Team World Vision encourages thousands of participants to push themselves beyond their limits each year. Betsy Drach, Senior Experience Designer for Team World Vision, explains:
80% of our participants wouldn’t refer to themselves as runners. They haven’t ran or fundraised a day in their life, but they sign up because something grabs them about the cause. Team World Vision’s mission is to provide clean, safe drinking water where it's needed most. To achieve their mission, Team World Vision has established a culture of fundraising among their supporters. Betsy says the challenges of running that first race and fundraising for the cause together have a powerful impact on the supporter:
Supporters can make a difference in their own life, as well as in the lives of people on the other side of the world.
Why marathons have been a success
Betsy says that Team World Vision discovered a formula for their fundraising:
We've found that the bigger the challenge the higher the fundraising. They’ve found that higher challenges (like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro) means less participants raising significantly more per person, and lower challenges like a 5K means more participants raising much less per person. When it comes to running a race, Betsy says Team World Vision has found the intersection that’s on the money:
The sweet spot is half and full marathons. They’ve been very successful with 13.1 to 26.2 mile runs in attracting more participants and raising more dollars.
Associating miles and lives
According to Betsy, much of Team World Vision’s fundraising culture stems from making the mission tangible:
We talk about lives, not dollars. We’ve been able to calculate that $50 provides clean water for one person. In all our messaging, we drive that point home. So when a supporter runs a full Marathon, we ask them to raise $1310. That’s $50 per mile for 26 miles. That’s an easy way to repeat this message and it makes it easy to ask: ‘Will you support me for mile 10?’ We add meaning and we make it easy to repeat.
Betsy notes that World Vision’s incentives are also earned with an emphasis on changed lives:
We ask people to earn their gear, like a T-shirt. Participants earn their T-shirt when they’ve changed 26 lives. Each incentive has a special name and a special meaning. The shirt is the Champion Shirt. A Hero Medal means you’ve changed the lives of 60 people. Team World Vision has a special experience in awarding these items like the Hero Medal:
We have a special way of giving it. When someone comes into our finish-line tent after the race we put the medal around their neck and tell them: ‘The medal you’ve just received crossing that finish line took months of training, sweating and crying. We know that’s difficult and we know how amazing your achievement is. But this medal is even more important than that. It marks that you’ve just provided 60 people with life-changing, clean water. This is the most important medal you’ll receive.’ We give them this face-to-face moment, thanking them for the impact and difference they’re making. The moment Team World Vision creates for the Hero Medal participant is unforgettable.
Take one for the team
Teams have played a big factor in developing a fundraising culture for Team World Vision. Betsy sees the camaraderie of citywide teams as having an impact on keeping participants motivated to run and fundraise:
In each city, we have a Team World Vision staffer or volunteer captain organize group training runs. The runs help eliminate the fear of both training and fundraising. In addition to training support, at these runs, we also guide participants in their fundraising by giving them tips and reminding them that they’re not asking their friends and family for money. ‘You’re inviting them to join you in changing the world.’
While there are a lot of similarities city to city, Betsy says each group has room to take on their own personality:
Group runs have become a big part of the culture. Each city has its own flavor—literally. In some cities the post-run snack is a cereal bar. It’s a pizza bar in some cities and an Oreo bar in others. This should show you we aren’t a super healthy team of runners or health nuts. We love our Oreos and strive to develop a fun culture around the spirit of training and fundraising.
Global 6K for Water: a challenge for everyone
While Team World Vision fields 2,000 runners in the Chicago Marathon and 1,000 in the LA Marathon, about half of the almost 40,000 who crossed finish lines last year participated in their Global 6K for Water. Not every participant wants to run a marathon, so this event is designed with a lower entry barrier. It can be a run or a walk, which opens it up to whole families. Betsy notes that the distance of 6K itself has big significance:
6K is the average distance someone in the developing world has to walk daily in order to get water. We let them know that all the steps they take in the 6K for Water represent less steps taken by people who have to walk to fetch water. Even the registration fee of $50 holds the significance of providing clean water for one person.
For those looking for a challenge, the Global 6K for Water presents a unique option: The Jerry Can Challenge. Those up to the task can carry a jerry can full of water (about 40 pounds) the full 6K. This is the same difficult task that many children in the developing world do daily. Taking on the challenge can really make the Team World Vision mission hit home. It’s also great for generating social media content and water-cooler conversation.
DonorDrive communications that drive engagement
While deep engagement in the mission has been effective, Betsy sees that communications are a key to keeping participants motivated to train and fundraise. Pre-DonorDrive, they had issues:
We used to have each of our staff members in their given city send emails to their team via Outlook. That got overwhelming. There were typos, things didn’t translate and the images didn’t work. That changed when Team World Vision started sending notifications centrally through DonorDrive:
The scheduled notifications in DonorDrive are one of the most powerful tools we have. The unique thing about a marathon or half (marathon) is that each week presents different challenges to participants. In mapping out our notifications, we broke our training down into an 18-week communication plan. We studied what a runner is feeling each week, things like when they’re likely to run into injury, starting to wonder what they should be eating, or running into difficulty with people saying ‘no’ to their fundraising asks. We try to address those fears, difficulties and challenges in an email each week throughout those 18 weeks.
Betsy says this type of encouragement has been very effective:
When we started using scheduled emails through DonorDrive, that was such a powerful tool for us. We joke because participants in any given city will go up to that staff person and say ‘Josh, I got your email and it encouraged me so much. It was week seven and I felt injured and right in the email you asked if I was feeling injured and gave some great stretching tips. And you said if I was injured, it’s okay and this is how to get through an injury and it’s okay if you get set back in your training.’ Josh didn’t actually write that email, it was our experience team and our marketing team and the emails were fully automated, but it’s a huge compliment knowing it doesn’t seem that way. As our program grew, we wanted to maintain that personal connection that felt like it was coming from their team captain and their team leader, not just from the organization. We always try to keep that personal touchpoint. This has been a big help in achieving Team World Vision’s active fundraiser rate of 72%.
Pushing a little harder
Betsy notes that Team World Vision’s participants push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of, not just physically, but in their fundraising as well:
We ask them to set a fundraising goal of at least $1310. When they reach it, they get an automated message through DonorDrive encouraging them to go to the next level, to provide even more people with clean water. They’re working hard on their training, so we try to get them to make the most of it and try to change as many lives as possible while they’re at it. Deeply connecting the training to the cause is a cornerstone in their culture of fundraising.
The Team World Vision staff has a deep understanding of the challenges they create for their participants, since their staff all take on these challenges themselves. Betsy notes:
We model what we want participants to do. I’ve been on the team three years, ran four races, and raised $15,000.
We’ll save you the math: Betsy has provided 300 people with clean water. Like her peers, she's proudly living the culture of fundraising at World Vision.