On the Origin of Race for Science: An Interview with our CEO

I sat down with Oliver Kemp, CEO of Prostate Cancer Research Centre, who explained the origin of Race for Science!

So where did this crazy idea for an immersive scavenger hunt fundraiser even come from?? I sat down with our CEO Oliver Kemp and asked him exactly that question, as well as why he loves immersive events and what Race for Science could mean for the charity sector.

Oliver (furthest left) and some of our team complete a Sherlock Holmes-themed escape room together!

Where did the idea for Race for Science come from?

It came from a combination of things. My wife was playing Room – the room game – on her iPad, and she said how much she would love to do that game in reality. And I thought – what a great idea! We’d always enjoyed doing escape rooms and immersive events, so we’d done things like Secret Cinema, escape rooms, 4-5 times, and I thought “why not combine those two things”? There is an overlap between the audiences for both immersive events and escape rooms.

I suppose I was also aware that it was also something where the market share was increasing and I wanted our charity to get involved.

Which immersive events have you loved? Why?

Secret Cinema Star Wars was my first great experience of an immersive event. I just thought it was so well done, and it had such a high level of quality. It separated itself from the all the other ones out there. It also showed me that there was an audience out there that would be willing to pay that additional money to have an event that was so immersive that you felt at some point during the night that you were in a completely different world. I think that’s an incredible thing to have achieved.

I also enjoyed the ones they did under Somerset house. And everyone turned into zombies! It was a very dark experience, in a big sprawling space. I think it’s a really great way of getting you to interact with your friends and it’s such a positive experience. So many times when you’re socialising, you’re with your mobile phone and not interacting properly. Immersive events bring out the best in you and your friends.

You had just recently become CEO when you came up with the idea for Race for Science. What direction were you hoping to take the charity in at that point and how did Race for Science fit into that plan?

The board of trustees had decided they wanted the charity to grow dramatically over a 5 year period. That is very significant growth, and that requires you to do some things that are… unusual. You can’t just do the normal fundraising things! You have to look a bit further afield than just going with the usual trusts and foundations, corporate fundraising, etc. I wanted us to innovate and think outside the box.

What was great was that the fundraising team had really great feedback and were fully on board with trying new things, because they knew what they needed to achieve. They didn’t want to carry on doing the same old type of events, they wanted an event that separated ourselves from the rest of the pack wanted to do something different.

Why do you think Race for Science is a good idea for our charity Prostate Cancer Research Centre?

First of all, it pushes us to come up with projects that are more creative, and see them through to fruition. It’s a great project for the staff team to be involved with, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to go through that kind of process, and will teach everybody who is involved with it an incredible amount. Also, it has huge potential to grow in years two and three and four. We can use all of these new skills we’ve learned, and we can use all of these materials we’ve created. We’re hoping to expand the event to other cities around the UK as well, which means we will we have an amazing opportunity to increase our ability to raise money for prostate cancer research.

Why do you think Race for Science is a good idea for the charity sector as a whole?

I’ve been involved in fundraising for almost 20 years now, and I started out in events fundraising. I’m incredibly bored of some of the typical events that charities run! We were doing treks to Nepal in 1999, we’re still doing them now, people are tired of giving people money to go on a nice holiday, people are bored of their mates asking them for money to do yet another run. Why do we have to be the sector that is so far behind everyone else, rather than coming up with new interesting things for people to be involved in? I think if we can nudge the charity sector just a tiny amount, to do something new and exciting, and to get people to think of the charity sector in a slightly different way, that’s a great thing.

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