26 October 2022
Manu Van Roosbroeck is responsible for fundraising at Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen. The Refugee Walk by Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen is a fairly well-known event, that made a switch in 2020. Since 2016 every last weekend of September this big walking sponsorship event is being organised.
“In 2009 1.600 people took part in it. In that time that event brought in about 20% of our total income. So that is incredibly important and if that fails we have a big problem. Normally we always launch in early April. In 2020 we were just in lockdown and getting 1600 people together was quite difficult during corona. We did launch registrations for 2020 because at that time everyone still assumed that corona would pass quickly. But by the end of April we had already realised that it wouldn't work anyway, so we started drawing up a plan B”, Manu explains.
Set out key criteria for your event
To make a good plan B Manu and his team drew up a number of rules for themselves. “We made up a number of criteria that had to be met. We didn’t want an event that was only digital. People still had to be able to do something physical. And we wanted to hold on to a number of facets that are really important to the Refugee Walk. One of those things is good food. At lunchtime there used to be really good Middle Eastern food being served. And of course it is all about people, about refugees arriving in Belgium. We wanted to keep highlighting those people’s stories.”
Keep it simple!
Manu: “So in May we mapped out a new plan, with one key rule: keep it simple! We kept the date of the event and people could register for the 40 kilometre walk or for a 10 kilometer walk. What was new? People could plan out their own route, we offered around 40 routes ourselves with walking nodes and route planners. Participants were all sent a starter pack in advance, with a recipe book (with recipes from people with different backgrounds as inspiration for the lunch), we offered an audio book that people could listen to during their walk, with 8 stories to keep that link with the organisation. And everyone got a T-Shirt because we did want to visualize them doing the Refugee Walk.”
Freedom and flexibility
In 2019 the Refugee Walk had raised 350.000 euros. “In 2020 we were hoping to raise 200.000 euro during the coronacrisis. But walking was suddenly really popular and it became a raging success. We had the best Refugee Walk since the start and we raised about 500.000 euros”, Manu says. In 2021 more than 1570 people participated and more than 342.000 euros were raised. In 2022 the Refugee Walk was held on 25 September, 1583 people participated and already more than 330.000 euros were raised (sponsoring continues untill the end of October).
In the future the two scenario’s will always be combined. “That freedom of walking an own route did catch on, last year we did it that way and this year on September 25th we did it like that again. You can walk the Refugee Walk anywhere in the world. The route they can map out themselves, the starter package, ... etc that remains, but people could also join in Antwerp with the central route. Besides the 40km, we also offered a 10 km and a 20km route. We just provide a lot of flexibility.”