Senior Development Manager, Primary Care Coalition
Growing up, my family was super active in the local chapter of a national diabetes nonprofit, JDRF. Every year, we’d show up to staff and participate in the organization’s fall walk-a-thon. There were ridiculously early start times, and we were never done before early afternoon. But it was a thing we did because type 1 diabetes had touched our family, and we knew it was worth it.
There are far easier ways of raising money, but once you’ve established a core audience, these events can be a real moment of community. Those long Saturdays felt almost like family reunions, showing up and seeing other folks whose families had also been involved for years.
As powerful as those gatherings can be, there are also important ways they fail—for both attendees and organizations:
- They’re complex to organize and impossible to staff unless you can mobilize significant numbers of volunteers. That makes them tricky for smaller nonprofit organizations.
- They often exclude people with mobility challenges by default.
- They rely on local community—or a series of local chapter events—and make it difficult for supporters living afar to actively participate.
None of these challenges are reasons to discount charity race events as a whole, but they offer ideas for improvement. Process improvement happens to be a PCC specialty.
Here's how we’re thinking about the Virtual 5K as an event for this year, and (hopefully) beyond:
- We’ve structured it to be welcoming to anyone, anywhere, with any degree of mobility. Do we expect to have significant numbers of participants completing a 5K with a walker? Maybe not, but we’ve structured it so they really could, at least over the 5-day span of the event.
- Location is flexible. Folks for whom transit is a challenge can stick close to home. I can corral my family—those I’ll be seeing immediately after Thanksgiving, and those I won’t—to actively support a cause that matters to me.
- So is the event size. There’s nothing to say this has to be a solo or very small group event. We would love nothing more than to see participants do this together. If you're interested in spearheading a gathering, I'll happily spread the word.
The first COVID October, my neighborhood started a Halloween parade. It was pretty bare bones: some organizers put out the call for folks to show up at a certain time to follow a set route, and they encouraged folks along it to watch and/or offer candy from a safe distance. But the experience was better than any Halloween of my childhood or my children’s. It also had some real practical benefits. Suddenly, living on one of the busiest streets didn’t handicap us from seeing all the neighborhood kids dressed in costumes. Folks who don’t do Halloween had an easier opt-out with less door-to-door action. Most of all, we established something that’s both very rooted in our neighborhood and accessible beyond it.
I don’t want to go back to the Halloweens of before. The new ones are so much better.
The pandemic broke a lot of things. But as many have suggested, that forced disconnect from the way things used to be has given us a chance to reimagine what they could be. Nearly 3 years in, you may be feeling maxed out on virtual anything, but I want to make the case for our Virtual 5K.
It’s not a poor substitute for in-person gathering. It’s an inclusive new model for moving together.
Click on the image below to register.