May 2011.

There were plenty of insights at the RunWalkRide Conference in March. In Part 2 of ‘Rachel’s Notes’ from the conference, you will find information about events — recruitment, production, staffing and more.

·         Most management models for large events either work National direct to Chapters OR National to Regional offices to Chapters. In some cases, National directly managed the event series and relies more heavily on vendors for support. When reviewing the RWR Top 30, most of the organizations are National direct to Chapters.


·         There is an issue of high turnover of local Chapter staff. Many organizations host annual and/or semi-annual in person training and find the results to be worth the investment. Others are offering online training available year-round as new staff join the team at various times during the year. When struggling with how to pay for training, I recommended organizations look at sponsorships and engaging national event series sponsors both financially and in-person to be a part of the series team, including training.


·         I was impressed with the amount of training provided to many of the volunteers who dedicate themselves to these events. If you provide fantastic training for staff and/or volunteers, are you promoting that during recruitment? With the job market in its current state, quality volunteers are looking for opportunities to learn new skills and expand their networks — use these selling points, but only if you can deliver!


·         One organization clearly identified their ‘pilot market’ and using this market to test new program concepts. If they experience a positive return in the pilot market they can move forward with replicating the program throughout the series. Do you know your pilot markets and are you effectively testing new concepts?


·         Organizations that staff national event positions with people from the field foster a greater sense of trust and respect than people with no direct on-the-ground event experience. It seems that the experience didn’t have to be directly with the same organization but a recognizable program or event.


·         National Event Series staff talked about engaging consultants for a variety of efforts including training, template creation and strategy discussions. Staff needs to determine where they add value to identify opportunities for outside support.


·         Many programs have made the ‘percent of participants fundraising’ a priority. To get started, the organization must understand what percentage is currently raising money. Additional data points include ranking the events within your own series to see who is doing the best with this metric and to help establish meaningful targets. There was quite a bit of discussion about where the percentage should be, but the information shared ranged from 5-65% and did not provide a true benchmarking option so begin internally and work to increase the percentage of fundraisers versus non-fundraisers over time.


·         An interesting volunteer recruitment tool was recommended by one attendee. They offer free registration to event day volunteers that are engaged in local running clubs. It helps with promotion of the event and early morning volunteer recruitment.


·         Event programs are very dependent on volunteer support. Family team recruitment and stewardship is often handled by volunteers while corporate teams are handled by staff.  Getting volunteers proficient at operations, recruitment and fundraising support is usually a 2 year process. Charities can benefit from using videos to help volunteers understand the event vision.


·         National offices are providing more resources to local chapters including in-house consulting, PR templates and pre-packaged advertising.


·         I heard a few people say, “It doesn’t cost anything to have them [free walkers] there so why not?” Please know that participants that enjoy the event for free DO cost the organization. In some cases, their participation may lead to strong advocates, increased sponsorship revenue due to event size or may serve as an acquisition tool for other fundraising efforts. If you are open to non-paying participants, be clear about your per participant costs, the return on that participant (tangible and intangible) and make a conscience decision to include them in your planning. What is your per participant cost? Do you currently have non-paying participants? If yes, how are you engaging them in the mission of the organization and what fundraising opportunities exist with this segment of your event participants?



Events continue to play a critical role in raising money for causes. Often events are not adequately evaluated on their return for the charity and opportunities to increase revenue and decrease costs are overlooked. Be sure to question every part of your event year after year and work with the assumption that your organization’s event program will be very different in the future and that change is the norm. I can provide assistance to get you started and am happy to review any plans or ideas you might be considering. Best of luck!