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….”

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