Archive | October, 2012

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 Great Debate: 5K or 5 miles?

23 Oct


What a week for debates!

Great Debate Deux – should a walkathon be 5k or 5 miles?

The not-so-great answer is…. It depends.

When a client asks me the 5K or 5 mile question, I first ask them a bunch of questions:

Here are three (of many)!

1.  How many walkers will you have?

500 walkers will work well with a 5K, but may spread out too much over 5 miles for a cohesive event.

5,000 walkers may overwhelm a 5K route if you have a defined start time.  Sidewalk spillage. (Oh yeah, I said spillage!)

50,000 walkers will require 5 miles and a rolling start so that your peeps can walk with a decent gait.  Baby steps for 5 miles is not customer friendly.


2. How much time do you have?

Most walkers will take 1 to 1.5 hours to complete a 5K route and 1.5 to 3 hours to complete a 5 mile route.

These average times will be longer with an increase in participants, since you will need to move to a rolling start once you hit a certain amount of walkers.


3. Do you already have a location in mind?

Many cities already have event sites where previous walks or runs have happened, and they need to be tweaked for you.  No need to re-create the wheel if there is already an existing 5K or 5-mile route that you can use.


Bottom line…I always like to create a 5-mile route from the start that will survive growth, and have a shorter option within that route to accommodate walkers who want to participate but cannot make 5 miles.   Everyone wins!


Check out my previous post about how to make sure your route is safe, no matter the length.

‘Tis the season to be pink

16 Oct



‘Tis the season for random merchandise to shamelessely promote their items by including a pink ribbon on the packaging.

I have already posted a few here, and here.

And today, for your viewing pleasure are a few more that are using the pink ribbon to promote their products.

No indication of any monetary donation or an organization receiving support.

I like this article about how we should think before we pink.

This article from the Daily Mail UK is a bit much but a fun read, with good photos!


Six ways to help choose your destination location

9 Oct


Here in the Boston area, we have more than 30 walkathons happening during September and October.

Some popular locations have back-to-back Saturday/Sunday events.

A good walkathon route and site is like an event space or scenic church that serves as a wedding factory.

We have all been there at one time or another.

The balloons are just a different color.


What if you want to change things up and bring walkers to a new, and exciting location?

Will that make them want to attend?

Maybe, but you still need to personally ask and invite them first.


Having an event at the same location for 5, 10 or 20 years may be turn-key or sentimental.

However, keeping the event and walk route fresh and exciting may invigorate your long-time participants.


Here are three things (of many!) you should consider for your new-and-improved walkathon route:

1. Route should be all right-turns.

This will help cut-down on the police if you need to close roads.

2. Route should be scenic.

Please walk it before you publish it and don’t rely on a running website that maps your 5K or 5 miles.

A client once drove me around their route that included lovely things like obscene graffiti, cars on blocks, and bloodied sidewalks.

Needless to say, it was a virgin excursion for both of us.

3. Route should be safe.

Walk it, bike it, run it.  Look for uneven sidewalks, hostile wildlife, broken bricks or cement.


Here are three things (of many!) you should consider for your new-and-improved walkathon site (for the stage and registration, etc..)

1. Event site should have plenty of P’s:   Parking or Public transportation or both.

If your guests have parking anxiety like me, then they will need to be assured that their vehicle will be close-by.

2. Event site should have a natural stage.

You don’t want to add to your expenses by hiring a staging company that may not show up in the rain.

3. Event site should have accessible power.

You don’t want to add to your expenses by renting noisy generators that some companies will not allow to be exposed to nasty weather.


What if you are stuck at your site because there are not any other locations in your area to have a walk? Talk to the event that has the site before or after you and work-out a tent-share to save on rental costs! Agree on placement so the rent-a-tent folks do not have to move anything.  Same thing with toilets, tables and chairs!

Just make sure you get fresh balloons!


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….”