Featured June 2014
Name: Todd Setter
Title: National Director, Run/Walk Series (Colon Cancer Alliance)
Location: Washington, DC
Number of years as a fundraiser: 10
Number of years at current organization: 3.5
What inspired you to do this work?
I lost my father, who was my best friend, to colon cancer in 1998. He was diagnosed as stage 4 and lived for a mere 232 days after his diagnosis. After a few years of mourning him, I decided I wanted to honor his legacy by creating awareness of this disease which is treatable with early detection. I was disappointed that the city I lived in had nothing to promote colon cancer prevention and awareness. So in 2004, I created the Santa Cause and convinced a bunch of friends to dress up like Santa and Miss Claus to spread awareness on the streets of San Diego. It became an annual personal fundraiser that sold out for a number of years.
Several years later, I made my way to the national scale when I joined the Colon Cancer Alliance as Director of the Undy Run/Walk series in 2010. As a person who has lost someone special to this disease, I am incredibly passionate about these events and work hard to translate that passion into a motivating experience for all those in attendance. With a direct connection myself, I know how important it is for anyone affected – whether they are a current patient, survivor, a family member or friend – to feel a sense of community which is a key part of healing. Being able to be a part of an organization that not only provides this environment but also helps keep others from experiencing the untimely loss of a loved one as I did is so important to me and makes my job incredibly meaningful and fulfilling.
What has happened recently that pumped you up?
Most of our events are timed 5K run/walks. We always keep the clock running until every last person has crossed the finish line, even if it’s been 60+ minutes. One of my favorite moments at an event is seeing those last couple colon cancer survivors near the finish line, moving as fast as they can, pushing themselves as much as possible…and for what? To beat their time from last year by just one minute.
To many, completing a 5K in less than 65 minutes would be a piece of cake. But to those who have fought for their life, it is an experience they are so thankful to have and one I am so happy to be able to provide for them.
Tell us of a recent fire you have had to put out?
When is anyone who works in fundraising events not putting out fires?! Between everything that it takes to put on an event, there are always things that don’t quite go as planned. Whether the emcee is nowhere to be found, a sponsor unexpectedly shows up to exhibit, or more serious issues arise; the key is being able to think on your feet and make everything appear seamless to participants and sponsors.
What is next for you as a peer-to-peer fundraiser?
My plan is to be able to get into the field more, meeting with folks in each of our market areas to build upon existing relationships and continue to better understand the changing industry. I am fortunate that I have a great team of staff who understand that this job is much more than just “event planning” and who are able and willing to pitch in to allow me to focus on growing the events in this way.
What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in athletic event fundraising?
Be realistic about what you’re hoping to achieve – aim high but know that falling short is bound to happen. Make sure you are flexible and willing to try something new quickly. Know when criticism is important feedback to consider, but remember, you can’t be all things to all people. Be keenly aware of your target audiences, what their needs are, and keep that at the forefront when making decisions.