How to Prepare for Your Diabetes Fundraising Walk
Life with a child with Type 1 Diabetes has many challenges. The daily rituals of checking blood and administering injections can be a grind. And as a parent, it can be heartbreaking to think about what your child lives through every single day.
Fortunately there are many people and organizations who are dedicated to finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Most of these organizations rely on fundraising efforts of those living with diabetes.
Very quickly after my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes we were introduced to one of these organizations, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). There are other excellent organizations, but this happened to be the one we were hooked up with.
We quickly got involved with the annual Walk for a Cure that JDRF sponsors and formed our own team. Our first year was a success, with over $4,000 raised. However, we learned some lessons that have helped us out since that first year. Here are some tips (Some, not all. We're still learning) to managing a successful fundraising walk team.
Start Your Fundraising Efforts Early
Our walk is in October of every year. We like to have our fundraising letters in the mail by the end of August. This gives people 6-8 weeks to respond with donations or to sign up to walk. It also allows for plenty of time to answer questions and follow up with people who have not responded.
You'll also need to allow time to write your letter. This may come easy for some people, but if you struggle with those sorts of things, make sure to plan out a week to get your letter written and printed. You'll also need to spend a few hours stuffing envelopes.
Don't Skimp on the Letter - It is the Key to Your Fundraising
The fundraising letter is the most important part of your efforts. I do not like to include pity parties in the letters, but you should be comfortable giving people a candid look into your life with diabetes. As parents of children with Type 1 Diabetes, we are used to our lifestyle, but to others it can seem overwhelming. Let people know that you look forward to the day that your child lives without Type 1 Diabetes and that the letter's recipient is very important to that day's arrival.
Make sure to be very clear about donation and walk instructions in your letter. That is something we learned the hard way. Part of it is that we weren't even sure how things worked our first year, so we could not explain correctly. We spent way too much time re-explaining things to people. So do your best to lay out exactly how people can donate and/or sign up to walk.
Send Your Letter to Everyone You Can Think Of
You will be absolutely surprised at how generous people are once they know of a need. Everyone sympathizes with a child with a disease. Send your fundraising letter to your family, friends, coworkers, etc. Do not leave anyone out. It's not like you're always asking for money, so they should not feel put out in receiving the letter. We have been stunned at the outpouring of financial support to JDRF that we have received through our letter writing campaigns.
Keep a List of Those That Donate and Walk
You need to keep track of those that contribute to your fundraising efforts. You will want to send thank you notes after the event, and this list will be the best way to know who to thank. Your organization may have a website that tracks these sorts of things, but you can cross-reference their lists with your own.
Creating Team T-Shirts
Having t-shirts for your team creates a great sense of camaraderie in your team. Spirits are already high at the event, and t-shirts are a great way to show that everyone supports your child. Shirts can be expensive, but a terrific way to pay for them is to find a sponsor. If the parent of one of your child's friends owns a small business, see if they will be willing to pay for the shirt in return for some advertising. Again, people are extremely generous; they just need to be asked.
What to Do on the Day of Your Fundraising Walk
Do not just have everyone show up at the walk 30 minutes before the event starts. We did this the first year and realized we were very unprepared. What you need to do is get a tent (just a regular 10' x 10' type thing) and show up early. Set up the tent with signage for your team so everyone knows where to gather. Most fundraising walks are in the morning, so bring breakfast items and drinks for everyone to snack on as they are waiting.
Have a Plan for What to Do When The Walk is Over
Even if you try to all stick together during the walk, most likely people will get separated. Five kilometers is a long way, especially if there are strollers and dogs involved. You want to make sure everyone knows where to go when the walk is over. This is important for two reasons. First, you want to make sure to thank everyone for coming out to support your child. Second, you will want to make sure to get a team picture.
Make Sure to Get a Team Picture
Team pictures are the best way to remember the day. If you have a place for everyone to meet when the walk is over you can make the picture go by quickly. If you have a big group it might take a couple of minutes to get everyone situated, but make sure to get everyone into the picture.
Talk to Other Teams
It can be very easy to think that you are the only one dealing with Type 1 Diabetes. The fundraising walks are a great way to meet other families that are going through the same things you are. If you see a team that has an excellent setup, go talk to them to see what they did. Most likely they will be more than happy to share their secrets. I won't take offense if you need more help than I am providing here.
Send Thank You Letters
Hopefully this goes without saying, but make sure to send thank you letters to the people who donated money to your team and to those that walked. If you have kept a list of those that contributed to your fundraising efforts then this should be no problem. I like to include the total amount raised and have a team photo in the letter.
Start Preparing for Next Year!
OK, so I'll give you a few months off. But be careful, next year's fundraising walk will get here before you know it.
Any child living with a disease is a warrior. It is great to know that there are generous people out there willing to help find the day that your child and others like them no longer have to fight that battle.
Good luck with your diabetes fundraising walk, and if I left something out, please be sure to let me know!