By Molly Fast
In 2004, only six months after my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, he died. He was only 55 years old. A few years after that, I found my way to a community that helped me take action and heal. I haven’t turned back since.
On May 7th of this year, I found myself sitting on a stationary bike in a blacktop parking lot on a beautiful, sunny, warm Southern California day, riding in Cycle for Survival for the 10th year in a row. It was my first time on an event as a participant since COVID came in like a wrecking ball.
Here are five things I learned from the experience that I want to share, both as a peer-to-peer event fundraising participant and as an event fundraising professional:
- Fundraising events provide an extraordinary opportunity to find purpose to the pain you experience when someone you love has been diagnosed with or died from a specific disease. In my case, that disease was a rare form of cancer. It’s one of my very favorite aspects of the work we get to do at Event 360. We help our clients produce events that give their participants a way to grieve, celebrate, mourn, remember, thank and honor.
- Read your emails! Yes, I know we’re all busy and overwhelmed by the pace with which information comes at us. Had I read my pre-event emails, I would have known that our event was taking place in a blacktop parking lot without tent coverage—not what I assumed would be the case from looking at photos on the event’s social media feed. As a blue-eyed, fair-skinned, red(ish)-headed Irish lass, I wasn’t prepared to be out in the sun for four hours and paid the price by having to ride that whole time in a long-sleeve cotton shirt in order to stave off sunburn. It was an important reminder to read the information that’s sent my way!
- COVID is still a thing. I know we’d all like to move on from the past two years and the debilitating way COVID wreaked havoc on our industry, but it’s not that simple. On the event there were still a lot of things that were different. Big things, like the event took place outdoors instead of inside the Equinox gym. But small things too, like the available snack options were pre-packaged and self-serve only. It was an important reminder that precautions are still being taken to ensure our safety. And it really matters to our event community, which is often made up of people who are in treatment or medically vulnerable.
- Be creative with your fundraising. As someone who strives to raise a ridiculous amount of money, it requires me to think outside the box and try something new every year. One tactic I tried (that worked!) was setting a single day goal of getting 50 donations to give my fundraising a boost (and make me eligible for a Cycle for Survival-sponsored fundraising challenge). Not only did I send out an email but I gave constant updates on Facebook and it inspired my donors to really rise to the challenge. Many of them gave twice to ensure I hit that goal! I also set not just a monetary goal ($70,000) but a goal for the number of unique donors (300). Focusing on the number of donors gave me an opportunity to communicate with my network in a different way. Note: I hit that goal but I am still shy of my $70,000 fundraising goal.
- It’s a really big deal to be participating in the same event for 10 years. It’s something that should be celebrated and honored. Not just by the organization you’re supporting with your participation in their event, but by you, too! The night before the event, I received an email from the Cycle for Survival staff inviting me to report to the rewards tent for a special gift (a trucker hat) and congratulating me for reaching this milestone and thanking me for my dedication. On the event, on the screen that displayed various acknowledgments and photos throughout the ride, my name appeared along with the other Decade Riders. I felt proud seeing my name up there knowing that, together with my donors, we’ve raised serious money for rare cancer research.
There was an undeniable energy being back on event, together, in person. There was a lot of hugging and high fiving and smiling. It was infectious and completely awesome. I’ve experienced this already while staffing events last fall and this spring. But as a participant, it was my first time back in real life. And I absolutely loved it. COVID precautions and all!
Molly Fast, a passionate leader, committed fundraiser and a seasoned event planner, is Event 360’s Director of Fundraising & Development. For the past 17 years, Molly has led our internal participant-facing, event fundraising team of coaches. Whether it’s with a member of the team she’s lucky enough to work alongside, a participant in need of assistance or the clients we’re fortunate to serve, Molly is focused on exceeding expectations and leaving this world a better place…one interaction at a time.