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Charity Fatigue?

14 May



The fallout continues from the actions of the two JackHoles that ruined the Boston Marathon for thousands on April 15.

There are things you can control, and things you cannot – like Mother Nature and JackHoles who have the will and find a way to be selfish.  The Boston Globe had an article that fundraising events with large gatherings, like walkathons, are suffering financially since people are shy about being in a crowd of people.  And, these participants may raise less money since they may have already given to another, more trendy, cause. Our 24/7 news cycles have helped contribute to Charity Fatigue.


I had a similar experience happen when I was a Walk Manager for an event happening 3 weeks after the September 11 tragedy in 2001.  Many teams cancelled their participation and many calls were coming in asking how we were going to make sure that 40,000 people would be safe at our event.   We were concerned about making our fundraising goal by thinking that our participants would instead give their charitable dollars to The Red Cross to support the 9/11 victims.

We worked with the City and State to make sure we had a beefed-up emergency plan.  It did not change much from our previous emergency plan, except it cost us several thousand more in police detail.

Because we had good relationships with our team leaders in the months prior to September 11, most of the team fundraising was done.  If the walkers did not want to attend the actual event, they could still send in the donations.  Remember, people will attend your walk because they have an interest in your issue and want to support your organization.  These are the folks that support you before and after a tragedy.   They may give a little less one year and a lot more the next.  I write a lot about the relationship you need to have with your walkers and donors, because you need the relationship to keep your organization afloat when a trendy cause temporarily receives some of their charitable giving budget.

In 2001, we took a small hit financially at the event.  Not as big as we thought. Thankfully.  The frequent communication with our team leaders helped to keep us “top of mind” despite all the other fundraisers happening to support the 9/11 victims.  The following year, we had an increase in participants.  I think many of them missed being part of the event community at the 2001 Walk.  They missed being part of the thousands who came together to support the cause they believed in.  It seemed like they were tired of “The Fatigue” and wanted to get back to their normal.

I look forward to everyone getting back to their normal.


why should donors choose you?

why should donors choose you?






Wok Fa Hunga

30 Apr




The Walk for Hunger in Boston is happening this Sunday, May 5!  Always the first Sunday in May. Once upon a time, I worked at Project Bread – the Walk for Hunger.  True Bostonians pronounce it Wok Fa Hunga. Our alumni association is called the Bread Crumbs.  Project Bread was my virgin excursion into the walkathon world.  I was responsible for finding and training 2,000 walk day volunteers, some of the recruitment and much of the logistics for the main event oval and the 20-mile route.  I had never worked so hard in my young, spry life.

We worked all year round for one day.  We planted the seeds of preparation in the months then days leading up to the walk, with hopes for a beautiful bloom of smooth sailing on event day.

My time at Project Bread in the mid-90s was before online giving, internet email and mobile phones that were smaller than a brick.  We recruited 50,000 walkers who raised over $3 million each year by actually talking to team leaders in person or on the phone.   Old school.

According to the Project Bread website, money raised at this event will help fund hunger relief and prevention through over 430 emergency programs, schools, community health centers, farmers’ markets, community suppers, home care organizations, and other programs that protect the individual and strengthen our community’s food security throughout the state.

I learned a lot when I worked there. Not just the event operations stuff, but also about the issue of hunger. Hunger is not as visible an issue like cancer or AIDS or autism or diabetes.  Why?  We all know people or relatives of people that have or had cancer or AIDS or autism or diabetes. How many people do you know that are hungry?  They need you.

The weather is supposed to be nice this weekend.  Visit Boston.  Boston needs some lovin’. The tulips in the Boston Garden are in full bloom.tulips

Take a walk with several thousand other people who care. Raise some money and think about how lucky you are to have an occasional full belly.  Walk for Hunger.




5 questions when choosing your new “Pope”

19 Mar

How do you choose your new leader?

How do you choose your new leader?


The Catholic world is happy that they have chosen a new Pope.  I wonder what qualities and skills were needed to make the short list. I think it would be fun to see the logistics involved in the setup, lobbying, the voting and the re-voting to decide the new leader.

The historical happenings last week got me thinking about how a walkathon should go about choosing their new leader. If I were asked to help decide on a new Walk Manager, I would look for these 5 things:

1.  Do they give good phone?

A Walk Manager should be comfortable picking up the phone and cultivating a relationship with a potential sponsor, or team leader. Remember, your Walk Manager should be your #1 recruiter and lead by example.

2.  Have they ever managed volunteers and/or a staff?

Producing a successful walk requires the help of many people.  People that are volunteering their time and talent, and people who get a paycheck from you.  The Walk Manager is one leg under a large table, and they must be able to balance their role and the roles of the other people they depend on to get a job done.  Interpersonal skills are important.  A Dictatorship will not work.

3.  How do they say ‘no’?

Being the Walk Manager makes you a target for everyone trying to get a piece of your real estate on walk day. Lots of calls will come in with opportunities for sharing in the profits of items sold from a table at your event. Fantastic causes will want to bring their clipboards to get signatures for their worthy cause. You will have several hundred to several thousand people in one place at one time, and it is a guerilla marketing opportunity.  Your new Walk Manager will need to pleasantly refuse these wonderful opportunities and not be easily intimidated.

4.  When was the last time they got dirty at work?

There is no place for a Princess at a walk.  See above about leading by example.  If boxes need to be unloaded from a truck, then they should carry the first and last box.  If a 24-ft truck needs to be moved, then they should not be afraid to get behind the wheel.  I prefer a Walk Manager that is well-rounded and is not afraid to do the less glamourous things to get the job done.

5.  How do they say ‘thank you’?

If you want people to work for you, you need to keep them happy and motivated.  I need to hear about examples of how this candidate has thanked their volunteers or staff in the past.  I like to hear about creative things that do not cost allotta money.  If you have worked for me before, then you have some good stories to tell.  Ahhh, memories…

Hiring managers all have different things they look for looking for the perfect candidate.  I like having a conversation and then go with my gut to determine who I think will work out.  What do you look for?  Leave me a comment!


How do you let everyone know about new staff hires?

How do you let everyone know about new staff hires?


Online Fundraising Fun Fact

19 Feb




Guess what percent of total fundraising happens online? 5%?  10%?  20%?

How about 7%.  Yep. That’s it.

What does it mean?  To me, it means that most of the charitable contributions happen when a donation is personally solicited. Mail, phone, or in-person.  Interpersonal relationships rule when it comes to asking for money.   Once upon a time I worked on a couple of walkathons in the pre-online-giving days.  We raised over $3 million at each of those walks.  We raised the money by speaking to a person that has an interest in the issue.

During my final years of being a walk manager, online giving was introduced.  Everyone thought that the money would exponentially roll in.  Nope.  We had a small uptick, but nothing to indicate that the online giving was going to significantly replace humans speaking to other humans.  Even now, the walks I once managed have hit a financial plateau.  Online giving is not the financial savior.  I’ve written about this a bunch so I will not bore you with another speech.

I read this article that outlines the Blackbaud 2012 Charitable Giving report.  Blackbaud is the company that created the online giving program that most events use to raise money. Many of the answers are very surprising, especially the amount of money that is donated online.  I was shocked to see it is only 7% of total giving.  Single digit!

Now I’m not poo-pooing online giving.  It is a great tool to acquire new donors, just like a piece of direct mail.  I just hope that the organizations are staffed properly to cultivate the relationships with these online donors.  That way, the usual under-$100 online donations eventually progress to a major gift, a planned gift from the estate or hopefully – a building named after them.


93% of charitable giving DOES NOT happen online.  Shocker!

93% of charitable giving DOES NOT happen online. Shocker!

Get me a Bloomberg!

29 Jan


How do you find a wealthy donor that will give you a million, or a billion dollars?

Acquisition mailings?  (Dear Friend….)

come to mama!

I like you

Tweets?  (RT @needabillion if you can help!)

Facebook posts? (Like Me so I know you are interested!)

Telemarketing?  (“I’m hoping you can help me, by directing me to someone that can write a check for one billion dollars”)

I read this article in the NY Times about Mayor Bloomberg.  He is hoping to give away his fortune of $25 billion (with a B) before he dies.  This $25 billion (with a B) is his money that was earned by working hard as an entrepreneur.  Recently, Mayor Bloomberg has given another $350 million to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins. This additional $350 million put him over $1 billion in lifetime donations to his school.  Over one billion dollars to the same place.  How many buildings on that campus do you think are named after him?

I wonder who the lucky Development Officer (or better yet – EVP of Distinguished Giving) is that gets to work with Mayor Bloomberg.  Do you think Mayor Bloomberg donated his hard-earned billion bucks because he responded to a piece of direct mail, or a tweet, or a facebook post, or a telemarketer call?   Er, Doubtful.

Someone from Johns Hopkins has been cultivating a relationship with Mayor Bloomberg for a while.  Years.  Decades.  Donor relationships are successful, and fruitful, because of the time and effort put into the relationship.  Electronic dating works for a while, but if you want to get married – then you should get to know the person, in person, first.

Here is another good article about entrepreneurial philanthropy that will be helpful to those readers that have a few million, or billion to donate.

We are lucky to have people like Mayor Bloomberg in the world.  People who want to donate their wealth to make the world a better place.  Now I just need to find “a Bloomberg” that attended Barbieri Elementary so our PTO can focus on things other than fundraisers.  

 I need u



5 things to do during walkathon “off-season”

8 Jan


5 things for your radar


Ahhhhh, the off-season.  Miller Time – yes?  Your walk is over and you have 364 days to prepare for the next one.  What to do?

Here is a list of 5 things to keep on your radar as you prepare for the next walk:

1. Database

Clean it up!  Junk-in means junk-out.  You need clean data to run the reports indicating your top walkers, teams and companies.  Go thru the database to de-dupe it and delete the dead weight.

2. Thank-yous

You may have seen my previous post about thanking the walkers, donors and sponsors. Do it in a timely manner so you have time to properly organize your pitch to have them join you again.

3. Expenses

How much did it cost to operate your walkathon?  It is hopefully under 20%, and you can identify ways to bring the costs down for next year.   Plan a date with your Accounts Payable person to check things out.  Perhaps you can get discounts if you order some of the non-negotiable stuff early.

4. Permits

If you liked your location, and it worked well – LOCK IT DOWN for next year.  See if there is a discounted fee for paying early.  Same thing for potties, tents and toilets.

5. Inventory

When the boxes came flying off the truck and you took the junk out of the trunks – where did it go?  Did you go thru it first to make sure you did not misplace a registration form or a check? Time to make sure you are not be storing any food (now moldy) for the next walk.   Sort it, clean it, count it, box-it-up and tape-it-closed.  Write the quantity of each item on the outside of the box. Boom!

high fiveDid you really think you were going to be able to relax when the walkathon was over?   Plant the seeds now so that they bloom in time for the walk!

What’s your number?

11 Dec


How does a walkathon come to decide what the event goal should be?

Do they play the coulda-shoulda-woulda game while sitting around a table?

Do they look at what they MUST raise financially to keep the organization afloat?

Do they just jack-up the numbers from last year by a small percentage?

Hopefully the answer is NO to all of the above.

An event goal should be determined by deciding on the number of walkers first.  If you bring the people and they bring a team, the money will follow.  People first.

A good, solid event goal should start by first looking around the table at all the decision-makers attending this meeting.  They are sitting there for a reason.  How many teams will they be able to bring to the event?  Whoa – What?  Yep, everyone must pitch-in by recruiting teams for the event.  Top-down.  Board members, three-letter executives, all the six-figure salaries, all the way down to the person answering the phones.  Everyone should have a team recruitment goal.

If you hire an event manager and think they will be the sole recruiter of teams, then you are missing out on the potential of a larger event.  One person has a finite amount of time that they can be on the phones or at a meeting cultivating relationships.  Adding more human resources to the team recruiting efforts exponentially increases the goal possibility.

It really does take a village to have a successful walkathon!






Are political candidates welcome at your walk?

30 Oct


We are a week away from election day, and soon the TV commercials will revert back to erectile dysfunction and pharmaceutical malpractice victim recruitment.

Many walkathons occurred during the fall, which is in the thick of political season. Especially this year, since a presidential election is part of the mix.

What do you do when a campaign wants to display signs at your event, usually held in a public space?

Hopefully, you have a good relationship with your team captains and walkers, and will hear some noise about this possibly happening well before your event.

It is important that all non-profits, especially if you rely heavily on individual donations, to stay apolitical.

You may jeopardize your 501c3 status if you become political, or publicly take sides with a candidate. Even worse is if you endorse a candidate.

Read about the horror show when a presidential candidiate visited a soup kitchen.

So what to do if a candidate wants to bring walkers carrying signs to your event?

What a fantastic guerilla marketing opportunity!  Hold signs so your 500, 5,000 or 50,000 walkers will see!

First, I let them know that they are welcome to come to the event.  (Say what?!)

Second, I let them know that carrying signs may take the focus off the patients and survivors who are the real celebrities of the event and ‘good luck’ to anyone that tries to steal the spot light away from them.

Third, I let them know that they should walk as a team with the candidate name on the back of the event shirt (if they order more that 24!).

Lastly, I reinforce that bringing signs to the event will not only anger the patients and survivors, but may also anger the sponsors who pay a significant amount of money for the visibility they are stealing.

It happened to me with a Senate race several years ago, and I had to have the above conversation with a campaign staffer that wanted to line the park with signs and supporters.   Thankfully, they decided that pissing-off 50,000 people and several sponsors was not a good idea.

I really dislike those political commercials.  I’m ready for them to be over so I can see if the loving couple in the canoe resolve their ED issues.


Please vote on November 6!


The big, ugly precedent door

2 Oct



Mmmmmm. Who loves the smell of hot coffee and donuts on a chilly morning?

Nothing concerns me more upon entering a walkathon than the lovely aroma of coffee and fresh, steaming baked goods.

Mmmmmmm.  Yes, I said concerning. Why?

Because the big, ugly precedent door has been opened it will be hard to close. Why?

Because you have offered your volunteers, walkers, or both these delicious culinary delights and they will expect it year to year.   If you are hoping your event will grow in walkers and dollars every year, then the number of people expecting these warm treats will also increase every year.

Oh, these are just for volunteers?  How will you determine who is and isn’t a volunteer? Are you really going to turn away a walker (with donations yet to turn in!) if they come over looking for some coffee in the morning?

When is enough enough?  Will you always be able to afford the coffee and pastries?  What if your coffee and treat donor decides the numbers are too big and they can no longer afford to provide?  These are the questions I ask my clients when they start to tell me about the volunteer check-in.    Somehow, coffee and donuts are always mentioned.

These nice-to-haves are great at the beginning but can wreak havoc on you logistically (and financially!) when your event grows.

The answer?  Keep the precedent door shut. Before opening it, think about if you can afford to do this when your event grows to 1,000 or 10,000 walkers.   (I worked at an event with almost 1,000 volunteers!  Who can afford coffee for that many people?)  Dunkin’ Donuts is always happy to appear with their pimped-out 36-ft rolling coffee-sampling-Winnebago with beverages for thousands, but then you will have a 36-ft billboard competing with the astronomically-smaller signage you have promised your sponsors that have paid dearly for the visibility.

Same thing goes for the treats you provide for the walkers at the end of your route. Lunch for 100 gets scary, and expensive, when it becomes lunch for 1,000.   Keep the food simple.  No walker has ever died of starvation during the 1-3 hours they spend with you on the 5-mile route.

Keeping the big, ugly precedent door shut will allow you to never have to hear the disappointed and snarky phrase “Hmph. Last year you had….”

Who gets the money, honey?

25 Sep


I love a good quote.

I was given the Bartletts Book of Quotations by a pal in college and I love to poke thru it for inspiration.

These are my fave for this post – guess who said these:

“Good intentions work better with good planning” and

“Mo’ money, Mo’ problems”.

There are oodles of fundraisers out there that want to raise money for fantastic causes like a family in need, an organization, club or program.

Many large-scale special events raise millions to support programs, services and educational materials for specific diseases.

So, you wanna do a walkathon to raise awareness and money?

My previous post provided information about obtaining the proper documents to become an official charity so you can receive tax-deductible donations.

There’s still some things that need to be done before arranging for the sexy stuff – like tents. toilets and tables.


You need to figure out how, and why, you will spend the donations.  The money.

Are there current programs you want to support?

Is it a one-time gift or annual contribution?

Are you starting your own program or service?

Will you provide support for a tangible resource?

Is there an end-date to the financial support?

Will the program or service always depend on you financially?

What happens when you stop financially supporting a service or program?


Lot’s of questions to help you figure out what you will do with the money, honey.

You can read about the Komen debacle when they stopped supporting Planned Parenthood.

As you will see, things can get nasty in a relationship when the financial support ends.

I’ve had discussions with sponsors that clearly state that they plan to support the event one year only, so that the walk

does not depend on the corporate sponsorship to raise money year to year.  Looking back, it makes sense to be up-front with the financial intentions so the expectations have been declared.

Raising money for a cause is a good deed, indeed.

You should be prepared to answer the questions about where, specifically, the money goes before asking for donations.

Rest in Peace, Biggie.