Eir and Special Olympics Ireland (SOI) have worked together since 1985, making this the longest sustained corporate charity partnership in Ireland. Employee engagement is the major reason that the relationship is as strong now as it was 35 years ago. Seven years ago eir employees created a fundraising event for their charity partner, the purpose of the event was threefold, to raise much needed funds, to promote a culture of wellness and to celebrate the longevity of the partnership.
In 2020 COVID-19 restrictions threatened to derail plans for this year’s event, but with a little creativity and a lot of goodwill from teams in both eir and SOI, this year the organisations celebrated their largest eir Challenge in seven years! 559 people turned out to run, walk, jog, cycle and raise money for a great cause. People couldn’t be physically together so instead, wearing their eir Challenge shirts, made from 100% recycled material, the camaraderie was captured in photographs and videos covering the length and breadth of Ireland and beyond.
The eir planning team wanted to ensure that the annual event could go ahead, safely, amid public health restrictions, knowing it was more important than ever to support their charity partner who, like many charities, had to cancel their annual collection day. The planning team made changes to ensure this was possible, they changed the format of the event, placing additional focus on engaging communications and sharing training stories, photos and videos to keep the team spirit alive in the run up to the eir Challenge.
Secondly, where fundraisers would have previously been held in eir offices they instead took their fundraising online. Employees held online fundraising events with their teams including virtual bingo, quizzes, raffles and even online cooking classes! One final change they made was to focus on participation. Family and friends were invited to take part, the type of challenges were broadened, ranging from a 2k to a Ultra Marathon, and with people staying local it was possible for employees across the country to take part.
Taking the challenge online allowed employees who previously would not have been able to travel to an organised event to take part and a wider range of fitness levels were accommodated. Holding the event also meant that employees who may not have met their colleagues face-to-face for months were given the chance to catch up and collaborate on fundraisers in a fun and meaningful way. These changes resulted in a very successful event with almost €33,000 raised by eir employees for SOI’s Young Athletes Programme. This is a similar amount raised in previous years demonstrating the power of online fundraising.
Since it first began the eir Challenge has raised more than €390,000 with all funds going directly to the SOI Young Athlete Programme. The programme introduces children to a wide range of play activities in a supportive and fun environment and introduces fundamental movement skills. This year the eir Challenge had an international contingent taking part with friends and family taking part in the UK, France and as far as Egypt, all made possible by bringing the event online. They also had the most diverse challenge with participants ranging from 25 months to 78 years old!