The View From Route Safety

November 6th, 2017 | Posted by john in General

Crewing DFW 3-Day in 2013

From 2007 to 2011 I walked in six different 3 Day for the Cure events (though the name changed somewhere in there).  After taking a year break, I have been on the route safety crew in DFW for the past five years.  Over ten plus years the event has changed quite a bit.  I have seen the walk go from it’s peak and dwindling down in numbers to where it is at today.  It got me wondering what happened.

By being on route safety, I get a view of the walk that many walkers probably don’t get.  Looking back at this year, there seemed to be a lot more first time walkers than the previous years.  Every group of walkers that I helped cross the street usually had at least one new walker and sometimes we’d have a group of four or five with only new walkers.  With participation still on the decline, that means that walkers aren’t coming back after walking in one or more events.  This post is really just a way for me to jot down some thoughts on why that is, but I would really appreciate it if you could post your comments on why you think people aren’t coming back to the walks and more importantly, how we reverse the tide.  First, here’s my thoughts on why people might not be coming back.

Why Aren’t People Returning?

Planned Parenthood

It’s been five years, but I think that the PR fiasco from when the Susan G. Komen Foundation backed out of sending funds to Planned Parenthood has turned some people off to doing fund raising for the organization.  I was disappointed in the decision, however they did backpedal and decided that they would continue funding women’s health initiatives at Planned Parenthood as stated in this Houston Press article.  This is frankly something, that I think the organization still needs to get the word out about how they have changed from that decision.

Where Does the Money Go?

I’ve definitely seen some bad press over the years about executive compensation at SGK or how much money is spent promoting the organization and it’s efforts rather than actually doing research or treatment.  I used Charity Navigator to look at the expenses and revenue for the organization, you can find it here.  I would say that the executive compensation may be a little high, but the program expenses are still what 80% of their revenue go to.  I didn’t dig thoroughly deep in that page, but you are welcome to!

It’s Hard

Maybe people aren’t coming back because they have decided that doing it is just too hard.  Whether it’s the physical effort of doing the walk or actually raising the fund raising minimum to participate some may just think that the whole thing is too hard to try and come back again.  This could also apply to the amount of time it takes to train or the amount of money it takes to actually make it to the event or even whether or not you have vacation days that you can use to be on the walk.

Just Didn’t Think About It

It may seem like a silly reason, but sometimes you just don’t think about signing up until it’s too late to fund raise or train and so you just let it go.  I’ve walked on teams with people that just need a little extra push to get them to go because they wouldn’t sign up on their own.  Whatever the reason, they just didn’t sign up and the date went by them.

How Does This Change?

So we’ve talked about some of the reasons people might not be coming back, and this is probably really a limited list, but it’s a start.  Let’s talk about some ideas on how to make this change.  I’ve been rolling ideas around in my brain for a little while, and this is what I have sort of come up with.  These aren’t meant to map up one to one for the reasons above, they are more about how to get people to return and maybe a little of getting new people in there too.  One of the key requirements when I was thinking through these was that it had to be low cost, because I don’t want to take money away from the program if I can avoid it.  So all of these can be done for relatively little money.

I’m an Ambassador

I work in technology and all sorts of technology companies have ambassador or evangelist programs to help them get the word out about their products.  These program basically add non-employees to the marketing team at the low low cost of a couple of pairs of socks, for instance.  I know in the past the the 3-Day has had a program for people to sign up for and they will put you in touch with local media outlets if they have the opportunity, but I think this falls short.  The ambassador program should have some sort of way of communications to let the ambassadors know what they are wanting to promote, but let the ambassadors promote it in their own way, preferably through social media or something like that (blog post, Facebook, Twitter, etc).  By doing this, you get people spreading the word in a real way rather than just hearing the company line.  In 2010, this was sort of done with the Energizer Keep Going Blogger.  I was part of this program and as part of participating in it, I wrote a blog post a week about the walk and other things surrounding the event.  I had a ton of people interact with the site, which in turn could have driven interest in the event.  In order to do this, you need to structure the program in a way that identifies people that are already pretty active on social so that you can leverage their existing following and build it from there.  An ambassador program can help get out the word on stuff like the planned parenthood thing as well as any other information that potential supporters may not know about.

Call Me Up

You could potentially build this into the ambassador program, but I think that it would be good to have a different group of people for this. The 3 Day needs a team of volunteer walkers and crew members that just call first time walkers a couple of weeks after their event to check in with them, get their feelings on the walk and encourage them to sign up again.  Again, we’re using “real” people instead of the company line because I think that can be more persuasive.  I sometimes wonder if the reason some people don’t sign up for a second walk is just because no one asked them.  I know that e-mails get sent out, but I get sent so many e-mails that a lot of the 3-Day e-mails just go unchecked.  If you could have people actively calling these first time walkers (as well as repeat walkers that may not have shown up for a couple of years) then maybe you could get some people coming back.

Referral Program

There is something like a referral program in place right now, but I think that it could be better.  Right now the referral program works something like this.  If you invite X number of friends and they sign up for the walk then you get a special tent on event and (I think) your travel and hotel get covered by the 3-Day.  What I think may work better is this:  If you refer someone and they raise the $2,300 minimum dollars to participate then you have to raise $100 less.  So if you are somehow able to convince 23 people to sign up for the event and raise the minimum then you have no fund raising to do (except maybe to help those 23 people reach their minimum).  Sure, you would have one person that might not do any fund raising, but you would have an additional $52,900 raised.  I think that’s a win.

Work With the Big Teams

There are several large teams that participate in the 3-Day.  I’m thinking of folks like Pink Soles in Motion, the Team Tiaras and others.  Some of them have seen their membership decrease a little bit.  Since these groups have had a lot of good results in the past with getting people to walk and walk again, I think it would behoove the 3-Day leadership to interact with them and work with them to get their numbers going in the right direction.  When they find a formula that works, they can move these out to the rest of the 3-Day population.

Small City Incentives

This may be a little out there, but I know that there are some cities that people prefer to walk in (cough cough, San Diego).  If you want to spread the love around you could make the fund raising minimums different in different cities.  I’m not talking thousands of dollars, but if you drop the minimum from somewhere between $100-$300 dollars depending on how small the city is you may get more people out and participating in the walk.  And if they move to other cities they may convince others to come along with them. Especially if there are referral incentives!

Wrap Up

Those are just a few of my thoughts on how to start getting more people to participate in the 3-Day for the Cure events.  I have other ideas on how to raise more money, but we’ll save that for another post.  So what do you think?  Why are people not coming back and how do you get some of them to return?




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11 Responses

  • Rikki Williams says:

    Excellent post!!! Fundraising is hard. Training is hard. As a five time walker, I have taken a couple of years off. The same time you were the Energizer blogger, I walked for the second time. It was then that I met a group of 3-Dayers through social media. We still keep in touch but I haven’t noticed as much community at large as I have in the past but maybe it is because I haven’t gone looking for it.

    I agree that the Planned Parenthood news probably caused a lot of fall out. People were upset on both sides.

    I wish more people would come out to cheer. As a walker, when you get to those small cheering stations or perhaps haven’t seen anyone in a while, it’s hard to keep going.

    There have been a few incentives for repeat walkers over the years. I’d like to walk again and have preferred to have my own team but it’s tough coming back year after year and hitting the same donors.

    I think there does need to be some sort of follow up for walkers. Coming out of that pink bubble is hard!! It’s physically and emotionally draining but worth it. But we have to stay in touch with walkers to keep them coming back. Something definitely more personal and not so much corporate. I joined because I lost my mom. I wanted to connect with others who had experienced the same thing. That’s why it is so nice to see people like you and Jim and Mike, and Pinky again and again. It’s like being with family. Not everyone has that experience. We need to reach out to each other.

    • john says:

      Thanks for the comment Rikki! My goal this year is to start doing a little more outreach and community building outside of official 3-Day stuff (unless they reach out to me!). I’d like to see participation grow, so I’ll do what I can to help it go that direction.

  • Dawn Nielson says:

    This was so well thought out and a lot of effort was put into this. I hope you have forwarded a copy to the Staff. I feel the amount of fund raising needed is daunting and scares a lot of potential walkers away. This is a lot of money for some with small social circles to even view as possible. I for one would love to be a part of the solution and part of the group that brings it back to what it once was. I am still so bothered that I bring up the event and people haven’t heard of it. I feel that this event is so life changing in so many ways. Please let’s keep this channel open and keep moving to close the gap between the staff, the crew, and the walkers.

    • john says:

      Thanks for the comment Dawn. My hope is to get some feedback from the community at large and then reach out to staff so that it’s not just me with my ideas. All the feedback I can get will be hugely helpful!

  • Tom May says:

    This was a good read John, I can tell that you’ve put a lot of thought into it… When I talk to people the push back I get the most is the planned parenthood thing and that Nancy Brinker gets such a large salary, who knows, maybe she donates a bunch back?? no telling, but if she did and made it public that would probably be huge. Unfortunately it takes a management team to run an organization like Komen, and to get quality people you have to be willing to pay decent salaries. Every year I invite people to come out and cheer and show support and so far every year, i’ve gotten little to no response or follow through, the way our world seems to be going there’s less and less people that are willing put in the work that it takes to fundraise and walk every year.
    As a member of pink soles in motion I’ve worked with some amazing people that are so driven to make a difference that its hard to not stay involved and try to absorb some of their positive attitudes and spirit. I’ve shared your blog on my Facebook page so maybe some other team mates/friends might have some insight or ideas that might help grow the walk back to the levels it once was.

    • john says:

      You make a great point about being in Pink Soles in Motion. Being in a large team can definitely be a huge help with fund raising and holding larger events to raise money that you just can’t do as an individual walker.

    • john says:

      I’ll say that I can honestly see both sides of this. I am a trademark owner and if I fail to enforce that trademark (like SGK was doing) then I could lose the rights to it. That being said, I used to make a shirt that I sold to raise money for breast cancer research that said, “I love TaTas” or something like that. I got a cease and decist letter from Save the Tatas saying that I couldn’t use the word Tata. It sucks that the do it, but it sucks worse that they have to do it because of the way the law works.

  • Sly Camacho says:

    Excellent views points! After walking San Diego later this month, I will have walked the 3 Day 12 times. The first year I walked I didn’t know anyone with breast cancer until my son introduced me to a lady that was battling breast cancer. It wasn’t until my third year that it became personal to me because my sister was diagnosed. I vowed to continue walking until I could no longer walk or I could no longer raise the funds. I’ve been very fortunate that I have been able to meet my goal each year due to the fact that I have a few very generous donors. I’m not sure why people don’t come back. I think for some it is too hard to walk 60 miles. It could be due to lack of training or maybe their body can’t handle such a long walk, or it could be the fundraising requirement is too high. Often times I have heard people say l, “I’ve done it once, so I won’t be doing it again.” That leads me to believe for some, maybe it’s just something they put on their bucket list. Sometimes people get tired of walking the same route every year. I know for me walking DFW every year, I noticed we pretty much walked the same route every year. That too can became boring. I was glad to see they changed it up somewhat in Dallas this year. Moving right along…I have only been able to recruit three women to do the 3 Day. Out of the three, only one came back to do it a second time. She will be doing the walk with me in San Diego. Last year when they were doing the bring your best friend and they fly free…now I thought that was a good incentive to recruit more walkers. I think the organization stands a good chance of retaining seasoned walkers and recruiting additional walkers to register if they continue incentives. Raising $2300 is very hard to do year after year after year.

    • john says:

      I think the fund raising is definitely a key factor. I think if there is a bigger community we can do better with helping each other find new and unique ways to fund raise too. I struggle with this too because some years I blow my goal out of the water and others I have issues.

      • Dennis says:

        Excellent points John, This was Carol’ 11th year and my 10th. The first year Carol walked I stood on the sidelines watching and seen a lot of people doing different things and thought I could that, and the next 10 years I’ve been on route safety. I’ve met a lot of repeat walkers and like you ask them the same questions. They really like the changes in the route. About 6 years l met a walker and asked him if he was going to walk the next year,his reply was you bet aren’t you? I told no. He says why not. I said well if we find a cure I won’t have to will I. Everyone around him started cheering and from that day every year he finds me at the start or on a corner and asks “ are you coming back “ I reply nope, he says and why not, this has gone on every year for the last 6 years. I would love to see the numbers go back up and would do anything to help that happen.