Live Blog: How to Organize Community Wellness Programs

This session was captured by Erin of  Girl Gone Veggie. Girl Gone Veggie is a lifestyle  blog focused on food, fitness, and travel for health-conscious young professionals.

How to Organize Community Wellness Programs is presented by Valerie Kirkland of LiveFit Journey. She has a master’s degree in public health, is a certified group exercise instructor, and recently founded Generation Healthy Kids to prevent and overcome childhood obesity.

If you have ever wanted to plan a community event, but are not sure how to begin this discussion will help you get started.

The session starts with Valerie introducing herself and asking what others have done to start community programs in their area.

Participants respond with running clubs, healthy eating groups, fitness classes, etc.

When deciding on what type of community wellness program to organize Valerie recommends identifying health issues in your community, issues that you’re passionate about, and then contacting organizations that link up to the same issues and passions. They have resources that can help you take your event to the next level.

Work your way up to a big event. Start small unless you have a big group of support behind you. Police for races are like $100 an hour. You have to secure permits. For fitness events you need waivers and insurance. Cooking events have food regulations.

Valerie started with small wellness programs at the library. She contacts the library, says, “Hey, I want to do a smoothie demo or a fitness program.” They set the date, and she shows up. It’s a very simple, easy way to get connected with your community . Whole Foods is another great place to do demonstrations, workouts, etc. In her community they’ve come out and done yoga, free smoothies, and organized donations for local charities. They really like community awareness, education, and promoting local.

Schools are another great opportunity to offer fitness programs or educational programs. Your employers are another great one too. Examples of programs you can offer are 30 minute yoga and lunch and learns. You’re able to promote yourself and also bring the community together.

Last year she organized a 5k. There were over 200 runners. It was a much bigger beast and she didn’t really have support.

The number one thing she recommends if you’re planning something big is getting a supportive team behind you.

She recommends having at least 20 volunteers. She needed people for registration, for food, for answering emails, for coordinating volunteers,  for along the course, etc. She recommends soliciting volunteers from your local health department, hospitals, military, schools, friends, family, at coffee shops, etc.

People will cancel on you, things will happen unexpectedly, plan for that. Have contingency plans.

Check to make sure not a lot of things are planned for your date. Know your area. Are there similar things going on that day? Is it going to conflict with a big holiday? Is weather expected to be bad around that time in the area? How can you market yours to make it different from the others?

Consider price with your events. Timing races is expensive. If you’re raising money for charities, spending money on a timing system can be too costly. All your money can end up going to a timing company. That being said, more people may sign up for a timed race because they want the tracking aspect.

Make raises fun! Offer donuts, beer, local food, etc. People want to enjoy the experience.  Just make sure there’s balance if you’re promoting health. Valerie once offered protein pancakes. They’re pancakes, but they’re a lot healthier than the alternative. San Diego has a burrito run. You eat a burrito halfway through. Think of something different, that no one else has done, that will get people to your event.

Offer incentives. Give people Tshirts, early beard specials, sunglasses, whatever your budget will let you can afford. Even if it’s just an energy bar and a discount to a local store. Give people a reason to come.

For planning nutritious eating events talk turned to showing people how important it is to cook their own food. Demonstrate the difference in calories and nutrition between processed food and homemade food. Keep it simple, show them food you don’t need a ton of kitchen tools to make. You have to hook them. What do they care about? Do they want to look good? Do they want to save time? Do they want to save money? Show them how they can meet their goals with healthy food.

Talk turned to Zumba event. Have them having fun and party, and make it real! People learn when others share their stories. After a Zumba event one session participant had her doctor (who takes her Zumba class) come into the middle of the circle and share her story. Another person came forward and said how she almost died from her unhealthy eating habits until Zumba changed and (saved) her life. Don’t focus on the negative, focus on the positive. Make it inspiring and motivating.

A question was asked about how to secure sponsors for fitness events.

Answer:

Go talk to them face to face. Make a list of people you want to approach. Make a packet that introduces yourself and your value to them. People want to know what you can do for them. You can promote them on their blog, put their brand on a t-shirt, really show them how it’s of value to them. It’s easier for people to give away things than money. Ask for water bottles, protein bars, etc. Give them options of packages they can choose from. For races, reach out to shoe stores and run clubs. Fleet Feet donated her awards, marketed her, gave out coupons to their store to runners, and reached out to their customers to let them know about the race.

Reach out to big and small companies. Building relationships is huge. Reach out to companies you love. Fleet Feet worked with her because they saw her in the store all the time.

Don’t be discouraged if people don’t get involved. You may reach out to 200 people and only get 10 responses. That’s okay. You have to keep at it.

If you hit stumbling blocks while planning remember you don’t need re-invent the wheel! Look at other events you admire and see what they do. See what works!

When deciding how to price your event think about your overhead, the averages for similar events, etc. Make it worth the guests while. You will probably be lucky to break even your first year. That’s why it’s important to organize events you’re doing because your passionate about, not for making a profit. You might not make a profit on an event for years.

When it comes to promoting do what your budget will allow. Promote in newspaper, social media, reach out to local media channels to promote, find influences in your community, volunteer to stuff other races bags and they’ll oftentimes let you put your flier in theirs. Get creative!

If big events don’t seem possible at this time think smaller. Consider a virtual run club, Diet Bet, a potluck, etc. You’re building up an active community even on that level. If you can make a difference with even one person that’s worth it!

Check out Valerie’s blog LiveFit Journey and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.