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‘Tis the season to be thankful

23 Nov



Thanksgiving is tomorrow!  Are you ready?

I usually do the hosting (so I can drink allotta wine) and cooking (ordering) for the big day and my kids like to help me prepare by hiding and “catching up on homework”. Hubby barricades himself in the home office when he is not at yoga for the Flow before the Feast, the Pre-game Flow before the Feast, or at Staples getting more ‘supplies’.

Thanksgiving is the kickoff for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!  Yes? Yes!


Since it is the season to be grateful, I thought this would be a good opportunity to post about thanking our peeps that sponsor, donate or walk in our events..

Question: How quick should you thank your walkers after an event or receiving a donation?

ASAP I say! You should already know who your sponsors and team leaders are well before walk day.  So, you should be able to create abuncha merge thank-you letters for that group wayyy before the event.  Stuff’m and seal’m so that they can be run thru the postage machine the day after the walk.  Boom!

Now, I would never share the pre-thanks secret with my kids, because I want them to write a VERY detailed thank-you note to all their donors (read: gift-givers) within a week of receiving it.

You will also have enough time before the event to create or purchase a sentimental piece to commemorate the event sponsorship.  This can be presented to your sponsors at a thank-you-please-come-back-next-year meeting shortly after the event.  KaPow!  I like to put a nice frame around the event poster containing their logo and include a cut-out with a message.

Thanking the walkers is tricky, because you need to get the 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 names into your database so you can generate a thank-you. This will take more time, but you should thank your walkers no later than one month after the event. Really. One month. You can do it!

Since many walkathons are in the fall, this thank-you letter should arrive around the holidays.  Please do not use this thank-you as an opportunity to also stuff a year-end giving ask in the same envelope.  Not classy.  Keep the thank-you genuine and the year-end giving letter separate.

THANK YOU for reading and I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!

In case of emergency… 5 things to know

14 Jun



What Would You Do?

WWYD if the unthinkable happens at your walk?  You plan plan plan all year ’round for the one day. The one day when thousands of walkers come to your event with good intentions for a great day supporting a cause they care about.  You have your spreadsheets and volunteers ready to rock. And then…

There are many things that are unpredictable – like Mutha Nature, toddlers with hard objects and ding-dongs with assault rifles.

Sadly, the Orlando shooting tragedy makes me once again think of what I would do to prepare for a similar situation at a walkathon.  I wrote about this four years ago and I’m sharing it again with hopes it can help someone.

The below was previously published in August, 2012.

The recent tragic events in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater made me think of how random, senseless actions can ruin lives.   Several hundred people were guests of a theater to watch a midnight premiere of a movie only to have it end violently 20 minutes into the show.

We all see the pre-movie instructions of where the emergency exits are located, and to walk, don’t run to them in case of emergency.

Those instructions on the screen are part of the theaters’ emergency plan.

What is your event emergency plan?   How will you handle things when the unthinkable happens?

If you have 50 or 50,000 guests (walkers) at your walkathon, how will you take care of them if a crisis happens?

I have managed events where crazy-crowd-control issues have arisen.   From angry bee swarms stinging moving objects to gang fights (knives included).  Public spaces invite public issues.

Your primary goal on event day is to take care of your guests.  Make sure the day is safe, fun, and SAFE.

If your peeps do not feel safe, and are not having fun – they may not return.

And we all know it costs more to find a new donor than to hold onto a current one.

Be ready to handle the unthinkable, so that the headlines in the paper the next day reflect your wonderful event instead of a logistical horror show.

Here are five tidbits (of many!)  to put on your radar as you prepare your emergency procedures

1.   Start by asking the owner (City? State?) of the event location what their evacuation plans are in case of emergency.  You do not want to supersede anything already in place.

2.   Meet with law enforcement (hired police detail) and first responders to determine how they will carry out the evacuation plan.

3.   Schedule a pre-event coordinator meeting (volunteers, staff, etc..) so everyone is aware of the emergency procedures and other logistical items.

4.   Determine who will talk to the press.  Messaging is important!

5.   Create a constituent communication plan so you can quickly post, tweet, text or call your team leaders to advise them.

Remember – this is just a part of a VERY long list.  These should get your thinking started.

If you have a good relationship with your walkers, then getting in touch with them should be easy.

Follow up with them to ensure they are OK, and advise how to go about sending in any remaining donations.

Take care of your Walkers, and they will take care of you and your organization.


Walk for Hunger this Sunday!

29 Apr






The Walk for Hunger in Boston is happening this Sunday, May 1!  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.  That one day started for us at 4am and ended at 8pm. 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 support over 400 community food programs—soup kitchens, food pantries, food vouchers at health centers, summer meals, subsidized CSA shares, community gardens, double-value farmers market coupons, food service programs, etc.—in over 121 communities across Massachusetts. Food pantries and congregate meals in community centers, religious centers, and other locations provide immediate assistance for those in need.

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 on Sunday morning.  Visit Boston.  Bring friends. The tulips in the Boston Garden should be 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.


Looking for a billionaire donor? Here they are!

30 Sep



Looking for a large donation? Do you have a sad and unproductive donor database? Not sure where to start?

Lucky you!

Fortune has released the Top 400 list of Billionaires.  You only need $1.7B to get on the list. That’s all!

So how do you get on their donation radar? Email them and as for a million or billion for your cause? Call them and hope they personally pick up the phone? Mail them the “proposal” and hope it does not go directly into the trash with the others? Or better yet – wait for the letter or postcard thanking you for thinking of them for their charitable giving and sadly explaining that their efforts do not align with your mission. What to do?

I started this blog a few years ago with a post about Magic Mike with hopes of answering this question. Magic Mike did not wait for his donors to come to the club and place (donate) dollar bills into his thrusting pelvic region. He walked around a different club before the event and cultivated his donors by talking to them and personally invited them to his event.

magical mike

What did Professor Magic Mike teach us?

1. All good donor cultivation starts with a relationship.

2. If necessary, find a door opener to the person you want to cultivate.

3. Foster the relationships with the door openers because they can be as important as the ultimate check-writer.

4. It is a relationship and hand holding is necessary before you hug, then kiss, then get engaged and then married.

That’s the order – right? Magic Mike did not teach us all of the above but you get the idea of taking baby steps to meet the right people and the “art of the ask.”

I could be wrong about all of this and I’d love to hear from somebody that has received a 5-digit donation from an email or a written proposal. I want to know if anyone has ever received a large donation from a person or foundation or corporation without actually having to speak to a human.  C’est impossible? Do tell!

Thanks for Fortune magazine for providing this call list for free. Now get on it and let is know how you did!


Just another gratuitous photo of Magic Mike. Because I can.


The forgotten charities of Boston 2024

5 Jun




I get annoyed when charities waste money.

A recent article in the Boston Business Journal describes a study from a Charitable Foundation with over $1B in assets that commissioned a report on the economic impact of the Olympics coming to Boston.  The report was favorable – however – they forgot to mention the part about how it may affect local charities. Is this really happening? A large Boston foundation that supports local charities paid for a report that did not include information about how the Olympics would potentially impact the corporate giving of Boston companies. Jaw drop.

According to the article “The omission is noteworthy because of evidence that prior Olympics badly hurt local charities in other host cities..”

So there it is.  Hosting the Olympics would be good for the economy but bad for the local charities.

 I wrote about this is January and here it is again, regarding the possibility of the Olympics coming to Boston in 2024.

I love watching the Olympics.

I get the tingles when I hear the big drum beat when the Olympic rings appear on the screen.

Boom boom ba boom boom…..

If you haven’t heard, Boston is the USAs submission for consideration of the 2024 summer games. Officially known as the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad. We will find out in 2017 which city is chosen to host.

Much has been written these past weeks since Boston has been chosen for the short list. According to CBSnewsBoston joins Rome as the only other city that has officially decided to bid. Germany will submit either Hamburg or Berlin, with France and Hungary among those also considering bids. Some Bostonians feel that there should a referendum put up for a vote to gauge the support of those residents that may be affected.

The hope is that no public funds will be needed or used to help pay for the Boston Olympics.  Things that make you go Hmmmmmm. A CNBC article  says that the Olympic organizing committee hopes to produce this event for ONLY $5 Billion! What a bahgain!

So how will they pay for this?

If you have read my previous blog posts about the Sochi and London Olympics, then you have seen that millions (billions?) of corporate dollars are needed to produce these events.  Sponsorships. Corporate Sponsorships will help pay for the games.

This is where the WalkathonMaven is concerned.  Having a blog allows me to have an opinion on many things. Since this potential event is close to home (I live 20 miles from Boston) there will be many-an-opine coming from moi.  Buckle up. As you may know, I am an event junkie. I love attending, volunteering and sometimes producing an event.  If the 2024 Olympics do come to Boston, then I will be out there volunteering with my other AARP-brethren pointing to where the toilets are.  I may even brush-up on the French I forgot from high school. I may even challenge myself to learn “the toilets are this way” in several languages!  WooHoo!  I will live in my SUV near Carson Beach while I rent out my home for meeeeeeellions of dollars.

Local non-profits rely on the corporate dollar and mostly the corporate sponsorship dollar to produce their walkathons in and around Boston.  The corporate sponsorship dollars help defray the costs of producing an event.  Corporate sponsorship dollars are needed to pay for sexy things like tents, toilets, chairs, printing, police, postage etc… This allows more of the walker donations to go toward the mission of the non-profit organization. With me?

There are many worthy causes competing for the corporate donation dollar. When the Boston Marathon bombings occurred and the One Fund Boston was established to help those affected, many corporate donation dollars were directed toward this.  Great cause, yes – but these same corporations have a limited donation bucket capacity and had to reduce the support they usually gave to the other organization that rely on their sponsorships.  Many walkathons in Boston had reduced support from local corporations since they were supporting the One Fund instead. Still with me?

My main concern regarding the Olympics coming to Boston is that many of the corporate donations that local walkathons rely on will be directed instead to Boston2024.  While many of the local walkathons have sponsorship levels at $5K, $10K, $25K or $50 thousand, these same corporations will instead be asked for $5M, $10M, $25M and $50 MILLION to sponsor the Olympics.

I really HOPE that Boston gets the Olympics and I really HOPE that the corporations will minimally level-fund their walkathon sponsorships.  This way the for-profit and non-profits in and around Boston can happily share the world spotlight on our great city!  For more information about the Boston bid for the 2024 Olympic, please check out their website here.



Fundraising lessons from Mayor Menino

13 Nov




Boston’s beloved former mayor, Thomas Menino, passed away recently and it was a gut-punch to the many Boston people and organizations that he supported.

I came across this article, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy that tells us about his not-so-unique, but “old school” way of getting things done.

He showed up.

He looked you in the eye.

He shook your hand.

He asked you personally for help.

The article states how most of Boston can say that they have met Mayor Menino.  I was lucky enough to meet him a few times. I remember meeting him when I worked at Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger. He was being honored for advocating for free school breakfast and lunches for low-income kids.  He really wanted the underprivileged kids of Boston to eat well so they could fuel their own success.  I went up to congratulate him as he was leaving the event and he took MY hand, looked me in MY eye and asked me to make sure we keep doing good work for the kids of the city.

A bunch of years later, I was able to chat with Mayor Menino again when he visited the Hatch Shell for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.  At the time, we were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the event and he was taking a group of VIPs for a walk across the yet-to-be opened Zakim Bunker Hill bridge.  It was lit up pink to commemorate the anniversary.  A staff person introduced me as the Walk Manager, and he said that I should be walking over that bridge with them.  He then took MY hand, and looked me in MY eye and told me that he knew that “the captain cannot leave the ship.”  Mayor Menino had been to enough events to know that I had to stay at the rodeo instead of being part of the ceremony on the bridge.

Mayor Menino was a good friend to the American Cancer Society.  He gave city employees paid time off to get regular cancer screenings. This was a long time ago, before he was given his own cancer diagnosis.   It was a shame that he did not have a lot of time after leaving office to enjoy his time out of City Hall.

So what does this have to do with walkathons?

Mayor Menino did not rely on social media or emails to communicate with people.  He used electronic communications as a supplemental too.   His preferred method of communication was to be present and look people in the eye when he asked for something.  It was this personal connection that allowed his staff and community to feel like they had a relationship with him.  In turn, he received their support.

I think we can all raise alot more money if we stop relying on the email-generator to ask for fundraising support.  I remember when walk papers had an area where you had to ask for a donation and the supporter would actually fill in their name and address on the form.  After the event, you would go back, say thanks, and collect your check.  Old School.  A conversation was had.  Twice. We were able to look our potential supporter in the eye and ask them for a donation. At the end, we could once again look them in the eye to say ‘thanks.”

We can all learn from the Mayor Menino Method.  Rest in Peace, Mr. Mayor.

Avon Walk in Boston

15 May


avon walk1


It’s gonna be a rainy weekend here in Boston, which is a bummer since the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is happening. Two days. 39 miles around the Boston and the ‘burbs.  For a minimum of $1800 fundraising dollars, you too can be part.

I took a lookie at their website, and came upon the list of the top fundraisers so far. The top individual fundraiser has raised $36K!. The second highest person has raised $18K. With published lists like this, any breast cancer walk event manager can prioritize their fundraising recruitment by contacting these folks first.  I smell donor poaching.

While perusing their website, I liked how the Avon folks listed the local grant recipients of the fundraising dollars, to show where 80% of the net donations are sent.  Sadly, Charity Navigator gives them a  1 out of 4 rating, with fundraising expenses of 40%.


Here is what their website says about making a difference:

All money raised by the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is managed by the Avon Foundation for Women, a 501(C)(3) public charity that funds a comprehensive network of programs and services dedicated to serving breast cancer patients and their families through five areas of the breast cancer cause: awareness and education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, support services, and scientific research.

Unlike other walks, the Avon folks do not require the volunteers to raise money. They even posted on Craigslist a “want ad” for weekend route marking volunteers.  I wonder what happens if they do not get enough volunteers to fill the 4 route marking vehicles.  This is where not having a local office hurts the logistical efforts. Instead of relying on local staff  for safety and other important logistical roles, they need to rely on craigslist to recruit these folks.  That would make me nervous.

If you would like to receive a designation to be an Official (as opposed to unofficial) Sponsor of the Boston event, it will cost your company $12K.  Here is what you get for the money, including the opportunity to distribute tchotchkes to the walkers.

Oh, and since this is a 2-day event, you will need to pack some stuff.  Walkers are allowed to have a bag weighing no more that 30 lbs. I like the thorough list of things (camping gear, clothing, toiletries) you will need.   They will provide the hand soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion in the shower trucks.  Phew! That would lighten my load by about 10 pounds right there!

Good luck this weekend and have a Wicked Pissah good time!




Please leave your (…) at home

20 Apr



The Boston Marathon is tomorrow, and I’m glad the Mutha Nature is providing a wonderful New England spring day for the runners.   There is nothing to shovel!  Hurray!  I’m hoping that after tomorrow, after the marathon, we will no longer be subject to the endless stories about the bombing.  Every newscast for the past several weeks has been either about someone affected by the bombing, or the missing Malaysian flight.  Most of the stories about the bombing victims have been told, and it seems that the media is being disingenuous by re-telling these same stories for ratings.  This gratuitous reporting is sucking the joy out of the event for some runners, and us spectators.

Tomorrow, my friends and family will be cheering at Mile 6 for our peeps that will be running in the marathon.  In years past, we usually bring allotta shrapnel (chairs, beverages, snacks, noisemakers etc..) with us since we are in our spot for a few hours.  Not this year.

The Boston Athletic Association, along with local law enforcement have asked us to leave most items at home.  In addition to the extra 9,000 runners this year, they are expecting almost a million spectators cheering along the 26-mile route.  Security has been fortified, and every media outlet is highlighting what you should not bring the to the curbside viewing party:


Weapons? Really?  Who is the idiot that needs to be told to leave their weapons at home?

Enforcement?  Perhaps some of the 3,500 police officers will be tasked with confiscation.  I would hope that there time is better spent on other security than taking away the toys from the crowds along the route.   I wonder if they will consider my vuvuzela a weapon?  vuvu

What kind of messaging do you need to keep your guests safe? When I was a walkathon manager, we were careful about what to say to our participants, so as to not offend or deter them from showing up (with their donations!)   We would use a phrase on our collateral with hopes of getting the message across:  “For the safety of our walkers, please leave your pets, bikes and roller blades at home.”  Why did we have to do this? Because there were episodes that required a visit from our insurance company to take a statement regarding a claimant.  Once upon a time, we had walkers that were run over by a bike and a roller-blader and one walker tripped over a dog leash.  She broke her hip and we (insurance) paid her medical.

While I understand the need to idiot-proof the messaging to the marathon viewers, I would not want to over-do-it so my guests decide that they do not want to attend at all.

bag check

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Association (MEMA) has published a statement regarding the spectators.  They want us to carry our items in clear plastic bags.   This policy reminds me of how (people I know) would carry vodka inside of plastic water bottles since actual bottles of alcohol were prohibited.  The old English proverb of “Where there is a will, there is a way” comes to mind.  If some Jackhole want to be disruptive or destructive at a large event – they will figure it out.   Surveillance cameras are everywhere and the entire route has technological eyes on it.   Good luck being anonymous.

Best of luck to the runners tomorrow, and pray that my kids are not witness to Mommy being detained for a vuvuzela.




What’s your Real Housewives tagline?

6 Mar


RH trashWho’s YOU?

If you are a fan of the Real Housewives dramedy-trash series on BravoTV then you may be familiar with the opening sequence where each of the featured Housewives introduce themselves with a little snarky one-liner describing their fabulousness. These taglines usually change from season to season.

For example, Carole Radziwill of RHONY has the following:carole

Season 5: “I may be a princess, but I’m definitely not a drama queen.”
Season 6: “If you’re going to talk about me behind my back, at least check out my great ass.”

(My fave series is Miami, since it has just the right mixture of Rich-People-Cray and Latina tempers)

You can see all of the Real Housewives taglines here.


So what does this have to do with walkathons?

Everything! The above mentioned taglines should get your mind in a space to think about how you introduce yourself, and your event in a professional setting.

You have probably heard of the ‘elevator pitch’, which is a brief description of who you are and what you do.

For example – “I am an entertainer in vertical kinetics industry”

Which means – “I am a pole dancer”

What is the ‘elevator pitch’ for you and your walk?

How do you position yourself, and your event in relation to the other million walkathons out there?

Once upon a time, when I worked on the Boston Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, the positioning statement was “the largest, single-venue one-day breast cancer walk in the nation”.  It think it is still true to this day. The New York area MSABC walks position themselves as “the largest, multi-venue one-day breast cancer walk in the nation”. See the difference?

When I work on a positioning statement with my clients, we try to determine what makes them different and what they can lay claim to with regards to size, issue and location.

Some ideas to get your started:

  1. What are the largest similar events in the area (city, state, metro etc..)?
  2. What other events focus on your issue in the area (city, state, metro etc..)?
  3. How much money do you raise in comparison to similar events?
  4. How many walkers do you have in comparison to similar events?

Even if you are celebrating your first year as a walk, you could still technically position yourself as the only walk focusing on the issue of XYZ in the XXXXX zipcode”. Get the idea?

Find what makes you, your organization and your walk unique and use it to position yourself in the world!

So…….. Who’s YOU?


Pick up the phone!

29 Aug

pick it up!

pick it up!

Great article today in the Wall Street Journal about how we need to get off the computer and pick up the phone if we want to communicate with someone.

So true!  I tell my clients that relationships with constituents – whether they are a walker, team leader or a corporate sponsorship decision-maker, need to be started with a conversation. Ideally a face-to-face is best, but a phone call is a sometimes necessary second.

I’ll continue to preach this until someone tells me that they were able to close a five-figure event sponsorship or a major gift with an email.

If you were a fan of the movie “Flashdance” (I saw this 7 times!) then you may recall how Pittsburgh welder/exotic dancer Alex Owens (played by a terrific Jennifer Beals) was distraught over her relationship status with her boss Nick Hurley (played by foxy Michael Nouri).

Alex was being annoyingly needy while talking to her co-workers about the situation and a patient woman that happen to be sharing the space with them became irate and yelled “just pick up the phone and call the dude!”

Again. So True!  One needs to remember that this movie was released in 1983 and cell phones/texting was not yet invented. However, the old-school-rule still applies when it comes to relationships – personal or business.  You gotta talk to make “The Ask”.

what a feeling!

what a feeling!