April 2011.

If you have ever been in a meeting with me, you know that I love to take notes. The RunWalkRide Conference March 2-3 was no exception. With over 150 attendees, it was two full days of friends (old and new), learning from our peers, and ah-ha moments for a variety of projects. I hope some of you are able to use ‘Rachel’s Notes’ for your projects and to spur some thinking of your own! Our first topic is the Endurance Summit:

·         Endurance programs have expanded to include running, cycling, climbing, triathlon events and more. Most programs have been branded and are working to establish a community that supports each others’ efforts and shares lessons learned, training tips and celebrates fundraising success.


·         There were a few options discussed for endurance program coaching: E-coaching, virtual coaching, live coaching and partnering with existing training programs. What type of coaching are you using and is it the right one? When does it make sense to change? What research has been done to demonstrate the importance of the physical training program in addition to fundraising support?


·         It is recommended that training programs for ‘packs’ or groups be encouraged because it provides more motivation to stay with the program and fosters a greater sense of community.


·         Encourage volunteers to lead pilots of new events for the endurance program. Once these volunteers achieve critical mass, begin investing in the event and add it to the official calendar of activities. When does your organization decide to include a new event on the schedule and how is that decision made? What tools are available to these pilot volunteers to help them succeed?


·         The endurance program of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, NF Endurance, has a team motto: “Active volunteers and big donors make the rules.” During their presentation at RWR, they also stressed the importance of the pasta dinner because of it provides a platform to focus on the mission and network with fellow participants, volunteers and staff. What is your team motto and are you using a pasta dinner to highlight your mission and create a sense of community?


·         There is a risk for endurance programs that not every event will be a sell out so when purchasing entries be sure to have a plan ready in case the event doesn’t sell out and entries aren’t in demand. One organization had to deal with this issue and they immediately returned to their internal database and encouraged participation from that group of passionate supporters. Would your organization be ready with a Plan B and are you aware of the risks for the events you have chosen to participate in?


·         It was recommended that every program examine their messaging and make sure they are not using the “kids are suffering” message but rather focusing on the participants with positive and encouraging messages (ex: It’s in you!). What is your message and is it participant-focused and inspirational?


·         Many endurance programs are outsourcing the travel and logistics components of the program. How are you managing your resources and is there an opportunity to outsource work that is not directly generating revenue?


·         Be very clear about when a participant’s credit card will be charged if they have not met their fundraising minimum prior to the event. Some organization’s allow for fundraising up to 30 days post-event and others do not allow a participant to repeat the event if they do not fulfill their fundraising obligations. Do you follow through on your promise to charge their card if they are short of their fundraising goal? If not, is there another way for you to communicate the necessity of their participation? Are your participants given advance warning of when the card will be charged and have their received ample fundraising support?


·         Very important to introduce endurance program participants to other opportunities to get involved with the charity because for many, the endurance program can be a ‘bucket list item’ and is not always repeated. How are you introducing other engagement opportunities and are you offering new challenges for your participants?


·         ‘Endurance programs are harder to budget for than walks or other traditional events.” If budgeting is difficult, it might be because the program is currently too reactionary and you might benefit from looking for new opportunities to be proactive with the program including marketing and recruitment, calendar expansion and more. If this is true, what method is your organization using currently and is it the best option?


·         A few groups mentioned that it was important to capture the first donation within 30 days of registering for the program AND individuals who gave to their own fundraising efforts raised twice as much as other participants. How are you soliciting funds within the first 30 days? Are you encouraging self-donations?


Several national endurance programs were represented this year at the Endurance Summit. It was a dramatic growth over last year’s attendance. I wonder if more programs have launched or if more established programs are becoming more sophisticated and interested in industry standards and best practices. Overall it was nice to see the enthusiasm and willingness to share among the attendees and I am positive that everyone left with a list of action items that will improve the net result of their program AND the experience of their participants for the better.