Last week at the Run Walk Ride 2013 conference, I had the honor of hearing Julie Weiss, the Marathon Goddess, share her inspiring story. On St. Patrick’s Day, she completed her 52nd marathon…in 52 weeks! She is running in honor of her father, Maurice Weiss, who passed away from pancreatic cancer. In her remarks at the conference, Julie shared that Maurice was her biggest fan and cheerleader. In earlier years, she tried 19 times to qualify for the Boston marathon but was unsuccessful in her pursuit. Maurice never stopped believing in her, and shortly after he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, Julie won her entry to the marathon. And, a dream was born. Julie would run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to honor her father and to raise money and awareness for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Wow!
As I listened to Julie’s story along with a room full of 300+ Run, Walk, Ride, event experts, I started to think….what can we learn from Julie’s story and training regimen that we can apply to our own efforts? Well, 3 ideas came to mind, and I’d like to share a marathon-goddess-inspired challenge with you.
- Make a 52 week commitment: Every week for 52 weeks, Julie completed a 26.1 mile run. According to her blog, her first marathon qualifying time was 3:47. So I challenge you to this notion. What if you dedicated 3 hours and 47 minutes each week for the next 52 weeks to making your event be better than ever before? I know we’re all busy and short of resources. I bet Julie felt that way a few times along her journey too. But I challenge you to do some soul searching and identify the key actions you need to take. Is it recruiting more participants? Securing more press? Communicating more effectively with your participants? Providing better tools to your volunteers? Whatever it is, I challenge you to make a plan for incremental growth and then dedicate 3:47 each week to working that plan.
- Conquer the 26: As a cause marketing professional, one thing I hear time and time again from nonprofit event staff is how much easier it would all be if only there were more sponsors. So, I’d like to challenge you to contact 26 new sponsor prospects in the coming month. Come on now, Julie would tackle that in a week! Here’s a training plan to help you get started. Make a list of 3-4 sponsor candidates in each of the following segments: retail, media, banking, automotive, telecommunications, legal firms, restaurants and insurance. Of course, start where your volunteers can help open doors, but my guess is you’ve tried that before and it doesn’t always work. So, don’t give up – try something different! Research and reach out to contacts via Linked In. Attend professional events catering to that industry segment and meet some of the players. Join the rotary or commerce club and start building your network. And, if you achieve your 26 this month, why not strive for 26 every month? After all, Julie conquers her 26 weekly!
- Never forget the power of 1: How many of us have “other event” envy? You find yourself thinking “Well of course ‘other event’ is successful. Their mission affects so many more people than ours does.” Or, maybe you grouse that “they” have celebrity support. Or “they” have such a popular story to tell. Well, Julie’s story proves the power of 1. It just takes 1 participant to share their story and capture the hearts of millions for you. Invest in the power of storytelling. Go to the grass roots level and ask event coordinators who they’ve been inspired by. Find out whose family team has raised the most money – I bet there is a story about the 1 person in their life that inspired them.