Lessons Learned From My Jimmy Fund Walk

Yesterday I walked with my family in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk which covered the route of the Boston Marathon to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I described this walk in a previous post called “Something More Important Than Customer Experience.” Although our feet are a bit sore, we really enjoyed the day. The weather was perfect — it was sunny and in the low 60’s. And all along the way, people were psyched to be there — from the nearly 8,000 walkers to the countless volunteers that worked at stations all along the route.

If you want to get a feel for the day, here’s a 2 minute video on YouTube…

While I was walking, I couldn’t help but notice a number of things that other organizations (both non-profits and for-profits) could learn. Here they are:

  • People like feeling connected. All along the route, everyone that we ran into was talking to each other. I probably had at least a small conversation with fifty people that I didn’t know. Why was there so much conversation? Because we all felt good to be connected to a common (and great) cause. It was great to share that feeling with thousands of other people.
  • Empower your teams. There were almost 600 different teams walking yesterday; each one focused on there own special effort (typically in honor of or in memory of someone they cared about). All of the teams had their own things going on like custom T-Shirts, special rest stops, and reinforcing message boards along the walk. The Jimmy Fund recognizes the power of these teams — and actively supports them with everything from highlighting the teams at the start/finish to making the Website easy for a team to be setup and managed. 
  • Leadership matters. Behind every successful venture you’re likely to find an outstanding leader. This event is no exception. I was lucky to be part of a great team, called Amy’s Admirers, that raised the second highest amount last year (and we hope to be at that level again this year). Our team’s success was based on the tireless efforts of our leader, Peggy Grodd. She demonstrated some key attributes of leadership: 1) Clear and consistent communications; 2) passion for the objective; and 3) caring for the well-being of each person on the team. Thank you Peggy!
  • Keep reinforcing the core message. It was a beautiful day and we were walking along the Boston Marathon route — an easy enviornment for distraction. But the Jimmy Fund made sure that we remained focused on why we were all there — to save kids from cancer. Every mile or so, there was a picture of a different child who was fighting (or had been fighting) a battle with cancer. The pictures also provided some small details about the children — enough to remind us all about what was truly important. 
  • Make constituents feel good. While we were all there to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, the walkers felt more like heros than fundraisers. At every juncture, the walk was setup to make us feel good. At the starting line, there was a band making things seem very festive and announcing each group as they started the walk. Along the way, there were a ton of signs with reinforcing messages — thanking us for our efforts. At every rest stop, volunteers cheered us on and put stickers on our number badges to acknowledge the success of making it to that point. When we crossed the finish line, we were greeted by rousing cheers and a medal. And then there was a big party on the other side of the finish line.
  • Purpose is more compelling than profits. As I discussed in a previous post called “Don’t Let Profits Replace Purpose,” many companies lose site of their constituents and, instead, focus too directly on profitmaking. Firms need to think of profits as a reward for serving key constituents. So organizations needs to focus on how they serve key constituents — and not on making money. The Jimmy Fund Walk showcased the power of this concept. While we were there to raise money (for companies, that’s the equivalent of making profits), the entire day was setup to make us feel good about a more important effort — our collective fight against cancer. And, I’ll bet that most of the walkers are already looking forward to participating again next year (for companies, that’s the equivalent of loyalty).

The bottom line:  Let’s keep up the fight against cancer!

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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