On the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, it’s not unusual for a team to round up a handful of new walkers each year. But some teams set their sights a little higher.
Enter Sally Dunbar.
Sally is the captain of the 2015 San Diego 3-Day team Hands Up for Hooters, and she was simply not going to settle for a handful of teammates. Sally successfully convinced 69 people to join her team in 2015, 65 of whom were brand new to the 3-Day. I had the chance to speak with Sally, a delightful woman who is a 10-year survivor and 4-time 3-Day walker, and she shared her secrets to team-building success.
Set A Big Goal – Sally is fond of saying “No big achievement ever came without a big goal.” When she registered for the 2015 San Diego 3-Day in late 2014, she set a fundraising goal of $25,000. “Then I thought, don’t be a wimp, make it $50,000,” Sally recalls with a chuckle. But even that wasn’t a lofty enough target for Sally to aim for, and she found herself typing $100,000 into the Fundraising Goal box on her 3-Day Participant Center. The goal was set, and Sally’s mind was set on reaching it.
Crunch The Numbers – “I didn’t even have a team at that point,” Sally said. “So I started thinking, all right, to get $100,000, I can’t do it by myself. I knew that I needed to build a team. I did the math and figured I needed 35 people to walk. With 35 walking, we could make $100,000. But then I thought, I’d better get 45 or 50 so that if anyone dropped out, we’d still have enough. And so I set my goal at 45 team members and started recruiting.”
Start Early, No Pressure – “I started in December [of 2014]. I sent out a letter just saying ‘I want you to think about this.’” Sally stands by this soft-sell technique: “Just a ‘think about it’ letter. I told them, I’m going to send you a request to join my team in January, so just think about it. Then in January I started sending out emails, and I changed my signature on my email and whatnot.” By starting to ask early, you give your recruits time to get comfortable with the journey of fundraising and training that they’ll be taking.
Walk the Walk –Sally incorporated casual walking into her recruitment strategy long before anyone was diving into any serious training. “We started walking together in January, having ‘fun walks’ every Sunday. We’d meet at our local deli at 8 o’clock, and if it was raining, we’d have coffee, but if it wasn’t raining, we would walk, just for fun. In May we started a training schedule. We just marched on. We did a training walk every Saturday and every Sunday until the weekend before our San Diego event.” These walks became weekly excursions that Sally’s friends and family looked forward to, and the camaraderie that developed convinced many team members to register officially and start moving toward that big goal.
Face Your Fears – “I realized pretty quickly that people have the same fears,” Sally shared. “They can’t walk that far, they can’t raise that much money, they can’t take that much time from whatever their life is involving…” Sally didn’t back down from those fears, but faced them, inviting anyone and everyone to come to her Sunday walks, even if they weren’t registered 3-Dayers yet. “At the team meetings we would have, we would just talk about, okay, introduce yourself, tell us what’s your fear in doing this.” Getting face to face with someone who might have some anxiety about doing the 3-Day is a great way to assure them that they’re not alone. Even veteran walkers like Sally can benefit from this open airing of concerns: “I don’t know who it’s been better for, them or me. I was very fearful now and then, thinking, what if I get into this and I can’t pull it off? It’s like, you gotta be kidding. Just have no fear, girl.”
Dial Up the Fun – With her team, Sally created a fun and lively atmosphere and shared the team’s exploits frequently on social media. “Every walk we did, I took pictures, I tagged every single person, and we just made it fun. I’m constantly taking pictures and I show all those fun pictures, and so people just kept seeing what we’re doing.” This repeated exposure to Hands Up For Hooters’ good times prompted many of her followers to say, “I want to be part of that!”
Any Reason is a Good Reason – Some people may hesitate to join the 3-Day because they haven’t been personally touched by breast cancer. Sally reassured people that that didn’t matter. “I would let people know, look, you can join because you want to lose weight, you can join because you want to get some exercise, you can join because you want to meet new people, because you want to learn new walking trails, or because you have a personal connection to breast cancer. You will end up having that personal connection to breast cancer at some point in your life, and being involved in this team will help bring you to that point, but for now, it doesn’t matter what your reason is. I’ll take you for any reason, it’s fine!”
Do Your Homework – Getting involved with a charitable organization or event is a personal decision, and knowing a lot about the organization goes a long way in quieting doubts. “I know a lot of people at Komen,” Sally says, “and I asked a lot of people questions so I could prepare my team for those ‘Komen questions.’ I read the financial reports and I read some of the research so that I could answer them. I answered all of my hesitations and my doubts, and I feel very resolved that there’s not an argument that someone could put up that I can’t address.” Chrissy Mathews, Susan G. Komen® 3-Day Program Manager, introduced Sally at the Friday night camp show in San Diego to recognize her incredible team-building success, and Chrissy reminds the entire extended 3-Day family that she is always available to chat with and answer your questions or concerns.
Calm the Fundraising Fright – Being afraid of the 3-Day’s fundraising requirement holds many people back from registering, so I asked Sally how she addressed her potential teammates’ fundraising anxieties. “I just promise them that if you send out a letter from the heart, if you do a lot of emailing, change your email signature with a link to your donation page and tell people what you’re doing…if you put it out there, I promise you will raise your money.” This up-front reassurance was also supplemented by team fundraising efforts that helped everyone. “We did a couple of [restaurant] nights at a local brew pub where, anyone who donated to us, [the owner] would give them 20% off their bill. We made more money that way than if he had given us 20% of their ticket.”
Donors Are Part of the Team – Hands Up for Hooters made their donors feel like part of the family. “We made our little Hootie pin, so if someone donated to us, we gave them a pin.” And the celebration of donors didn’t stop there: “We did another big group fundraiser, Hooterpalooza, where we basically were just thanking our donors. If they donated to us, we invited them to this party, we put it on, and at the party, we did a killer raffle. We made a lot of money that way.”
Keep The Team Energy Going All Year! – Sally shared, “We just really connected as a team, bonded as a team, and really supported each other. And then we would talk about the successes. ‘I just made my goal.’ ‘How’d you do it?’ ‘Here’s what I did…’ And usually it’s very simple. You just put it out there.” These weekly check-ins kept her teammates engaged, motivated, and let them know that they would be supported no matter where they were in their training and fundraising progress.
So…Did Hands Up For Hooters Reach Their Goal? – Sally was thrilled to share, “We raised $142,000. After we blew by $100,000, which was my goal, I raised the goal to $150,000 and thought, you’ve got to have an unreachable goal. I just hope by the end of the year, we can get our number up to $150K.” At press time, Hands Up for Hooters’s fundraising total was just north of $147,000.
What’s Next? – I asked Sally if she thinks most of her first-timer teammates will return to the 3-Day next year, and she responded with a confident “Oh yeah. We’re not sure yet [where we’ll walk]. I figured, I can’t have them vote without having finished this one first. I’ve been collecting prizes, and we going to have awards in January and just kind of wrap up everything and get things kicked off for next year, and we’ll vote on where we want to go. But San Diego’s pretty darn awesome.” And her teammates, it seems, have caught the recruitment bug too. “What’s really funny is, many of them on the team are coming to me saying, ‘I figured out if we each recruit three new people, we could triple the money, we could make $300,000!’ That kind of intimidates me,” Sally laughs. “But we’re absolutely going to go for it and have a big team next year.”