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Interview with: Ahmad Nazmie Hj Omar, Event Organiser, BIBD Charity Expedition

Event Directors Around the World
Interview with: Ahmad Nazmie Hj Omar, Event Organiser, BIBD Charity Expedition

Nazmie Omar

The BIBD Charity Expedition has expanded its reach from helping to raise funds for the victims of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, to raising funds for sponsorship schemes aiding under-privileged children with their education and life-long learning from as early as primary stage up to university level. The 2013 BIBD Charity Expedition, organised by Ahmad Nazmie Hj Omar, consisted of 6 different sporting events, including a Charity Run and Charity Cycle.

Over 6000 participants turned up to show their support for BIBD’s flagship event. We were interested to find out how they managed to organise such a large scale charitable event, attract so much support from the participants, and what’s to come for 2014.

How did you get involved with the BIBD Charity Expedition?

I graduated in health and social care, and I started working for BIBD in 2010. The Bank offered me a position in the CSR team; so when the tsunami happened in Japan, we gathered a team of 7-10 people together to see what we could do to help raise funds. We then brainstormed and discussed all our options and decided to put together a charity run. At the time, it felt like the fastest way to raise funds due to the time sensitivity of the matter. But we were wrong; time quickly passed and it was already a week after the occurrence of the tsunami, and we had already full committed to go all-out and raise as much for charity as we could.  

What were the main challenges you faced during your first event?

The first year we faced quite a number of manageable obstacles. For example, due to time constraints, we didn’t consider any online registrations and race pack collection systems. We had a few difficulties when we were giving away the race entry packs.

On the race entry pack day, all the participants were waiting for their race t- shirts, which were not delivered on time as the vendor was still making the t-shirts. We literally had to get into our cars, drive to the warehouse and pick it up ourselves. This meant half of our team went to pick up the race t-shirts, and the other half stayed with the participants at the pick-up point. Within two hours, we managed to get all the race t-shirts to the participants.

We realised that the problem was also a result of not having the proper tables, race pack collection etc., because back then we were using paper-only registration. We also didn’t have any payment gateways which meant people could only pay for their registration over the counters. There was where we lost a lot of valuable time.

Another more serious dilemma was regarding one of our competitive categories – the 10km category. The flag-off was fine, but as soon as the first runner had crossed the finishing line, we soon realised that we didn’t confirm the presence of our appointed time-recorders at the finishing line. We also didn’t source for timing chips, as we thought that we could use the gun time and record individually their times using a stopwatch. Obviously people complained, but eventually they got over it. Admittedly, we announced that it was our first ever event, and what we took away from the whole experience was far more important, especially regarding on having enough manpower to properly utilise, on top of the obstacles mentioned earlier.

How has your role evolved from Event Coordinator in 2011 to Project Manager/Event Director in 2013?

The first time coordinating the run was very challenging, but I have learned a lot of things along the way. 2011 was my first time organising a run. I was not active in sports at the time, let alone a runner. From an event coordinator’s point-of-view, we had our ups and downs and some challenges during the first year. We obviously learned from our mistakes and put systems in place to improve the following year. The team around us powered through everything and we managed to put in place a better charity run, all arranged on time.

Things have come such a long way since then. What were your main challenges in organising the 2013 race?

Having ACTIVE on board as a partner for the second year, I was confident that we wouldn’t have the same sort of troubles as previously experienced. Having an online platform for people to register made things so much easier. There was minimal back-office and administration work, as registration was being handled by ACTIVE, and we needed to do was to just extract it from their database.

The 2013 race came to us with such an overwhelming response which surpassed all our expectations. Herein lies our main challenge, whereas our second year saw our registration numbers more than double from an initial 1,000 registrants, 2013 saw our numbers almost triple to more than 5,000. It was safe to say that we were overwhelmed with the sheer number of participants. Nevertheless, we have prepared all the groundwork months before in anticipation of the challenges incurred in the first year.

To further boost our capabilities as run organisers, The BIBD CSR team and I participated in a few external running events. It presented us with a different outlook as we had to open our eyes to see and learn what other event organisers were doing, the media platforms used to communicate, and race pack procedures. We learned a lot by doing this and improved on areas which we lacked. Not all events are perfect, but we saw where we could make changes and progressively improved.

With the amount of work that you had to do, did it help having an online registration system that automated some of your tasks?

Yes, it helped a lot. If I was to compare it with our very first event, we were up all night in our offices until 3am every single day for a week. We literally had physical paper forms and a computer in front of us. The only way we could input and extract data was to key in participants details one by one. That was pretty tough. We were forced to divide ourselves into groups to carry out all the tasks, and even asked for volunteers to help key in information. We also had a dedicated volunteer team to handle procurements, and race entry pack etc.

ACTIVE has been a great help to us. Without ACTIVE, we wouldn’t have been able to more than double our registration numbers. Our event is mainly done for charities, so we also utilised the donation card feature last year which was really useful. From that, we managed to multiply the amount raised for our ALAF Fund by six times, outweighing the triple increase in number of participants. In the first year we managed to raise c. B$56,000 and managed to increased it to c. B$330,000 in our second year, which all went to charity.

The BIBD Midnight Marathon runners managed to raise over $52,700. How much did you manage to raise in total for the charity?

We went from raising B$330,000 (in 2012) to B$600,000 in 2013. We also had two groups of participant categories from which the funds were raised from. One large group was given donation cards while there was a select few for the 42KM categories who raised funds from a sponsorship program.

We didn’t want to make a 42KM open category because we wanted our first time organising a 42Km run to be a success. Not only was it our first time, but a 42Km run has not been organised in Brunei for over a decade, which doesn’t help as Brunei doesn’t have a flat land mass. From my understanding, a proper 42Km needs to have 70-80% flat land. So, in order to manage expectations, we had to limit participation for the 42KM category to only 25 participants.

The 42Km runners ran the sponsorship program, where we would advertise their profiles on the BIBD Charity Expedition website, www.bibdcharityexpedition.com, which showcases the reason why they were running. Some of them had never done a 42Km run, whereas others were seasoned runners. We hand-picked the selection of 25 participants, which were given an option to attend a running clinic and appointed a coach to aid them with their training efforts. Pictures of the participants of the participants were also posted on the website, along with their pledges. This was done so that any interested sponsor would select a runner for every km they ran.

We also had a corporate category, where corporate bodies were required to donate a minimum of B$50 per km. There we also gained a lot of corporate sponsorship and support. So from 25 people, we managed to raise approximately more than B$50,000. If we compare that to our first event of raising a B$56,000 from 1000 participants, I would say our 2013 Charity Expedition was a major success.

How did you attract so many sponsors and supporters for your race?

We got the word out by using various platforms, including social media - Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. The 42km participant profiles were also placed on Instagram with a link to our website.

However, this was also an initiative carried out by the runners themselves as we encouraged them to approach corporate sponsors themselves. We provided the 25 participants with a letter stating that they were running the 42KM for a charity programme for underprivileged students (ALAF), reinforcing the uniqueness of our cause and that this was also the first 42KM race in more than a decade.

With so many different stakeholders, did you find data/result reporting to be a challenge?

We thought it would be an issue, but it wasn’t. Before we jumped into it we had a meeting with ACTIVE and we told them that we wanted our reporting to be intuitive and simple. We wanted to categorise the reports by sponsorship, (corporate sponsorship and individual sponsorship). ACTIVE made it happen and the reporting was a lot easier.

The initiative was intended to change a child’s life by taking one step. What’s the next step for BIBD’s Charity Expedition in 2014?

For 2014 - We are hoping to actually organise another event. From the overwhelming response we had last year and those who didn’t get to run the 42Km, we are still receiving messages and questions on our website – is the 42KM category going to be open this year? Will it be limited to 25 people? We haven’t decided yet, we might do an open 42Km because we have a lot of local and foreign runners who are interested in doing the 42km run category in Brunei. That would present a huge step for us.

How are you planning to increase or drive more registrations and fundraising in 2014?

A majority of our efforts will see us use a lot more of social media. ACTIVE’s Social Media integration and newsletters are hugely important platforms for us too.  Also Google search results for ‘run’ and ‘event’ are really important.

We also use our BIBD branches to promote our events, but we really want to grab the attention and interest of the international market as well. In 2012 we had about 55 international runners; in 2013 the number jumped to about 300 international runners. We would like to attract more of the international market and I think that ACTIVE can help us with that. Brunei is situated in a way that it is in the centre of Asia, so we can reach out to and attract a lot of people from neighbouring countries even further away, such as Australia.

As a successful event organiser/director, what advice would you give to any aspiring race directors out there looking to organise their own charity event?

It is going to be a challenging job! My advice would be to think about the event day, when people cross the line, think about and prepare for all eventualities. You have to learn what to point out, what you want done, and how it’s different from other events. You need a good team - a good committed team is essential to holding a successful event. Networking is also very important.  For me, in the last three years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and that’s key.

 

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Interview with: Ahmad Nazmie Hj Omar, Event Organiser, BIBD Charity Expedition