5 Ways Autism Speaks Is Increasing Peer-to-Peer Revenue
Lessons from Walk Now for Autism Speaks

In six years, Walk Now for Autism Speaks has grown to a series of 95 events involving 400,000 participants who raise more than $30 million for the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. National Walk Director Paul Irwin-Dudek points to five initiatives as key drivers of the growth that catapulted Walk Now for Autism Speaks to the #17 slot on the 2011 Run Walk Ride Thirty list.

During a one-hour July RWRFC webinar, Paul shared a five-part framework his field operations team relies on to move the fundraising needle:

  • Volunteer development - The organization delineates specific roles & responsibilities for volunteers in each market and recently began rolling out formal succession planning to combat walk chairperson burnout and provide opportunities to tap into new volunteer leaders’ enthusiasm and ideas. Additionally, Walk Now for Autism Speaks gathers top walk leaders from each market for an annual conference designed to strengthen ties with the organization and provide an opportunity for learning.
  • Top team development – Recognizing that 20 percent of the teams across North America raise 80 percent of the walk dollars, Irwin-Dudek and his team prioritize limited in-market volunteer time and resources to focus on top-performing teams. Market leaders are encouraged to spend time truly understanding what motivates top teams, celebrating milestones and finding ways to recognize top team efforts, providing ongoing support and involving teams year-round.
  • Top walker development – Retention, resources and recognition guide efforts to develop top walkers for Autism Speaks. Walker retention hinges on forging meaningful relationships between Autism Speaks volunteers and dedicated walkers. To solve for volunteer turnover in local markets, information about top walkers is captured in Autism Speaks’ databases, ensuring that organization can orchestrate a seamless transition. Irwin-Dudek has also turned the field operations team into a ‘one-stop shop’ for local markets, providing resources like customizable marketing and outreach materials, national and social media assistance and opportunities to publicize local efforts on a national scale. And finally, incentive programs and event perks provide recognition for top walkers’ efforts.
  • New team development – To ensure new teams start off the on the right foot and develop strong ties with Autism Speaks, the field operations team takes on the role of matchmaker, pairing new teams with more established, successful teams. Local market leadership also works with new teams to make sure that new teams feel at home and are supported in their efforts.
  • Corporate development – Autism Speaks works to deepen corporate relationships by getting companies involved in local walks either as a walk sponsor or through a company-sponsored team. This helps companies experience first-hand how autism affects their employees and their customers – and has proven to be a successful way to develop a stronger relationship with corporate supporters. Autism Speaks also leverages other large annual events to keep corporate supporters engaged year-round. One of the organization’s largest events is Light It Up Blue, a global initiative to help raise awareness about autism.

Click here to access a recording of the one-hour webinar – $99 or free to RWRFC members.

To learn about Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council membership, please click here.