The Walk is Dead

By Katrina VanHuss & Otis Fulton

Maybe it is time to accept that walk is dead. Maybe enough people have done walk that we just can’t attract enough participants. Maybe the digi-verse gives them a new way to fundraise, and they don’t need to face-to-face with each other. Maybe no amount of lipstick is going to dress up this pig.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty” shows a decline in the top P2P events in the industry. Heads are rolling in P2P departments across the nation and staff members are hopping like Mexican jumping beans from organization to organization, finding in the new venue exactly the fire they just left. Maybe it’s not the people; maybe it’s not the effort.

I was on the telephone with a person in charge of a lot of P2P revenue. I asked, “Is walk dead?”

The answer was half snort, half chuckle. We were in agreement.

The walk as a fundraising medium is only in decline because we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. In our quest to make walk bigger and better, we’ve been drawn away from its primary draw–as a way for us to be in close emotional and physical proximity to those who are like us. In designing around entertainment instead of connection, we have caused the decline ourselves.

Walk is not about walking; it is about humans connecting to each other. A walk is just a gathering. It is a party. It is a church service. It is a club. It is a parade. It is a dinner. It is all of those things. All of these things share one thing in common. Walk is a way to gather with clear expectations what will happen and who will be there. It is an event where my emotional need to be with my people is met. Walk means gather.

Walk is a way to set expectations about what will happen that day. It is like etiquette–an artificial construct set to help people know how to behave and what to expect. Walk is like going into a McDonalds in any city in the U.S. You know what to expect. While variations on walk can make the experience better or worse, I still know it is a walk, and at McDonalds, I still know I can get a Big Mac and a Diet Coke with fries anytime, anywhere.

A walk is a community and an opportunity for people to surround themselves with others who share something in common. With walks sponsored by health-care nonprofits, this is often a medical condition affecting themselves or a family member.

Across a wide range of experiences, people choose to be with those who are like themselves. Research has shown that people with similar beliefs, values and interests tend to stick together. When given a choice, they choose to interact socially with like-minded people. A study published in Group Processes & Intergroup Relations concluded that people seek out others who are similar to them because their interactions are “smoother and more pleasant.” This is the same experience they enjoy in their communities of family and friends.

As long as humans need to gather, need to heal, need to be heard and seen, need to grieve, need to give, there will be walk—whatever we call it.



1 Comment
  • Another thought-provoking post for sure. However, I believe that walks are just getting started as the oldest national walk campaign turns 46 this year! For example, during 2016, three out of the top five walks grew by an average of 8%. However, I will agree that far too often, organizations are forgetting that that the trajectory of any walk is not a straight line, but rather a series of punctuated growth. For instance, the Light The Night Walk, which reported 12% growth in 2016 according to the P2P Top 30. It is also the campaign which I was the first national director, which experienced over a 500% increase during my tenure and also included some slower growth periods. My own research has found that the key to sustained growth is for organizations to quickly recognize which period they are in and then match the right strategies with their own core competencies to take advantage of them. This often means getting back to what made them successful in the first place, which most likely included a strong team experience. Here is to another great walk season and thanks again for getting the conversation started.

    April 11, 2017 at 2:13 pm

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