It seems like there is a 5K almost every weekend in the St. Louis area. They have become so ubiquitous that each one has to try to out-do the last in terms of a unique theme – mud runs, obstacles, zombies, underwear, color, foam, pestilence and pepper spray.
The gimmicks have become so outlandish that the public’s tolerance for the ridiculous and even dangerous has reached new levels of apathy:
“Hey, man. Check it out. Remember that comedian Gallagher? Well, looks like he’s gonna be smashing the last place runner’s head with that giant hammer thingy.”
So it is no small wonder why when we proposed to the board of Just Because We Care that doing a 5K or 10K run may be a worthwhile endeavor to attract new donors, they were a bit dubious.
However, the organization, which supports the education and welfare of a remote Honduran village, had been hosting and planning a golf tournament for 10 years as its major fundraiser. And, while they wanted to continue doing so, they were looking for a new audience and donor base. Some way to bring in a new set of people to their cause.
After some reassurance that this would not just be some run-of-the-mill 5K, they agreed and the First Annual Honduran Street Party Run was born. We are happy to report that with some careful planning, an amazing team and some luck, the event came off as a success. We were able to intimately introduce 350 people to the organization and also raise $12,000 toward the village’s outreach programming.
We thought we’d share with you a few of the lessons we learned along the way. Here is how to reach a new audience and make sure your event doesn’t suck:
- Don’t try hard to out-crazy everybody else. Events calendars are full of crazy running events. The temptation is to try to come up with the next zany idea that will out-crazy the last. Be encouraged instead to look at what your brand message is. For our event, the Honduran culture uses a street party to celebrate their community. A street party theme was perfect also for the location – The Streets of St. Charles – which is also the location of Just Because We Care’s founders, Wamhoff Financial Planning & Accounting’s Bob and Diane Wamhoff.
- Release the need to be a control freak. The more people you invite into a project early, the more robust the event will appear. That means that you need to find key people you can trust and then trust them to do their part. It may not work the way you visioned, but there is a chance it may be even better. We had a committee with specific assignments and goals, and Kolbeco helped to manage that committee. Our job at that point was to empower others and make sure they know they’re valued. It meant more sponsors and support for our event.
- Cool stuff. It helps. It really does. There was of course the obligatory shirt and finisher medal. But, in keeping with the purpose of the race, we knew a more authentic and culturally significant piece would be a motivator. That’s why we decided on a cowboy hat at sign up as well as a “beat the piñata” contest. Anyone who finished the race ahead of the piñata-costumed runners was placed in a contest for prizes.
- A unique venue. Many times certain parks or paths in an area become the default 5K or 10K course. Be creative and show a different part of the community. For us, the Streets of St. Charles was a perfect partner. They were motivated to show off their new mixed use property and used the run to bring awareness to their unique offerings – Prasino, Tucano’s and Bar Louie were among some of the featured finish line tents.
- Be flexible and remember your purpose. You can’t predict the weather and you really can’t control who shows up. For us, the weather suddenly turned windy and cold. We had to adjust the timing and location of the awards ceremony and post-race events, and shore up the support from local businesses to make sure they could accommodate people inside their locations. Sometimes, though, it is the curveballs that end up being the best part. It’s when you pull together as a team and also create the opportunity for deeper partnerships.
Oh, and if you want to experience this personally, the next one is March 28, 2015.