At the end of October, I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Charlotte, North Carolina. This 39.3 mile experience has its 700 participants trekking through uptown Charlotte and deep into the suburbs over a two-day period to raise $1.7 million and even more awareness towards breast cancer research. During the walk and the months of training and fundraising beforehand, I often saw parallels to nonprofit management.
Lesson 1: Fundraising is easier when people identify with your cause.
In order to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, each walker must raise at least $1,800. This is a lofty fundraising goal, especially for a young professional whose friends are mostly other young professionals. What I was amazed to see though, was when people were able to identify with the cause, they were much more likely to donate. While your fundraising efforts may not be as universally felt as breast cancer, you can still find ways to help others relate to your fundraising cause. Look for ways to show the impact of what you are doing in the lives of those to whom you reach out.
Lesson 2: You have to keep moving forward, even when it is hard.
Walking 39.3 miles is not quick, it is not easy, and it is absolutely not pain free, but you’ve got to keep moving forward. My new life mantra is that each step taken is one less step needed to take to reach the goal. Sometimes at work I think to myself that a challenge I am facing is too much. I just want to give up, and I don’t believe I am alone in feeling this way. Walking (what felt like) the endless miles taught me the (what may seem obvious) lesson if you quit you’ll never finish. Even with our hardest challenges at work, we have to keep moving forward to reach our goals.
Lesson 3: It’s okay to rely on others for support.
During the walk, I was lucky to have friends and family alongside me. We encouraged each other during the hard moments, we distracted each other during the long stretches, and celebrated together with each mile marker we passed. As we walked, we were also lucky to have support from the Avon Crew and the Charlotte community. Having people to rely on and to pull strength from is a wonderful resource but one that is sometimes hard to accept. Making the decision to accept support from others will only make you and your organization stronger.
After the walk, as my feet and muscles healed, I thought to myself, do I want to do this again? No, was my clear answer. That walk was hard. However, the lessons I learned from it will forever be part of the way I look at the world around me and how I view nonprofit management.