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?
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!
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.
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!
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?