Last fall, DSAIA talked to a handful of DSAs about their walks. We asked them the standard wrap up questions: what worked? what needs improvement? and compiled their responses. Four lessons stood out among all the answers, so we're sharing these insights with all DSAs in this blog post.
1. Pitch a Tent: The last thing you want is to play victim to inclimate weather. Baltimore's Down syndrome group made the last minute decision to rent a giant tent for its outdoor walk in 2017 when forecasters called for showers. And it paid off. Chesapeake Down Syndrome raised a large tent in clustered several smaller tents at the walk start/end to cover vendor tables and walk activities. Not only did walkers find shelter from the wind and rain, the "unexpected result was a greater sense of intimacy for attendees, it invited more conversations with our resource organizations, parents could talk while watching their kids play because things were close."
2. Be Mutually Generous: Your teams have spent a lot of time, energy and, of course, cash to support your walk and your organization's programming - reward them! DSA of Central Ohio upped the ante on team fundraising incentives - "that seems to be a big fundraising motivator." While DSA of Greater St. Louis offered day-of walk activities, including a rock climbing wall, crafts, carnival games, a petting zoo, trackless train, food, and music, to help celebrate their community's hard work. "We also have great success with offering the opportunity to throw out the first pitch and have field slots during a Cardinal game for our highest earning teams."
3. Timing Is Everything: It may seem like you need to consult focus groups and community surveys to pinpoint the perfect time to launch walk registration, but according to our DSAs "the earlier the better" is the most scientific conclusion they've found. Wisconsin UpsideDown reported that starting earlier coupled with regular incentive offers "got teams fundraising earlier and they raised more this year."
Timing matters the day of your walk too. Instead of waiting for everyone to line up to start the walk, DSA of Greater Charlotte stuck to the announced start time and opened the course while people were still lining up. "This cut down the time it takes to do the actual Walk route by 50% and avoided backups and bottlenecks along the route. Overall made a huge improvement in how smoothly the actual Walk part went."
4. Consider the Impact of Change: Newton's third law says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I'm not a physicist, but as an agent for change you must consider and plan for the effects of making improvements to your event. In Charlotte, people enjoyed a smoother walk experience with an "on time" start. The effect was that walkers spent 50 percent less time on the course, and more time at the end-of-walk party. Now planners know that next year, walkers want an amped up celebration with added fun activities and experiences.
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