Walking for Dollars

Six tips for building your first walk team.

Author Margaret Mary Conger and her family during a fundraising walk.
CSL Behring Senior Patient Engagement Associate Margaret Mary Conger (far right) and her family during a fundraising walk.

Maybe you, a loved one or friend has been diagnosed with an illness or chronic condition. Or perhaps one of your neighbors is living with a rare disease?  If you’re moved to help, you can organize or participate in a walk for a cause. Walks are a simple – and often fun – way to raise awareness and funds for research. Get organized before you start building your own walk team with these six tips.

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  1. Set a reasonable timeline. Give yourself at least six months to build your team and create a successful awareness and fundraising campaign. Confirming your team members’ availability for the date of your walk, gathering awareness materials and figuring out how you’ll raise funds takes time. Many people worry about ordering T-shirts, but that typically only takes two to three weeks. It’s the team-building and fundraising that require more time and effort.

     

  2. Assemble a reliable leadership team. Surround yourself with helpers. Find people whose strengths you can count on. Put your super-detail-oriented friend on T-shirt duty. Have a creative friend?Have that person design a team logo.Ask your relative with fundraising experience to help set up a Facebook fundraising page, a GoFundMe or Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, or walker fundraising pages that connect to an advocacy organization’s site. Make delegating – not doing everything yourself – your focus.

     

  3. Do your own research. Asking people to participate in an awareness walk is more impactful if you can share information about the condition and how raising awareness and funds will help affected individuals and drive critical scientific discoveries. Be clear about what you’re asking and where funding is going. Visit the websites of nationally recognized organizations for accurate information about the disease or condition, available support and the latest research and treatments. Then, add some of that information to your fundraising page and recruiting materials.

     

  4. Share relatable facts and highlight hope. When you’re recruiting walkers and donors, they may have never heard of the condition, especially if it’s a very rare disease. Sharing scary or highly clinical statistics may not be the right way to draw people to your cause. Instead, share information people can easily understand and relate to. For example, I work closely with the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) on the organization’s walks for primary immunodeficiency (PI). PI is a rare disorder where a person’s immune system is missing or not working correctly. To help folks understand the impact of this disease, I may share something simple, like the fact that a child with PI may miss half of the school year due to infection. That’s relatable, and people will understand the impact. It’s also important to share recent strides made in treatment and condition management.

     

  5. Reach out to everyone you know. People who walk for a cause, build walk teams and create events are driven primarily by a desire for more awareness. When patients are newly diagnosed, they or their families and friends may feel helpless. Building a walk team is a difference they can make, something they can do right away. If you’re going through all that effort, extend your recruiting and fundraising efforts to everyone you know – family, friends, coworkers, community groups. I’ve been working with patients with PI for years, and I encourage people here at CSL Behring to learn about the condition and to take advantage of this easy way to get involved.

     

  6. Promote the walk’s feel-good atmosphere and accessibility. The coolest things I see at patient walks are the supportive communities that surround each patient. Whether it’s PI, Type I diabetes, hemophilia, childhood cancer, you name it – most families have a team with special shirts they designed, and they’re showing that they’re inspired by that one person as well as the greater cause. Patients say they feel like everyone is rallying around them and supporters often claim that they feel great participating. Most of these walks are not designed for elite athletes – they’re very inclusive. If patients have a condition that limits mobility, routes are usually accessible by wheelchairs and scooters. If a patient’s breathing is impacted, like at our alpha-1 community events such as CSL Behring’s Walk for Breath celebration, walks may be held indoors. Emphasize that it’s about awareness and having fun, rather than a competition. And, if you’re ambitious enough to plan your own event, consider ways to make it an accessible, comfortable, fun day for everyone involved.

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Margaret Mary Conger is a Senior Patient Engagement Associate at CSL Behring. She manages patient advocate groups and develops and manages patient engagement programs.