicity. If balancing the budget requires a high entry fee then consider ways of reducing expenditure.

Entry fees are normally the same for all walkers on a given route, but there is sometimes a concessionary rate for members of the organising club or for young or unemployed entrants. If the entry limit has not been reached entries might be accepted on the day of the event, normally with a surcharge to cover extra administration and inconvenience and as a deterrent.

Events are usually run on a 'no extras' basis, with the entry fee covering all hire of buildings, food, transport and certificates. However, cloth badges are often available for sale to finishers (not everyone will want one). Sometimes a separate charge is made for parking if a car park has to be hired specially, and some events sell 'cafeteria' type meals at the finish rather than include the meal in the entry fee. Any such 'extras' should be made clear on the entry details.

The organisers must decide on a policy on return of entry fees in cases of cancellation by entrants. If the fee is substantial it is often returned less an administration charge if notification is received by a given date (well before the entry closing date). This provides an incentive for those withdrawing to inform the organisers, which helps for estimating catering numbers or if there is a waiting list. However, particularly for an event that is expected to be over-subscribed, a return fee policy that is too slack may attract entries from those who are uncertain whether they wish to take part, leading to extra administration, loss of income and bad feeling.

3.3 Commercial sponsorship

For a larger event it is sometimes worth seeking sponsorship to offset the costs. A sponsoring organisation will want something in return, usually in the form of advertising, perhaps on event documentation, at the walk HQ or in press advertisements and reports. A challenge walk offers only limited publicity opportunities for the sponsoring company, so it is not worth spending too much effort looking for sponsors. Assistance in kind is more often forthcoming than a cash donation. This can take the form of free or reduced cost food or drink, printing facilities, loan of a vehicle or perhaps providing a tee-shirt for walkers.

Possible sponsors include local firms, outdoor equipment suppliers, food manufacturers or retailers and in particular anywhere there is a good personal contact.

Most companies willing to sponsor have a budget that is earmarked well in advance, so decide whether to seek sponsorship and approach likely companies as soon as possible, preferably at least a year in advance. A business-like approach is important, perhaps initially with a carefully drafted letter. However, the best way of obtaining sponsorship is personal contact by a persuasive member of the committee.

Alternatively, local firms may be willing to pay for an advertisement on the back of event details or on other documents that are circulated to entrants or potential entrants.

3.4 Insurance

Event organisers must have adequate public liability insurance cover to protect themselves and helpers against claims arising out of the event from the public, from landowners, from walkers, etc. In some cases local authorities or services will require evidence of adequate insurance cover to be produced before allowing their property to be used for checkpoint purposes. Similarly, permission to use private land (particularly forestry or water collection areas) may be conditional on adequate insurance. A minimum cover of £2 million is required, and £5 million is strongly recommended and often required.

At the time of writing the LDWA has a £5 million liability policy which covers ONLY those events and walks organised by the LDWA or by its local groups. This policy covers liability for damage, injury, loss, liability assumed under contract, trespass, nuisance, products liability (e.g. bug-ridden food at checkpoints), officers' liability (including local group officers, event organisers and voluntary helpers at checkpoints), libel and slander. Full current details of the policy are available on request from the LDWA Treasurer. In the event of a possible claim the LDWA Treasurer should be contacted without delay (failing the Treasurer contact the Local Groups Secretary, the Chairman or the General Secretary; see the current 'Strider' for addresses).

Non-LDWA events will not be publicised by the LDWA unless they have an adequate public liability policy. Organisers of such events are advised to consult a qualified insurance broker. If an event is put on by an organisation (e.g. a sports club) a suitable policy may be in place, though the cover should be carefully checked.

Of course, such liability policies will not cover accidental injury to participants, who should be advised to check that they are covered by their own personal accident insurance. Entry forms should include a disclaimer pointing out that participation is at entrants' own risk (see Section 3.6).

When confronted by a possible claim, organisers and helpers must not admit any liability, nor reassure any allegedly injured party that they will be covered by insurance.

Organisers and helpers on events often use their own cars for transporting personnel, retirees, food, etc. So long as this is done in a voluntary capacity, the car owner's normal motor insurance policy should apply; if in doubt consult the insurance company.

3.5 Publicity

Some advertising will be needed to attract walkers to the event, but it should be geared to the number of entrants sought - turning down entries disappoints applicants and creates extra work for the organisers. Advertising should be targeted to the type of entrant required: a notice in a runners' magazine may be inappropriate for a walking event. Do not make the walk sound too easy; a large number of entrants who are not fit enough for the walk will cause major problems.

The best national publicity available is through the LDWA magazine 'Strider' which publishes a comprehensive list of forthcoming events and is read widely by challenge walkers. Events that satisfy the LDWA's basic requirements (see Appendix A) may be listed in 'Strider' free of charge. The event details must be filled in on an Event Notification Form, available from the LDWA Events Secretary (address in 'Strider'), which should be returned as far in advance as possible; the absolute deadlines are normally 31st January for the April issue of 'Strider', 30th May for the August issue and 30th September for the December issue.

Other outdoor magazines that sometimes publicise events include 'TGO', 'Trail', 'The Rambler' and the YHA 'Triangle'. Some magazines will charge for the insertion of a notice, but a short article about the walk might achieve the desired publicity free of charge.

Publicity leaflets or entry forms can be distributed at other events, indeed most events provide a table for piles of leaflets. Details can be sent to local walking clubs, youth clubs, etc., and posters can be displayed in libraries and shops. Some libraries, tourist offices and local papers issue a 'Diary of Events' that can also be used.

Local newspapers and local radio will often include a feature about an event and should be contacted well in advance. Short punchy articles that emphasise the attractive features of the walk (not forgetting a contact address for entry forms) are probably most effective. All contact with the media should be through a nominated member of the organising committee.

Advertisements should ask those interested to send a stamped addressed envelope (of an appropriate size) to the Entries Secretary, who will return an entry form and event details. A standard convention is for prospective walkers to write the name of the event and number of entry forms required on the flap of the envelope rather than write a letter.

An increasing number of events are putting details on the Internet, and in due course it is hoped to provide appropriate links from LDWA pages available to members. It may be convenient to provide downloadable entry forms but e-mail entries should not be accepted - it is essential that organisers receive a properly signed form from each entrant and are satisfied that entrants have read the conditions of entry.

The Editor of the LDWA's magazine 'Strider' welcomes past event reports from organisers or participants. Local papers may be interested in an account immediately after the event and this can provide good publicity for future years for an annual event. Papers are keen to report stories and achievements with a 'personal' interest, but there is a danger that editors may convey the impression of a competitive rather than an individual challenge event.

3.6 Entry form and event details

Those entering an event must be fully aware of the nature, severity and demands of the event, of the event rules, of what is required in the way of equipment and clothing and of what is being provided by way of support. The organisers have a responsibility to ensure that entrants are fully informed. Thus it is usual for the Rules and basic Event Details to be distributed along with the Entry Form so that anyone entering may be assumed to be aware of this information.

The combined entry form and walk details usually fit on one or two pages, which may be duplicated, photocopied or printed professionally. The combined sheet should be designed so that the entry form itself can be detached and returned to the Entries Secretary. Of course, the part of the entry form to be returned should not contain information (on front or back) which the entrant will need to know subsequently, such as the location of the start. It is worth looking at forms for similar types of event for ideas on style and layout.

Entries should be accepted only on the official entry form or on a photocopy (note that black printing on white paper photocopies best). Normally, one entry form should be completed by each entrant. For team events there might be a single entry form per team, but it must be signed by all team members.

There should be spaces on the Entry Form for the following:

  • entrant's name (in the form to appear on the certificate)
  • entrant's address (including postcode) and perhaps telephone number
  • entrant's age (essential if under 18, otherwise useful for statistics)
  • consent of parent or legal guardian (essential for entrants under 18)
  • whether an LDWA (or other club) member and if so membership number
  • length of route (if several options are available)
  • name and date of qualifying walk (if required)
  • vegetarian or other dietary requirements
  • amount of entry fee enclosed
  • signed declaration and disclaimer
  • name, address and phone number of next of kin (this can save a great deal of time in an emergency and is advised for longer events)

The following wording of declaration is recommended:

'I have read, and agree to abide by, the rules of the event and to observe the Country Code at all times. I confirm that I am in good health and have no medical condition that may cause undue concern or inconvenience to others. I understand that I participate at my own risk and that no liability is accepted by the organisers for any injury, damage or loss sustained by me during the event.'

(Whilst the legal value of a disclaimer is unclear, it is unlikely to do any harm and may be of positive help to the organisers, as well as reminding entrants of their responsibility for their own safety.)

It is a good idea for it to say on the detachable part of the form to whom cheques are payable and to whom the form should be sent.

The event rules and details should be presented concisely but clearly. These will depend enormously on the nature, length, terrain and level of informality of the event. The details must inform walkers of what to expect on the event so that they can prepare accordingly. There is a delicate balance between ensuring adequate control of the event and seeming over-officious.

The rules are, in effect, the conditions of entry. Entrants breaking a rule can reasonably expect to be disqualified and for the organisers not to devote further attention to them. Rules may be required to cover the following matters, although the list is by no means exhaustive:

  • minimum age limit, requirement of parent or legal guardian's written consent for those under 18 years, and requirements of the Adventure Activities Licensing Act (where applicable, see Section 2.11)
  • previous walk distance to qualify for entry (if applicable) and evidence required such as a copy of certificate or results
  • what must be worn or carried (see Appendix G):
    • clothing (with advice on appropriate materials)
    • footwear (boots essential/ trainers permitted)
    • equipment (compass, whistle, etc.)
    • food and drink
  • arrangements for kit checks (at start and en route)
  • responsibility of the entrant for his/her own route finding and safe walking
  • requirement to follow the specified route
  • prohibition of mechanical and other assistance and (perhaps) of support other than that officially provided
  • running permitted/not permitted
  • dogs not allowed/allowed on lead
  • time limits for the event, any cut-off times
  • requirement to leave checkpoints after the opening time and before the closing time and maximum stopping time at checkpoints
  • entrant's responsibility to be recorded and get checkcard clipped at checkpoints
  • arrangements for retirement (an essential rule is that under no circumstances should anyone retire from the event without informing an official)
  • right of marshals to enforce retirement for walkers unfit to continue
  • rule requiring grouping at night or in bad weather (see Section 4.7)
  • disqualification information
  • adherence to the Country Code (see Appendix C)

The Event Details should include any information that may affect whether or not someone decides to enter. The details might cover any of the above items not formalised into 'rules' and might also include the following:

  • name of event
  • date and start time(s)
  • length and ascent of route(s)
  • indication of terrain and difficulty of route
  • location of start and finish including grid reference, perhaps with a sketch map
  • car parking arrangements
  • list and grid references of checkpoints (and possibly opening/closing times), outline of route
  • type of route description (if any) to be provided
  • maps (OS numbers) needed
  • navigation skills required
  • opening and closing times for registration at the start
  • transportation and retirement facilities etc.
  • baggage arrangements
  • first aid provision
  • arrangements for supporters
  • what the entry fee includes:
    • food or drink provided before start
    • food or drink provided at checkpoints (how frequent and substantial)
    • food provided at the finish (how substantial, whether free or for sale)
    • facilities at finish (showers, sleeping accommodation)
    • certificate / badge
    • results and report
  • where to send entries
  • entry fees, to whom cheques payable, policy on when cheques will be paid in
  • exactly what must be enclosed with the entry form in the way of stamped addressed envelopes etc.
  • closing date for entries, any priority entrants
  • limit on entry numbers, operation of waiting list
  • entry on day allowed/not allowed
  • entry fee for late entrants and entries on day
  • mechanism for refunds for cancelled entries
  • right of organisers to refuse an entry
  • right of organisers to cancel or modify the event in bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances, and return of entry fees in full or part
  • when final details/route description will be sent out (if appropriate)
  • reminder that participation is at entrants' own risk and that it is up to entrants to make their own arrangements for personal accident insurance
  • sleeping accommodation at HQ
  • local accommodation or camping details (e.g. address of local tourist office)
  • public transport information
  • contact phone number for organisers and best time to call (however, organisers may well prefer not to reveal their phone numbers to entrants)
  • Data Protection Act clause

(The Data Protection Act applies if details of entrants are stored on a computer. In particular a sentence should be included stating that entrants' details will be held temporarily in an electronic retrieval system to be used only for the purposes of administering the event and giving entrants the opportunity to object. The LDWA is registered under the Data Protection Act; this covers events organised by the LDWA and its local groups.)

Some of this information might be sent with the acknowledgement of entry or with the final details or route description which are often sent out a few weeks before larger events.

As emphasised before, the event details must make absolutely clear what is being offered in the way of support, food, etc. Make clear whether the food provided at checkpoints will be sufficient to supply all the needs of a normal walker or whether walkers will need to augment it substantially with their own supplies. (In any case walkers should carry some emergency rations.) Avoid using the word 'refreshments' which could mean anything. There must be no suggestion that the event is a led walk or that it obviates the need for careful navigation and safe walking practices. Do not refer to the walk as 'waymarked' unless the marks are sufficient to make the route absolutely obvious in any conditions.

3.7 Administration of entries

When entry forms are received by the Entries Secretary, entrants should be assigned an entry number which normally serves as a reference number throughout the event. Entry forms should then be filed either by number or in alphabetical order and details entered on a suitable computer database if computer processing is to be used. Acknowledge entries at once: a standard duplicated slip confirming entry is all that is required, although further details or a local accommodation list might be included. It is a good idea for the acknowledgement to include a request that the entrant informs the organiser if he or she later decides not to take part in the walk. Alternatively, entrants can be asked to enclose a stamped addressed postcard or envelope of a stated size and postage rate with their entry form to be returned as an acknowledgement. Any entry that is not accepted should be returned immediately with the full entry fee and the reason for non-acceptance. There will always be a number of incorrectly completed forms or cheques which have to be returned (forms without an address are rather harder to deal with!)

Sometimes entrants are asked to include with entry forms stamped addressed envelopes for final details or route description and/or for an event report and results. The size of envelope and postage rate may have to be determined by making a dummy. (However, organisers can expect to receive a variety of reused envelopes of all shapes and sizes!) Alternatively postage costs can be allowed for in the entry fee - this may increase the work required for despatch though, if entries are processed on a computer, address labels might be produced automatically.

Except for small scale events there should be a closing date after which entries should not be accepted. (In reality entries received a day or two after the closing date would normally be allowed). For major events the closing date would be about 1-2 months before the walk to enable the organisers to plan for the number of walkers taking part; this is essential where large quantities of food have to be ordered in advance.

Typically, about 10% of entrants (more if the weather is bad!) will not show up on the day of the event without having cancelled, and this may be allowed for by setting the entry limit slightly higher than the target number of starters. On more popular events 10-15% of entrants may cancel their entries (depending on the cancellation policy adopted), and this may be allowed for by operating a waiting list.

If the entry limit is reached then any further entries received should be returned at once. However, if a waiting list is operated, forms from reserve entrants should be filed in order of receipt, and a note sent explaining the situation. Cheques might be retained un-cashed until final acceptance or rejection. Confirmation of entry should be sent as and when places become available. There should be a final date after which no further reserves can be admitted and unsuccessful applicants informed. Applicants who decide to withdraw after being told that they are on the reserve list should have their fee returned in full.

If it is anticipated that the entry limit will be reached, take care to process entries strictly in order of receipt (applicants will notice otherwise). For very popular events a ballot amongst entries received by a set date might be appropriate. If priority is given to a club's own members, applications from non-members should be put aside (in order) until after a specified date.

Organisers must decide whether to allow entries on the day. This is not usually practicable on a longer event because of advance planning and catering considerations. It is also inappropriate if pre-entries have been rejected because the event has been over-subscribed. Walkers should be encouraged to enter in advance rather than on the day to aid planning and to reduce pressure on the organisers just before the start. Thus a higher entry fee is usually charged for those entering on the day.

Many events send out final details and a route description beforehand to allow entrants to mark up their maps or pre-walk parts of the route. Sometimes these are sent with entry confirmation, but sometimes 2-3 weeks before the event to allow late changes to be included.

Shortly before the day of the event, prepare lists of entrants' names and numbers, both in alphabetical and numerical order for distribution to marshals. Keep the original signed entry forms until after the event and have them available for reference at event HQ.

Very occasionally an event may have to be cancelled for reasons outside the organisers' control, for example if an area is cut off by appalling weather or if countryside is closed because of forest or moorland fire risk, outbreak of foot and mouth disease, etc. The organisers should notify entrants of the cancellation immediately, perhaps by telephone, and return as much of the entry fee as possible. Entrants are usually understanding in such situations and will accept that expenses already incurred will mean that it may not be possible to return all of the fee.

3.8 Badge and certificate

Walkers completing an event appreciate and, indeed, expect a certificate commemorating their achievement. The certificate usually bears the name, distance and date of the event, the name of the walker and, perhaps, the time taken, and is signed by the Chief Organiser or Finish Marshal. Certificates are usually on A4 or A5 card and may either consist simply of appropriate wording or be pictorial and decorative. Sometimes certificates are produced by computer and printed out with the name already printed.

Consider giving a suitably endorsed certificate, stating the mileage covered, to those who do not finish the walk. These are often youngsters who appreciate some encouragement or, perhaps, those walking for charity who need some certification of distance to enable them to collect sponsorship money. It is also nice to give certificates with appropriately altered wording to helpers and marshals to thank them for their services.

Cloth event badges, for sewing onto rucksacks, hats, etc., are a popular memento of events. These are normally available to finishers only and are usually on sale at the finish, though the cost is sometimes included in the entry fee. Again there is considerable scope for design; bold emblems tend to make better badges than lots of finicky detail. Suitable badge manufacturers advertise in various sports magazines. Usually the cost per badge falls considerably for larger orders, so for annual events it is worth investing in several years' stock.

3.9 Marshals and helpers

A major task in the run up to the event is to decide how many helpers and marshals will be required on the day and to recruit appropriate people. The numbers needed on a large event can be considerable; many jobs that may need to be done are described in these Guidelines and are summarised in Appendix E. It is useful to draw up a master timetable giving the names of helpers showing what they are doing throughout the event (not forgetting their rest periods for a long event).

Ensure that helpers are given clear instructions of their duties well beforehand. It is unsatisfactory if willing volunteers are unable to function effectively either because they are uncertain of what they should be doing or because their role has not been thought out carefully. Give helpers unfamiliar with walking an idea of the ethos and scale of the event. For example, those helping with catering need to realise that prompt service is more important than 'cordon bleu' meals! Those new to helping on events should be accompanied by experienced marshals.

For larger events, appoint a marshal in charge of each checkpoint with the responsibility of co-ordinating the helpers at that checkpoint. Existing groups such as LDWA local groups, walking clubs, Scout groups, etc. make natural checkpoint teams.

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