That’s the motto from the commercials for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For the Cure 60-mile fundraising walk, and it sure grabbed my attention.
I spent a weekend watching movies on Lifetime and hearing that motto – and then I jumped off a cliff into the 3-Day world!
Once I decided to take on this challenge, I learned as much as I could about the 3-day event and how I would need to prepare.
Here is what I learned from my preparation and my experience on the walk…
My First Charity Walking Event
I was familiar with the Komen organization and its efforts to raise funds for curing and treating breast cancer while raising awareness about the disease.
Never had I considered participating in one!
But during that weekend, several factors hit me all at once while the “60 miles?” commercial was playing in my head.
1ST – I had been looking for a fitness challenge – something to keep me motivated to work out and exercise and hopefully lose some weight. I figured there would be a good training schedule to help get people ready to walk 60 miles.
2ND – my mother is a 2-time 20-year breast cancer survivor. Woot woot!! Walking the 3-Day would give me a chance to give something back to the community that saved her, and show my mom how very much I love her. Selfishly, I was also interested in working hard towards a cure for breast cancer, seeing as how my own personal risk factor is off the chart.
3RD – I wanted to be “doing something” in my life. I have no husband or children to take care of, and although all my free time was fun, I wanted “to do something that was bigger than myself”. That is also a quote from the 3-Day commercials, and it pretty much sealed the deal. I was going to walk 60 miles!!
What Is The Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure?
Thousands of women and men come together, each raising money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Then they take their commitment to end breast cancer one step further and walk 60 miles over the course of 3 days. 100% of the net proceeds from the 3-Day benefit Susan G. Komen and fund innovative global breast cancer research and local community programs supporting education, screening and treatment. Virtually every major advance in the fight against breast cancer in the last 30 years has been impacted by a Komen grant. Source
Across the United States, there are 14 3-day walks in 14 different cities.
- Each walk starts on a Friday morning, starting with a motivating opening ceremony and fist-pumping music. You walk approximately 20 miles, ending up at the 3-Day camp.
- After an evening in camp and sleeping in a pink 2-person tent (provided for you), you get up on Saturday morning and walk 20-ish miles, starting and ending at camp.
- On Sunday morning, you’ll pack up your belongings, put them on the baggage truck and begin the final 20-mile day.
- You’ll end at a large venue to celebrate at the closing ceremony.
I will share all the details about my Chicago 3-Day experience in a separate post.
Registering For The Event
Some parts of the site are restricted to registered walkers or crew members, but much of it is available for anyone to see. You could even go there now to sign up for a walk in 2012!
There is a registration fee (currently $90; sometimes there’s a discount). The fee takes care of food and other supplies you will use during the walk.
After you register, read everything on the site. In fact, google “Komen 3-Day” or “3-day” or “breast cancer walk” or “Komen walk” and read everything you can find. I walked with a woman who had read practically nothing, and she was a bundle of nerves and questions. I still had questions and my own share of nerves, but I felt very prepared for my 3 days, thanks to all the research I had done ahead of time.
You can register for the event as a single walker or as part of a team. I registered as a single walker. I had tried to recruit at least one friend to walk with me, but convincing someone to give up 4 to 5 months for training and fundraising, and then to walk 60 miles in 3 days is not easy!
I had read more than one account of single walkers who felt very comfortable and supported walking alone. I also found this to be true.
Teams can have any number of walkers, and can be made up of members from around the country. I met some teams that were all friends, walking and fundraising together, and other teams that were mostly strangers.
Teams are often formed around someone with breast cancer, either currently or in remission. I met one team of about 8 people, walking together for the 4th time. One of the members had breast cancer 5 years ago, and they plan to walk at least once in every city where there is a walk. Another team was a father and his 3 teenage children, walking to honor their mother, who died from breast cancer only 2 months prior to the walk. Team stories were often told on their t-shirts or on signs they carried.
You will be encouraged to attend a “Get Started” meeting (either in-person or over the phone, like I did). In that meeting, you will be informed of all the event details that you need to know. It will help you begin working on the 3 main areas: fundraising (below), equipment (here), and training (coming soon).
Let The Fundraising Begin!
Each walker for the Komen 3-Day walk is required to raise a minimum of $2,300 before the first day of your event. After all, this is a fundraising event, not just a cool way to get thousands of people together for a leisurely 60-mile stroll through some of America’s greatest cities.
Before you begin to panic – don’t panic! If you start early enough (at least 16 weeks prior to your event) and follow as many fundraising suggestions as possible, you can raise the money. I did. You can too. (See my best fundraising ideas below.)
I like to use pen and paper, so I chose a notebook and pouch for loose papers. You may do better with Excel and Word programs, a 3-ring binder, index cards, post it notes, etc. Use whatever method works for you.
I used a sheet of alphabet stickers to create a directory of my personal contacts.
Here’s an interesting perspective on the Komen 3-Day Walk and advertising costs.
Use The Resources They Give You
Each walker has access to a Participant Center on the Komen website, including a personal donation page.
You can personalize your page with pictures and a written introduction about yourself and why you are walking. Also on the page: a “Donate Now” button, a scrolling list of your donors to date, and a thermometer graphic with your monetary goal at the top and a climbing bar with your total donations received so far.
The Participant Center has many resources for fundraising, including several sample letters and email messages that you can personalize for your own letters. They also provide an official Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure logo that you may use. I used the logo and one of the sample letters to create my own fundraising letter, and I sent it to literally everyone I know. Seriously – everyone.
One thing the 3-Day coaches tell you in the “Get Started” meeting is tell everyone you know and everyone you meet about your walk and your fundraising challenge. Don’t make assumptions about who will be able to give and who might not – people will surprise you. My largest single donation was from a woman who gets her hair cut in the same salon as my mom. The hairdresser put my fundraising letter up in her station, and a stranger sent in a donation for me. Also as a surprise, the hairdresser kept a donation jar at her station and collected nearly $100!
How To Ask People For Money
So how much do you ask people to contribute?
This was a hard one for me. The “Get Started” coach said, “If you ask for $10, you will probably get $10. If you ask for $100, you might get $100. Or $50.” I decided to ask people to consider donating $60 – one dollar for every mile of the walk. That must have seemed reasonable, as 24 people did donate $60! There were also many $10 donations, and every variation up to my highest single donation of $150.
I wanted my letters to stand out in the mail, so I made a cute little pink tennis shoe refrigerator magnet for each one. The front says “Walking 60 miles… for a future without breast cancer” and the back has the web address for donations. I wrote a little note on each one “So far I’ve walked xxx of my 600 training miles!”. (Yep, 600 – more on that in my post about training for an event like this.)
Some of the ribbon I used on the pink shoes required additional postage, so keep that in mind as you plan your letters. I sent a similar letter to everyone in my email address book, and to all my Facebook contacts. The electronic letters were nice because I could include a direct link to my personal 3-Day page, where my donors could contribute directly to the organization.
I really liked the fact that money would never touch my hands (with the exception of a few donors who sent personal checks to me, asking that I forward them to the organization). The snail-mail letters included an official donation page, with my name and participant number pre-printed on it.
Speaking of Facebook, I encourage you to take advantage of social media any way you can. The Participant Center provided a 3-Day picture for me to use as my profile picture, which I used randomly throughout the 7 months before my walk. I also set it up so that my Facebook status would automatically update with a message every time I received a donation. This message had a link so anyone reading it could click for more information or to donate.
Some of my most surprising donors were Facebook friends, many of whom I have not had any personal contact with for over 20 years. Another walker I know was very close to meeting her goal and put this message on her status: “Hey friends and family! I am only $400 away from meeting my goal! I have 82 friends on Facebook – that’s only $5 per person!” And it worked!
Tracking Your Progress
Some of my contacts were from work, where I kept a running total of my training miles. Many people asked about the miles, giving me an opportunity to tell them about Susan G. Komen and my upcoming 60-mile adventure. Almost all who asked told me about a family member with breast cancer, and several asked how they could contribute to my walk.
I kept my event business cards ready at all times. They were created from the template from the Komen Participant Center. These were also good to have on my training walks, for anyone who seemed interested in more information.
As donations came in (to the Komen website), I tracked them in the back of my notebook. I also received an email message with every donation, and what a joy it was to see “A donation has been made on your behalf!” I noted each name, the date, the dollar amount, method of contact (letter, email, other), date of thank you note, and a star when I sent a final thank you with a picture from the walk.
I did spend a little bit of money on postage, but it was really important to me to connect with each donor as much as possible. So I sent a thank you letter or email (matching the form of the original request) immediately after each donation.
Every letter I sent out had my special Komen 3-Day return address label. Some folks who did not get a little pink shoe magnet with the original request letter got one with their thank you letter. Everyone for whom I had a mailing address got a picture of me taken at the final mile of the walk, holding up my victory shirt, with a written note of thanks on the back. On that note I shared that with their help I had personally raised over $3,500 and the Chicago group I walked with raised over $5 MILLION dollars! It was a moment of celebration I wanted to share with everyone who helped get me there.
How I Met My Fundraising Goal
Here’s a breakdown of my fundraising efforts:
- I sent out 236 requests for contributions – 14 emails, 98 Facebook messages and 124 letters with shoes.
- I received 66 donations – 16 from Facebook appeals and 50 from letters.
- I raised $3,691, reaching my $2,300 minimum 3 months after I started fundraising with 42 donations.
- I also had a handful of people who made additional donations towards my personal expenses. (I’ll explain the detailed expenses in a separate post.)
Each member of the team must raise his/her own $2,300. The team can work together to raise money, but donations cannot be made to “the team”. They must be made to individual walkers. If team member A has $5,000 and team member B has $5, A cannot transfer any funds to B. A can tell his friends and family, “Hey, I have already met my goal, so please send any donations for me to my team member B and put them in his account.” That is one criticism I heard from some teams who had some trouble because they couldn’t transfer the funds around to make sure each team member met the goal.
I was blessedly able to meet my fundraising requirement solely through donations from friends and family.
Fundraising Ideas Worth Trying
Here are some of my back-up plans, as well as some fundraising tips:
- Make sure that your fundraising efforts follow all the guidelines and regulations listed on the sponsor’s website. You must meet all state and local laws, as well as the policies of any public places you plan to use. Be sure to read and follow all parts of the fundraising protocol so that you maintain the integrity of all your donations.
- Each fundraising letter/email should include a request and instructions for corporate matching gifts. I included this statement in my letters, but no one had an employer who was able to do this.
- Have a bake sale at work (with company permission, of course). Come up with something catchy like “cupcakes for the cure” – or cookies, or cake, or any other fun way you can think of to advertise this! Ask for donations for the ingredients. Request a specific amount per item and have a spot for additional donations. If it’s successful, try one every month. Always have donation forms and business cards available.
- Post flyers at work, around your neighborhood, apartment complex, gym, wherever. The flyers can be personal with your picture (of you and your breast cancer friend/mom/sister) or they can be more generic. They should give details about Susan G. Komen and the 60-mile walk. The bottom of the flyer should have pre-cut pull-away tabs with donation instructions.
- Send all of your emails from the 3-Day website rather than your personal email account. You can customize the content, and it has a 3-Day picture and information already on it.
- Follow up with your contacts. It’s perfectly okay to remind folks that you are still doing this event and that you could still use their support.
- Make it personal. Share your story about why you’re walking. Is it because of a specific person? If so, have a picture of them on your letter or by your cupcakes. Ask that person to write a letter on your behalf, or send out a quick email note of support.
- Pink it up! Wear it, write with it, write on it, color your hair with it. Every conversation that starts over pink could be a donation.
- Have an email signature describing your walk with a link for donations. Change your voicemail message to include the walk.
- Get creative. Ask a grocery store to donate some pears and set up a table outside with a sign that says “Save a Pear” or “Save a Pair and make a donation to the 3-Day walk.”
- Host an event “____ for Boobs.” This can be anything: Bingo for Boobs. Bowling for Boobs, Barbeque for Boobs… you get the picture! Host a fun event and collect a donation at the door.
- Ask for a donation of a popular or pricey item, like an iPod or a gift basket filled with goodies, and raffle it off. Offer 25 chances at a certain dollar amount (that is less than the item would cost to purchase).
There are also hundreds of other walkers talking on the message boards. By connecting with them and asking for their help and suggestions you will stay motivated and inspired!
The most important thing is that you not give up. Is it hard to ask people for money? Yes. Is it worth it? YES!!! The worst that will happen is someone might say “No” – and then you move on.
Be sure to start early. If you don’t raise the $2,300 by the first day of your walk, you have to pay the difference on a credit card. If you can’t do that, you can’t walk! And believe me, after all the months of training and money spent on equipment, by the time the event arrives, you will want to at least give it a go. You don’t actually have to walk a single mile, but let that be YOUR choice!
No other breast cancer event in the country asks you to walk as far or raise as much money as the 3-Day. It is simply the boldest thing you can do in the fight to end breast cancer. Source
More Charity Walks & Fundraising Ideas
- More Than 250 Fundraising Ideas
- Underground Guide To The Breast Cancer Walks
- Participant’s Guide To The Komen 3-Day Walk
- Avon Walk For Breast Cancer
- Step By Step Through A 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk
- Walking Events (…even more here)
- “60 Miles. I Can Do That.” T-shirt