Head of the Charles Regatta

19 Oct





The Head of the Charles Regatta is a yearly rowing event happening every October.

It is coming up this weekend and I read a good article in the Boston Business Journal  about the logistics involved in this huge event.

Like many once-a-year fundraising events – little seeds must be planted all year-round so they all bloom on event day. It was interesting to see the numbers needed to make this regatta safe and fun for everyone:

2,260 boats

10,600 athletes representing 28 countries  (I cannot event begin to comprehend the travel and lodging logistics involved for this!)

4,000 proposals to get 100 in-kind and media partners

Six full time staff

Race committee of 12

85 on the race operations team

2,000 weekend race volunteers

And the volunteers get down vests!



This is an outdoor event, which means the most important number of ONE belongs to Mutha Nature.

She determines if you will have a sunny day with thousands of observers lining the Charles River drinking and walking and socializing. If it is a rainy day, then the observers are reduced exponentially and are mostly huddled in their respective collegiate and rowing club tents just drinking. How do I know this?

Once upon a time when I was much younger and did not have my weekends obliterated with driving my kids (Fire and Gasoline) around to their activities – I used to love attending the Head of the Charles. Before I was a WalkathonMaven, I would walk up and down the three-mile course on the shores of the Charles watching the crowds and wondering how the rowers did not hit the bridges, or the other competitors with their boats.

Ahhhhh. Memories.  Best of luck this weekend and may Mutha Nature smile upon you!


Rio Poncho Peeps point the way

7 Aug



If you watched the opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics on Friday night, you saw a few people steal the show from the athletes.

My favorite, of course, was the flag-bearing, greased up (coconut oil or insect repellent?) man from Tonga.image

Second fave was the dancing neon-arrow-poncho-wearing volunteers lining the path borders to help direct the athletes along the way.image

As a logistics lover, I applaud the creative way that the event organizers combined the use arrows and volunteers to move the athletes along during the opening ceremonies. Perhaps we will see more events request that their volunteers wear the directional signage, instead of holding or posting the arrows.

When I was a walk manager, we would recruit route marshals to provide a safety necklace around the walkathon route. They would stand at any place along the route where a walker would have a choice of making a right or left turn.

These route marshals were an essential part of the event logistics. They could multitask as a directional, motivational and education piece of the event logistics cog.

I think that wearing an arrow is a lot more fun than holding an arrow. The volunteers will then have their hands free to hold a megaphone, whistle or other noisemaker. Looking forward to seeing how future events will morph this arrow-apparel and make it a part of their walkathons!



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.


The 8-foot Egg Peddler

24 Mar


Sit on my lap for $8. $10 if you want a photo.


The mall squatting Easter Bunny.  A shopping symbol of Spring and all things pastel.

When I was at the mall and saw the Easter bunny rise up to take a break, I was surprised to see how tall he/she was. Almost eight feet tall!  The size of this candy-pushing hare reminded me of an ‘incident’ at one of my walks when a company sent their 8-foot inflatable mascot to pass out candy to thousands of walkers.

These visibility-stealing guerrilla marketing techniques are a big no-no and need to be shut down immediately so that they do not steal visibility and messaging.

Your sponsors pay a lot of money for the opportunity to be a partner with your organization and be seen as a leader in the community on the issue. Part of the package is having visibility at your event on signage and possibility a piece of real estate, like a table or a tent.  It’s not fair when someone gets the visibility for free.

So, how do you shut down an 8-foot confection-distributing-visibility-suck at your walkathon?  Make a scene and tell them to leave?  Take a lighter to the costume and see if it meets any fire-retardant guidelines? Nope. You don’t want to be forever known as “that girl” who booted the beloved gigantic peddler of sweet meat.

Instead, we approached the enormous inflatable with a puncture tool (just kidding) and suggested that they move along the walk route, sharing their tooth-rot nuggets along the way.  Fantastic!  Our sponsors were happy to get them off the main event oval where thousands were congregating – and the 8-foot monstrosity left the area surrounded by the same 20 people as they happily walked the route together.  Ta Da!

I wonder if the same amount of kids freak out sitting on the Easter Bunny’s lap that lose it sitting on Santa’s lap.

Perhaps the kids know that there are chocolate eggs in it for them instead of a stale candy cane.

Hoppy Easter!



My Easter addiction

My Easter addiction


Cause Calendar 2016

28 Jan



thanks to nptechforgood for creating the calendar

thanks to nptechforgood for creating the calendar


Here it is! The calendar that shows ALL of the cause awareness days for 2016.

The folks at Non Profit Tech for Good created this resource for the curious minds that want to be aware of all the great causes around us.

Since the month of January is almost over, I’ll offer the designated days starting in February. To be honest, I’ve never heard of most of these.  I’m not even sure how an organization goes about squatting on their ‘official’ day.  My birthday falls on the International Day for Street Children.  Or should I say that they have chosen my birthday for the Street Children of the World?



I visited their website and found: The International Day for Street Children is a platform for the millions of street children around the world – and their champions – to speak out so that their rights cannot be ignored. They are based in London and have a walk!

The event is called Just Walk.  It is on June 19 and they welcome everyone to walk and raise money for the cause of their choice. They provide several options for route length so you can walk as long and as far as you like.

Here is the list for the rest of the year..Enjoy!


2: World Wetlands Day — #WorldWetlandsDay
4: World Cancer Day — #WorldCancerDay
13: World Radio Day#WorldRadioDay
13: World Whale Day#WorldWhaleDay

14: V-Day — #1BillionRising
17: Digital Learning Day — #DLDay
20: World Day of Social Justice — #SocialJusticeDay
23: World Spay Day — 
27: International Polar Bear Day#PolarBearDay
29: Rare Disease Day — #RareDiseaseDay


3: World Wildlife Day#WorldWildlifeDay
8: International Women’s Day — #WomensDay

10: World Kidney Day — #WorldKidneyDay
19: Earth Hour #EarthHour
21: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination#EndRacism
21: International Day of Forests#ForestsDay
21: World Down Syndrome Day#DownSyndromeDay
21: World Poetry Day#WorldPoetryDay
22: World Water Day — #WorldWaterDay

24: World Tuberculosis Day — #WorldTBDay


2: World Autism Awareness Day — #WorldAustismDay
7: World Health Day#WorldHealthDay

12: International Day for Street Children — #StreetChildrenDay
16: World Dolphin Day#DolphinDay
22: Earth Day — #EarthDay
23: World Book Day#WorldBookDay
25: World Malaria Day — #WorldMalariaDay
25: World Penguin Day#WorldPenguinDay
30: International Jazz Day#JazzDay


1: International Workers’ Day — #LaborDay
3: World Press Freedom Day#WorldPressFreedomDay
3: Give Local America Day — #GiveLocal16
7: World Migratory Bird Day#WorldMigratoryBirdDay
10: World Lupus Day — #WorldLupusDay
14: World Fair Trade Day — #FairTradeDay
17: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia#IDAHOT
18: International Museum Day — #MuseumDay
22: International Day for Biological Diversity#BiologicalDiversityDay

23: World Turtle Day — #WorldTurtleDay
31: World No Tobacco Day — #WorldNoTobaccoDay


5: World Environment Day#WorldEnvironmentDay
8: World Oceans Day — #WorldOceansDay
12: World Day Against Child Labor#WDACL

14: World Blood Donor Day — #WorldBloodDonorDay
20: World Refugee Day — #WorldRefugeeDay
21: International Day of Yoga#YogaDay


11: WorldPopulationDay — #WorldPopulationDay
18: Nelson Mandela International Day — #MandelaDay
World Hepatitis Day#WorldHepatitisDay
29: International Tiger Day — #TigerDay
30: World Day Against Trafficking in Persons#WorldDayAgainstTrafficking


8: International Cat Day#CatDay
9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples — 
12: International Youth Day — #YouthDay
12: World Elephant Day — #WorldElephantDay
19: World Humanitarian Day — #WorldHumanitarianDay
26: International Dog Day#DogDay
29: International Day Against Nuclear Tests#AgainstNuclearTestsDay


5: International Day of Charity#CharityDay
8: International Literacy Day — 
10: World Suicide Prevention Day — #WSPD
15: International Day of Democracy#DemocracyDay
21: International Day of Peace — #PeaceDay
22: World Rhino Day — #WorldRhinoDay
25: World Rivers Day — #WorldRiversDay
27: World Tourism Day#WorldTourismDay


4: World Animal Day — #WorldAnimalDay
5: World Cerebral Palsy Day#WorldCPDay
5: World Habitat Day#WorldHabitatDay
5: World Teachers Day — #WorldTeachersDay
10: World Mental Health Day — #WorldMentalHealthDay
11: International Day of the Girl — #DayOfTheGirl
12: World Arthritis Day — #WorldArthritisDay
15: International Day of Rural Women#RuralWomenDay
16: World Food Day#WorldFoodDay
17: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty#EndPoveryDay
29: World Internet Day#WorldInternetDay
31: World Cities Day#WorldCitiesDay


13: World Kindness Day#WorldKindnessDay
14: World Diabetes Day — 
16: International Day for Tolerance#ToleranceDay
19: World Philosophy Day#WorldPhilosophyDay
19: World Toilet Day#WorldToiletDay
20: Universal Children’s Day — #ChildrensDay
21: World Television Day#WorldTVDay
25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women#EndViolenceAgainstWomen
29: Giving Tuesday#GivingTuesday


1: World AIDS Day — #WorldAIDSDay
3: International Day of People with Disabilities — #IDPwD
5: International Volunteer Day#VolunteerDay
5: World Soil Day#WorldSoilDay

9: International Anti-Corruption Day #AntiCorruptionDay
10: International Human Rights Day — #HumanRightsDay
11: International Mountain Day — #MountainDay
18: International Migrants Day#MigrantsDay

Logistics Lessons with Tents and Tornadoes

12 Jan




How do you weight your tent so it does not fly away?  Let’s find out.

I was visiting my mom last weekend and we checked out the Cape Coral Festival of the Arts happening downtown. Over 300 exhibitors were there and they all had tents. 10x10s. Side by side for blocks. Awesome.


This Art Fest was a crack den for my mom and she made it rain purchasing all kinds of yard art. I loved accompanying her and since I am an event junkie, I took photos of different tent weights (no stakes allowed since it was on a street) during our stroll. I had no idea that these photos would come in handy later that evening, when an F2 tornado blew through the area around 7pm that night. This blog writes itself sometimes!!IMG_1592

I looked on the Facebook page of the art fest Sunday morning and read that there was some damage done by the tornado, and the Rotary volunteers worked all night to clean up.

We went back to the art fest Sunday morning, so Mom could pick up “just one more thing.”  Some of the tents and exhibitors were missing, and we asked about them. Turns out one of the tents that was weighted, collected a lot of water on the roof which then dipped down into the center. The wind came under and picked the whole thing up and carried it about 20 feet.  It landed onto another exhibitor tent.  A few other unweighted tents were also lifted up from the wind. No idea how much they lost. We saw a few vacant spots on the pavement. Sad.IMG_1602

While walking around on Sunday morning. many exhibitors had their front tent flaps down and were drying off their merchandise.  I’ll call them lucky since they had a tent and some merchandise left. Some of the exhibitors I spoke to said they did take down their artwork and packed it at night.  Others told me they left some heavy items hanging on the walls and put away the rest.


hunka hunka cement

So what to do when you have tents at your walkathon and there is potential for inclement weather?

The weather forecast on Saturday had a significant potential for rain that night. They certainly did not expect a tornado. I’m not sure that staking a tent into the ground would have worked here. I’m not sure attaching weights would keep a tent from flying away that night either.


PVC pipe filled with cement and a sandbag


cement-filled PVC pipe with caps and screw-eyes

This tornado touched down few blocks north of the art fest.  If an EF2 tornadowind is up to 135 MPH, then something close to that must have been blowing near this event. I’m can only imagine if this was a direct hit.



When I was a walkathon manager, we would always setup as much as possible the night before (tents, tables, chairs, merchandise) so that we could show up in the weeeee hours the next morning to finish preparing for the walk.

The lesson I learned here for night-before-setup is to place important things low to the ground (on a tarp) under the tent. Surround this with the flat tables and chairs. If you rented tent flaps, then put them down for the evening. This should help prevent too much damage if heavy winds or rain comes that night.  Your tent company may have some suggestions since they do not want to lose their merchandise either.

The good news is that there were no injuries from the tornado and my Mom is giddy with her new yard art purchases.



Nonprofit internships – paid or unpaid?

23 Dec





Should nonprofit interns be paid?

I read a good article in the NPQ about an interesting debate on whether or not interns at nonprofits organizations should be paid. Ideally, everyone should get paid for a job well done.  Realistically, nonprofits significantly rely on free help from volunteers and interns to accomplish the mission.  According to the article:

Interns are usually young and comparatively unskilled persons undergoing a period of apprenticeship for the purpose of learning an important life or work skill.

Agreed. I would welcome my interns and spent allotta time training them so they could do a good job for us. It was always sad to see them go back to their studies. I relied on my interns so much that I would always try to convince them that they should stay with me and not go back to school. I could teach them everything they needed to know about life. Once upon a time my summer intern from UPenn almost believed me but her mom thought I was trying to brainwash her and she had to ‘leave early for a family situation’. Sad.

Were my walkathon interns always paid? Sometimes Yes and sometimes No.


When I was working for the Walk for Hunger, we had a relationship with the co-op program at a local university. The university would pay a stipend to a student if they took a co-op with one of the approved nonprofits in the area. Luckily, we were one of them and we were able to have a student join us full-time for a few months. We had the student lead the volunteer recruitment for the event. I liked that we could give the student a specific task that they could see through from beginning to end.  Recruiting and training 2,000 volunteers was a HUGE job and having the co-op allowed us to focus on team recruitment.

These co-ops earned their stipend (and then some!) and were crucial to the success of the walk.

While working on the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, I would have both paid and unpaid interns. Since we raised over $3M each year, we allocated small budget for an intern to help us with the donated snacks and beverages for the finish line. This was always a summer internship and for some reason it was a pretty competitive gig. We would receive upwards of 100 applications for the opportunity to be part of our crazy train.

We would also have a few high school students that we could not pay and they would receive a glowing recommendation letter for their college applications as compensation.

It is crucial that a high percentage of the fundraising dollar go toward the mission. Headcount can be a detriment to that percentage. Nonprofits rely on volunteers, interns and co-ops to work toward that goal.  We appreciate all you do to contribute to the success of the event!


Pinkshaming the Pinkwashers of Pinktober 2015

13 Oct



October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know my main pink peeve it the marketing of all things pink to support those affected by breast cancer. Pinkwashing. It makes me nuts that companies will spend more on the Pinktober marketing budget than the donation (if any!) to a breast cancer charity. Companies have been marketing pink items since August and some are promising to donate a portion of sales to a breast cancer organization. Some companies just market pink items for the heck of it.  Here are a few Pinkwashers I’d like to Pinkshame this season:

Need some Pink Pepper Spray? Here ya go!  Found this one at BassPro Shop.  I did not see any beneficiary of this on the packaging, but BassPro does give 20% of their
“Hunt for the Cure” proceeds to BreastCancer.org.  Yep. Hunt for the Cure.  I wonder if Komen will go after them for the use of their trademarked “for the Cure” slogan.


Michael’s Craft Stores have a big-honkin’ pink display and tagging the items with Team Hope.



Michaels craft stores are marketing their pink items under Team Hope.












I visited the Michaels website and did not see anything regarding Team Hope. I typed “Team Hope” into the search bar and no products were found to match my search. I scrolled to the bottom of the Michaels webpage to look for any charitable alliances and found nothing. There is no charitable alliance noted on any of the Team Hope packaging. I think it is safe to say that none of this pink product money is going toward any breast cancer organization.  Pppfffttthhhhtttt.

These next pink items were found at the checkout at one of my fave crack dens –  Five Below.





The laces are packaged with “Walk of Hope” and the mirrors are packed with “Reflections of Hope”


I visited the Five Below website and was pleased to see a tab on Philanthropy.  Nothing was found regarding a donation to breast cancer charities, but they do align themselves with Alex’s Lemonade Stand and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  The packing of these items do not indicate any charitable intentions with the sale of these products.  Ppppffftthhht.

One organization doing Pinktober the right way is the NFL and their Crucial Catch campaign.  If you are a football fan, then you have seen the pink accessories and signage at the games this month. The NFL is aligned with the American Cancer Society and promotes what each of the 32 NFL teams are doing this month to promote breast cancer awareness.

The Arizona Cardinals is having Gloria Gaynor sing “I Will Survive” accompanied by 175 breast cancer survivors and their cheerleaders. Not joking.

I did not see any outright dollar amount for a donation, but the NFL indicated that pink items worn by players will be auctioned off with proceeds going to ACS.

Pink skull cap worn at game.  Anyone?

Pink skull cap worn at game. Anyone?


Stay tuned for more pink-shaming!  And go get your mammogram! xoxo



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.