When it comes to fundraising events, few challenges are as electrifying as a charity abseil. Here’s a few great reasons to start organising yours today.

  • The potential to raise money is huge. Charity abseils can host in excess of 100 participants in a day, each individually raising money to undertake this spine-tingling experience. Our partner charities have raised in excess of £14,000 with costs starting from as little as £950.
  • It’s a fantastic way to get people engaged in your charity. Asking the public to take part in something as thrilling as abseiling is a super easy sell, you won’t be short of willing participants!
  • Everyone can take part. Despite being a thrill-seeking experience, you don’t have to be a pro athlete to abseil. Abseiling is open to everyone from age 10 upwards. Our oldest abseiler to date was 88. So long as they are in reasonable physical health, anyone can have a go.
  • You can achieve phenomenal media coverage for the event. Besides sending your social media following wild, charity abseils also attract considerable press attention. One of our charity abseils featured nationally on ITV News. Choose an iconic location and invite some celebrities along to maximise your PR potential.

Organising a charity abseil can seem like a daunting task at first. But don’t be discouraged. There is lots of advice at hand and the outcome is incredibly rewarding. The aim of this blog post is to guide you through the entire process from start to finish.

Step 1 - Location, location, location

One of the biggest tasks in organising a charity abseil is finding the perfect location for your event. We can offer you lots of support on this front. However, the job of identifying a venue is in your hands. And for some very good reasons. Firstly, we want to keep your costs as low as possible and avoid charging you unnecessary admin fees. Secondly, as a charity, you will be more persuasive and able to negotiate better deals when it comes to booking a venue.

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a venue:

  • It’s got to be a challenge: We recommend a minimum height of 30ft (10m), equivalent to about 3 storeys. It’s useful to keep in mind that the higher the abseil is, the longer it will take each participant to complete, therefore less people will be able to take part. However, participants may raise more money if the event is extra challenging.
  • Make use of what you’ve got: Hiring a venue to run a charity abseil can add to the cost of the event. If you’re lucky enough to have a suitable building at your disposal - be it your office block, a local school, hospital or facility centre - definitely consider this option.
  • Or think outside the box: Tower blocks aren’t the only buildings that lend themselves to abseiling. If you really want to make a splash, go wild with your choice of location. Provided they meet our safety criteria, you can abseil from bridges, viaducts, landmarks, cliffs - you name it. Choosing an iconic or central location will guarantee you loads of media attention, as well as lots of eager participants.
  • Make an appeal: If you’re mindful of budget, a great way of finding a venue is to make a public appeal. Talk to local media outlets and post on social media. Many companies are sympathetic to charitable causes (and won’t be averse to positive advertising by association).

It is absolutely paramount that the venue meet certain safety criteria. Want to know at a glance if your venue is suitable for a charity abseil? Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Is the roof flat and easy for participants to access?
  • Is the abseil wall flat without obstacles?
  • Is there a clear area where participants can safely land? If the area is public, you may need to speak to the council to obtain permission to cordon off for the event.

Step 2 - Book your venue

Found the venue of your dreams? The next step is to get in contact with the building manager to find out if they would be happy to host your charity abseil. You can normally obtain their contact from the building’s front desk.

It’s useful to know whether the building has hosted a similar event before, as this will give you a clear indication of its suitability.

If this is their first time considering a charity abseil, a building manager may be apprehensive of the impact it will have on their building. It is worth mentioning to them that, while we can’t guarantee that no minor damage will occur, we have successfully run abseiling events in some pretty delicate environments - including a 13th century church turret, glass tower blocks, and a number of listed buildings. We’ll be happy to get in touch directly with them to discuss their concerns so that your event can hopefully go ahead at your preferred location.

Step 3 - Fill out our booking form

Once you have a venue confirmed, the next step is to confirm with us the details of your event by filling out our booking form. Here are a few useful tips to consider:

  • Start and finish time. We’re open to whatever timings meet your needs. As a guideline, most charity abseil events run from 10am to 4pm. This gives our team time to set up in the morning - and your charity abseilers the time to work up a bit of courage!
  • Group size. Do you have a rough idea of how many people might want to take part in your charity abseil? As a ballpark figure, most charity abseils can have anywhere between 40-60 participants. However, larger events can attract in excess of 100! Group size is important because we need to make sure we have enough time and enough ropes for everyone to enjoy their abseil. If you’re not sure of your group size quite yet, leave this field empty for now, we’ll get back to it later.
  • Rope count. One rope or two? How many ropes you will need depends on a number of factors, some which are easy to predict - and some not so much. Every additional rope will add about £530 to your overall cost. However, doubling the rope count will also double your fundraising potential. Don’t worry if you’re not sure at this stage, we will help you pick the right number and we can always add a second rope at a later stage.
  • Event staff. In addition to the instructors, you will require a minimum of 5 ground staff on the day: two people to register participants, two people to help them get into their harnesses, and at least one person at the bottom of the abseil to help them get out. You will certainly need more staff if you’re planning a very busy event. For example, the participants may need to be chaperoned through the building to reach the roof. We are happy to provide paid staff - however, to help keep your event costs down, we highly recommend that you use your own staff or seek volunteers. We will provide them with training on the morning of the event, free of charge.

Step 4 - Send us your venue photos

It’s time for us to assess if your chosen venue meets our criteria for a safe abseil event. To do this, we will need you to take photos of the site. We will provide you with a full list of all the photos we need to assess your venue before scheduling a site visit. Once we receive the photos, we’ll have a much better idea of whether the venue is viable. We’ll even be able to provide you with a quote estimate.

If your venue photo files are huge, please make sure to send them via WeTransfer.

Step 5 - Site visit

If we reckon your venue is viable based on photos, the next step will be to book a site visit. One of our abseiling specialists will meet you at the location to discuss any issue. The Senior Instructor conducting the visit will have tons of prior experience with large-scale abseiling events. It will be useful to involve the building manager if possible to iron out any challenges we may come up against and make sure they’re happy with how we plan to run the day. After the site visit, we will provide you with a comprehensive risk assessment, a method plan, an emergency action plan and your final quote.

Once all the paperwork is out of the way, all that is left to do is pay your deposit and confirm your event date. You’re set to go!

Step 6 - Get the word out

This is where you get to be really creative! Your goal is to get as many people as possible fundraising for your cause. Write a compelling story about what you are fundrasing for then broadcast it to the world. There are so many possible avenues to do this:

  • Shout about it on social media.
  • Send out a newsletter to your charity’s contacts.
  • Reach out to people in your network and ask everyone you know to do the same.
  • Get in touch with local businesses and extend an invitation to their employees.
  • Contact local schools, parishes and community groups.
  • Write to local radios, newspapers, websites and other media outlets.
  • Are there any well-known figures or celebrities in your area? Asking them to participate will draw a bigger crowd and media attention to your event.
  • Put out posters on community noticeboards.
  • We will also support you by posting your event to our social media followers and newsletter subscribers.

Step 7 - Sign up fundraisers

When someone decides to sign up to your charity abseil, we recommend taking a registration fee of around £25. This will lock in the fundraiser's commitment and help cover the cost of your event. We also recommend setting a fundraising target: anywhere between £100-£150 is a good ballpark figure, many of your participants will raise a lot more!

  • Sponsorship collection websites. There are a number of convenient websites that fundraisers can use to make their pledges and start collecting sponsorship money. If you haven't done so already, we highly recommend that you select a preferred website and register with them as a charity. JustGiving is just one of many such platforms. Once you set up as a charity, upload your event so participants can easily connect to it on their own fundraising pages.

To assist your participants on their fundraising journey, we highly recommend arming them with an information pack. Offer them lots of information about who their money is helping and why, let them know what a huge difference GiftAid can make, give clear directions on how to set up their crowdfunding page, support them with lots of creative ideas to raise sponsorship, and give them more information about what will happen on the day of the charity abseil

We will provide you with lots of useful information which you must pass on to participants ahead of the event, including:

  • A kit list of what to bring and how to dress on the day to experience a comfortable abseil.
  • Some safety rules to ensure an exciting but secure experience.
  • A medical form, which they’ll have to provide on the day. As described on the form, if the aspiring abseiler has undergone a recent operation or suffers from a condition that could be aggravated by abseiling, a letter from their GP will also be required.

Keep in mind: All abseiling venues have a maximum weight capacity between 16 and 18 stone (100-115kg). The weight limit for your venue will be detailed in your risk assessment and in the safety rules. We will unfortunately have to turn away anyone above this weight limit, even if they have registered for the event. To avoid disappointment, make sure to include this information from the get-go.

Once you have a list of confirmed participants, the easiest way to organise them is to allocate each person to a one-hour time slot when their abseil will take place. We recommend assigning time slots, rather than letting people pick their own, as it will make the task of keeping a steady flow of abseilers throughout the day a lot easier. Ask everyone to turn up 15 minutes before their time slot for registration. To keep up momentum during the event, we highly recommend booking the morning slots first to avoid large gaps in the day when the rope is not being used.

Step 8 - The devil is in the detail

Plan the details of your event well ahead of schedule so you're not caught out on the day. Some useful things to think about:

  • If the event is taking place in a large venue with multiple entrances, will you need signage so people know where to meet you?
  • Why not advertise your charity during the event by using banners and flags?
  • Do you have a marketing and communication plan in place to keep people informed about the event?
  • Do you want to print certificates that your fundraisers can take home as a memento?
  • How about setting up a social media hashtag for your event?
  • Who will take photos or footage on the day? Where will they be shared?
  • How will your team communicate when they’re in different locations? Do you need walkie talkies or does everyone have a phone and a list of each other’s numbers?

Legal bits

The British Mountaineering Council has some wise words to offer on the legal aspects of organising a charity abseil. In brief:

  • Insurance. Hatt Adventures is covered up to £5 million public liability insurance, with the option of taking it to £10 million if required, at an additional cost. As well as covering your participants during their abseil, we have a separate employer's liability insurance up to £10 million that extends to your staff who come on board as part of the abseil team on the day. The bits we are not and cannot be covered for are any accidents which may occur in or around the abseiling site, for example, if someone trips in a stairway on the way to the roof. This will normally be covered by the building’s insurance and it’s worth checking with them that it’s all up to date. Check with your insurance provider what additional insurance you will need to take out for the event.
  • Licensing. In most cases, as a charity, you will be exempt from any licensing requirements. However, you'll be happy to know that Hatt Adventures is licensed by AALA (Adventurous Activity Licensing Authority) so in the unlikely event that it's required, we have it covered.

Step 9 - It's abseil time!

This is where the magic happens. Everything you've worked towards will come together during the course of today. Emotions will run high as abseilers and their entourage of cheering supporters will flock to your venue ready for the big event.

To get us started on the right foot, we will meet you 1 to 3 hours prior to the start time, depending on the complexity of the abseiling site. After rigging up the abseiling equipment and testing out the ropes, we will brief your team members as follows:

  • Registration. (Minimum of 2 staff.) To meet our insurance requirements, it's super important that you collect each person's medical form and make sure they have signed the disclaimer sheet (which we will provide) before it's their turn to abseil. From your side, you may want to add further steps to the registration process that work for you. We recommend preparing a list of everyone taking part so you can tick them off as they show up. To mark your abseilers so all members of the team know who they are, pop a sticky label on their clothing or splash out on some fancy wristbands. Make sure you have spare copies of everything, it's quite common for participants to forget their medical forms!
  • Equipment team. (Minimum of 2 staff.) These guys are responsible for putting on helmets, harnesses, and abseil devices before sending abseilers up to meet us. They can expect to do lots of reassuring in case someone is feeling a little nervous!
  • Landing team. (Minimum of 1 staff.) This team has the important task of assisting abseilers as they land after their descent and helping them out of their gear - be ready to give each participant a big high-five and a pat on the back after what they've just accomplished! Minimum 1 person.
  • Chaperones. To avoid group slots running late, or the rope being left empty, or people getting lost, we neet to make sure that abseilers know exactly where they are expected to go and when. The building may even require you to have chaperones to get people past keypad protected areas, for example. Whatever the case may be, you will undoubtedly find it useful to have a spare set of hands to herd people up to meet our team, ready for their abseil.

We recommend that you assign roles ahead of the day so everyone knows what will be expected of them. As some of your staff will require training from our instructors, you will not be able able to swap roles throughout the course of the day.

To keep momentum going throughout the event, our team will avoid taking any extended breaks. However, your staff will need bathroom breaks and a few minutes to have a quick bite to eat. Make sure you plan this into your day and have someone at hand to swap over if necessary. If there are no catering facilities nearby, remind your team to bring water, food and snacks along to keep them going.

Are there any social media gurus on your team? Why not unleash them at your charity abseil event? Real-time posting is a big trend at the moment and tools such as Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Snapchat can get audiences engagaed beyond the physical crowd.

Step 10 - Debrief

Before you know it, the last abseiler will have concluded their descent and the cheering crowds will have dissipated. All that will be left of your abseil event will be dozens of happy faces caught on camera, a big wad of cash for your charity, and the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with accomplishing something quite remarkable.

Once we have packed up the abseiling gear and put away the last harness, this is a great time for us to touch base. We'll need to collect the medical forms and disclaimer sheets from your registration team. We'd also love the opportunity to discuss what worked and what could be improved to make the next event even better.

Shortly after the event, when the dust has settled, we'll be in touch via email to check up on how things are going. If our team took any photos or video footage on the day, we'll make sure to send over copies. Hopefully the images and stories you captured on the day will help you generate amazing content for weeks to come!

Following up with your intrepid abseilers is really important. They will love hearing from you and finding out how much they collectively raised to help your charity. Now they've stepped over the edge, who knows what they'll be up for doing next?

Final thoughts

We hope this guide has given you some thorough insights into what it takes to organise a charity abseil event. It's no small feat but one that comes with a huge sense of accomplishment. Your charity will benefit hugely from it, both in terms of donations and exposure. At Hatt Adventures, we have run dozens of charity abseils over the years and they are among our favourite events. Setting up abseiling equipment in interesting locations is a wonderful challenge, as is interacting with big-hearted people who are brave enough to test their boundaries for charity.