Social Media Top 5: Cancer Comms, A Life Disrupted, & Blab to Bomb(?)

Image Credit: Norbert Gálfi on Flickr

For Immediate Release Podcast: Cancer, Communications and Other Fun Stuff

FIR #29: Communications and Cancer

For years, I have been a fan of the For Immediate Release podcast, hosted by Shel Holtz and (for most of its run) Neville Hobson. I was lucky enough to appear on the show now and again, and even to co-host it, and always considered the FIR community to be one of the richest social media communities to which I have belonged.

In the program’s current incarnation, I have been honored that Shel has asked me to be a panelist on a regular, rotating basis. This week, I joined friends Mark Story and Jennifer Stauss. Tying us together for this episode was our varying involvement with cancer and communications. Mark is social media lead at the National Cancer Institute (, and Jennifer led the initiatives WTF (Where’s the Funding for) Lung Cancer, and SMAC (Sock Monkeys Against Cancer).

Out of my depth, I at least can claim to be a participant in cancer fundraisers, as I ride annually in the Pan-Mass Challenge (to which you can donate at – as always, thank you!).

Here’s me riding the PMC  last summer with Nomo, Jennifer’s lead  SMAC sock monkey:


Anyway, please have a listen to the podcast, as we discuss how organizations can and do coordinate efforts for awareness, research and treatment; we also talked about the AP Style Guide’s “lowercasing” of internet and web (AP Style Guide, guardian against Oxford Comma overuse, can do no wrong!), and the release of Dan Lyons’ book about his experience working at Hubspot, among other things.

Speaking of That Book…

I haven’t read Disrupted yet, though it is in my Kindle queue. While I have several very good friends at Hubspot, I found Lyons’ hiring there to be a potentially odd fit- a young, excitable culture embracing a middle aged, sharply-cynical writer best known as the voice of Fake Steve Jobs? I recall one incident that confirmed my suspicions, which Dan also recalled in a LinkedIn post about age discrimination in the tech industry.

I like Dan’s writing- that’s why I’m reading it, and no amount of snippy, biased reviews or happy-face counter-marketing can stop me from turning the virtual pages.

That said, good luck to both “sides” in all endeavors.

Image Credit: Norbert Gálfi on Flickr

Image Credit: Norbert Gálfi on Flickr

Blab to Bomb?

I really like Blab as a livestreaming service. So does the author of this blog post, Nathan Hague. Blab is a great tool for conducting online panels and conversations, and in the eyes of many who have tried it they found it easier to use and more reliable than, say, Google Hangouts. What Hague tries to point out is that these free tools have costs, and as they scale in minutes and users, those costs can pile up. I didn’t check his math, but even if he is wrong- and I’m not sure about some of the multiplication in there- he is pointing out the (potential) downside of startups that rely on venture funding to get them through growth, but without any whiff of a revenue model. We’ve been through it over and over since the first Internet bubble. Is there a plan for these companies or is it more convenient to forget history and hope for a few winners before the new Web (sorry, web) economy crashes like the old?

Star Wars or Star Trek? Get it Straight or Stay Out of It

I love futuristic tech. I refuse to make fun of Virtual Reality apps, even though being grumpy out it should be right up my alley; it just feels like a technology whose time, to some extent, has come to shine for practical and fun use on a larger scale than had been possible.

However- when promoting such technology, it is wise to get your geek lingo straight; for example, this video Futurism posted on Facebook touts a really cool piece of technology, saying the app “allows you to virtually teleport anywhere in the world –Star Wars style.”

My first instinct was to check the comments to see how quickly the “Star TREK not Star Wars” comments came rushing in, and I was not disappointed.

#nerdfail – although, perhaps the split infinitive à la “To go boldly where no man has gone before’  was a defiant, knowing wink. (nah)

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Forbes- On Brand, as Usual

It’s easy to gripe about Forbes – like the Harvard Business Review blog – diluting its formidable brand by letting lots of people write for the Forbes Contributor Network. However, there are many excellent writers there as well (including, naturally, some clients), so the looser editorial standards mean less the end of journalism and more that readers are responsible for sifting the gold from the sand.

Still, I was amused and somewhat horrified to find that there is a columnist on Forbes- Forbes!- who dedicates server space to play-by-play of events like Wrestlemania 32.

WWE is big business, but this sort of posting seems a little off-brand, even for this new era. Or am I just oversensitive?

At least he did the job, delivering a link to the content I was looking for – Shane McMahon’s insane 20-foot jump from the top of the cage during the Hell in a Cell match. Though he eventually lost to The Undertaker, who knew he had it in him?




Pan-Mass Challenge Fundraising Recap: 2016


Every August, I put on a ridiculous spandex outfit, a pair of shoes not made for walking, a helmet and gloves and get on my bike to ride from Wellesley to the tip of Cape Cod for the annual Pan-Mass Challenge.


Another successful ride

More importantly, i spend far more time than I do training and riding raising money to fight cancer. The Pan-Mass Challenge sends 100% of all funds raised by riders to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund to aid the fight against cancer. I have signed up to ride for the ninth consecutive year, and in  afit of optimism have increased my fundraising goal to $8,500. If you would like to help fight cancer with me this way, please go to my donation page at

Every year, I also take a look back at my fundraising efforts to see if I can identify any trends to help me with the next season. In 2015, the minimum fundraising level for 2-day riders was $4,300. For the last several years, I have settled on a goal of $7,500 (surpassing the “Heavy Hitter” level) and have been lucky enough to have people help me reach that level for the last six years.

As you can see, the total money raised – $8,110 – is about on par with recent years, a little below last year’s level. Fundraising has been consistent, then, if not showing continuous growth. The question for 2016 is- can I raise more, and how can I do it? For one, I have set my stated goal at $8,500, more than last year (though slightly less than 2014’s total) as a small incentive.

image (2)

The total number of donors has actually regressed slightly, also suggesting that I could do more to attract more helpers to the cause:image (1)

“More donors” probably means more new donors, as retention of returning donors has been steady (actually slightly increasing the last several years). I can conclude that my email campaigns in particular have been effective in keeping people active in the cause, so growth probably needs to come from outside, meaning finding new ways to publicize my ride and new groups to appeal to. image

Average donation amount has again been steady, slightly more than $70. While in 2015 I did not receive a large matching grant that I had the previous year, I did see larger-than-normal donations from at least one regular donor, so there is likely no real outlier in that data set.image (3)

My conclusion? If I want to continue to maintain and grow fundraising pace, I need to continue to court regular donors, but find ways to add additional interest and create a higher percentage of new people donating to the cause. This could mean going back to more concerted social media campaigns as I have in the past (including video and image posts) and considering different platforms than those that had worked in the past. That gives me much to think about as I wait for spring to arrive and road training to start.

Meanwhile, now is as good a time as any to help fight and beat cancer with me and the PMC!

Pan-Mass Challenge Fundraising Update – Year 7 (2014)


This August I completed my 7th consecutive Pan-Mass Challenge. The PMC is an annual 2-day bike ride across much of Massachusetts, for which riders raise money that goes to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

This year, the PMC raised a total of $41 million, the total just announced this past week.

As for my own fundraising efforts, this year I managed $8,681.28, which brought my 7-year efforts over the $50,000 mark.  When I realized I had hit that number, I was taken aback- to get people to donate money to a cause year after year is quite  feat, dwarfed only by the generosity of those who give.

As I like to do every year, I took a look at the numbers behind my fundraising efforts to identify the trends, in case that helps me do better next year, or helps others understand their own fundraising efforts for their own pet charities

Total Amount Raised

chart_2This year’s total was my second-highest ever. What makes it more impressive is that the year with the highest amount was a year in which the number was boosted by several donations in honor of my father-in-law, who had passed away from cancer shortly after the ride.

As the “Total Raised” chart shows, the overall amount has climbed steadily over the last three years, which is a good omen for organically growing the amount raised in the future.

Total Donors

chart_1In 2013, my total donor numbers went down, after having several new folks donate between 2010 and 2012 due to family members being hit by cancer. Predictably, the number fell off last year but has recovered a bit for 2014. One factor is a slightly more concerted effort in social media closer to the event; another is that I reached out to “lapsed” donors- those who had given in past years but had not in at least one year – in an effort to bring some back into the fold. Apparently I had some success in that regard, showing that you should not totally give up on lapsed members to any cause.

Return Donors

chart_4On that note, I counted such “lapsed donors” among my “return donors.” That is not so much a change in terminology as it is a recognition that I have paid more attention to people who have donated to my ride going back to 2008. I have no doubt that attention had some affect on my continued increase in % of returning donors, which passed the 80% mark this year. As you can see from the chart, that number has been growing the last few years, though I sense that I will now be trying to maintain that number rather than increasing it much more.

Average Donation Amount 

chart_3As for average donation, that amount remained over $70 after reaching that level, hopefully for good. While the median donation remained at $50, I hope to keep that level, which is usually dependent on the small number of larger donations (and a handful of matching employer contributions) I receive in any given year.

Last, I want to address the fundraising tactic I attribute to the maturity of my seven-year effort. With a list of regular donors, I have relied more on emails to raise funds, and have been experimenting with the number and timing of my messages. This year, I sent one early on – in March – and then one in June, which is generally the onset of the  peak of fundraising season, and a final one a week before the event, when people are receptive to the urgency if the imminent ride. I wondered if the early message was superfluous, but when I looked at the number, I found it helped get more people than I realized to donate early. Here are the numbers in total raised that I can attribute to the week following each mailing:

  • March –  $860
  • June – $685 raised in the following week
  • July (one week before ride) – $1560

It’s not a surprise that the bulk of the money came right before the PMC, but if I had been thinking that the early email was superfluous, the numbers say otherwise. That’s a good lesson to remember for anyone doing fundraising- if the message is delivered with the appropriate tact and respect for the time and money of the donors, it’s never too early to start.

It will be interesting to see, as a I plan to participate in the Pan-Mass Challenge once again next year, how fundraising efforts develop and change with the new campaign.

Thanks again to all who have supported me. While I do not re-enroll until January, my fundraising page remains at

Pan-Mass Challenge 2013 Fundraising Review

The new calendar closed the book on my sixth year riding the Pan-Mass Challenge. First of all, one more big Thank You to everyone who supported my participation: those of you who donated money first of all, but anyone who lent moral support, helped me train, and even got me a ride home from the ferry (something I always manage to forget to arrange; it never fails).

I am officially signed up for the 2014 ride, and am looking forward to another year of training for this 2-day ride to fight cancer, and of raising money, 100% of which goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While the ride is in August, it is never too soon to donate – the link to do so is:

The past few years, I have used this space to analyze my fundraising efforts and compare them to prior years. As with any analysis, the numbers are not just numbers, but hint at a story; finding and telling that story is the real fun part.

First up is the final number: the total amount raised. After a peak in 2010, this year’s total went up for the first time since then. It was an unexpected and welcome upturn, made possible not by a broader reach, but by some more generous sponsors, as we shall see:


Average donation size skyrocketed in 2013. While the median donation amount was the usual $50, the average donation exceeded $70 for the only the second time. What helped? Two factors: first, I had three $500 donations (plus  one matching donation), after having none last year. These were all from people who increased their donations from previous years. Depending on the reasons, I will not expect that to sustain, but it shows that some steady donors can unexpectedly change their amounts. Additionally, I had one other matching corporate donation in a smaller amount, also contributing to the totals.


Total donations slipped below 2010 levels. As shown above, the increased average donation erased this as an overall factor, but I should note this as a potential concern. Should I try to broaden my reach to new people in 2014?


One new thing from last year that I continued was my email campaign to previous donors. I used to manage the mails this time, and once again did two mailings: one in March and one in June. With MailChimp, I was able to design a still simple, but slightly more attractive email using one of my ride photos. This may have helped make the mailing more effective; as shown below, my percentage of returning donors was far higher than in any other year (more than 75%).



I will definitely continue my email campaign for the 2014 Pan-Mass Challenge, but I will not assume the increased average donation rate will hold, and will think of ways to broaden my reach for the next fundraising campaign.

Wish me luck! And, if you are so inclined, help fight cancer with the Pan-Mass Challenge at – Thank you!

Pan-Mass Challenge 2013 in Review

With Nomo of @smacancer at #PMC2013 lunch stop, Dighton doughaslam

With Nomo, the Cancer-Fighting Sock Monkey

The Pan-Mass Challenge – my sixth – has come and gone, and this year may have been the best yet, in my unscientific opinion. The weather was beautiful, even with a little Day 1 rain, and I felt as though I was in my best riding shape.

This year I got to ride with a special guest – Nomo, the cancer-fighting sock monkey, courtesy of my friend Jennifer Stauss Windrum and her SMAC! Cancer campaign. Nomo took being tied to my handlebars for 170 miles like a champ.
I would like to thank all that have donated to support my ride against cancer and blew away my $7,500 goal – by several hundred dollars! If you would like to join in, the PMC take donations until October 1, and you can do so at:

As I do every year, I took some video from my bike as I made my way from Wellesley, MA to the very tip of Cape Cod. I got some great views, and as usual I had fun pulling out some footage to assemble this short video.

Again, thanks to all!

The sunrise this year over the Bourne Bridge and along the Cape Cod Canal was extra breathtaking. While I included it in the video above, there is a little more footage in this excerpt.

Pan-Mass Challenge 2012 Fundraising Review

Last summer, I rode in my fifth Pan-Mass Challenge. This two-day ride to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston has been the centerpiece of my summer since 2008. At first, it was an excuse to do more cycling, get more fit, and benefit a worthy cause in the process. As the years went on, it became more personal, as I lost my father-in-law, then my father, to cancer, and have seen several friends’ lives affected by cancer in various ways.

The Pan-Mass Challenge requires its riders to make a strong commitment to fundraising. With over 5,000 riders, and 100% of the funds raised going to Dana Farber, it’s hard to complain, though it is a challenge on a par with the cycling itself. The Pan-Mass Challenge in total raised $37 million for Dana Farber last year; I’m glad to have made, with your significant help, some contribution toward that total. At this time each year I take a look back at my fundraising efforts and evaluate how I did, what I did to get to that level of success, and what factors influenced the results.

First, total funds raised: I set a goal of $7,500 last year, well above the minimum of $4,300 and even the “Heavy Hitter” line of $6,600 (my fundraising page is found here). I figured I could match the level set in 2011. As you can see, my total fundraising lifted significantly the previous two years. Unfortunately, one of the main reasons was sympathy over the illness and deaths of my father-in-law and father. Still, I was grateful for the extra support which gave strength to my riding, and vowed to try to keep up the new pace.


Another metric that rose significantly in 2011 was number of sponsors. That number held fairly steady in 2012, which is great. As I said last year, more people spreading the word is a good thing, even if I’m not raising quite the amount of money I did two years ago.


The biggest difference in 2012 was the percentage of donors who were repeat donors. This was not an accident. One of the tactics I changed last year was to send an email to previous donors early in the year (in January or February  in addition to my customary “The Ride is Coming” email in July. It made a huge difference, and meant I could spend less energy trying to recruit new donors, as I had to do the previous year. You can be certain that I will be doing something similar again this year.


One final note: the average donation held steady, at a pace with 2011 (as well as 2009) levels, proving what I already knew, that some of the larger donors that supported my in 2010 were one-timers. I had already accepted that, which is why I set my goal to match 2011, rather than try to meet the higher levels.


Aside from asking last year’s sponsors to join me again, what else can I do? I blogged less frequently ast year and posted fewer training-ride videos: perhaps it is time to do more of that in 2013.

Initially, my goal for the 2013 Pan-Mass Challenge is to raise $7,500, the same as last year. If early response is good, I may revise that. I’m looking forward to another year of riding and raising funds to beat cancer. I hope you’ll join me. The site to donate is:

As always – Thank you!

Jerseys of the Pan-Mass Challenge

Last month, I completed my fifth Pan-Mass Challenge, riding my bike 170 miles over 2 days to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and fight cancer. As always, it was a well-run event, and despite the hot weather I loved every mile and biked well.

As for the fundraising, a big thank you to everyone who helped me reach my personal goal of $7,500. Despite reaching my goal, I am happy to raise more funds to help the PMC organizers reach the overall goal of $36 million. That sounds like a lot, but the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute do great work in cancer research and treatment. Also, 100% of funds raised go directly to DFCI. So, if you are inclined to help, please donate at And again, thank you.

My other, less serious challenge was doing something different with my ride video. After five years, that can be difficult. This year, I focused on the different jerseys the 5,000 riders wear, many indicating the teams they ride for in honor and memory of loved ones stricken with cancer. My view:

Music- “The Aftermath Never Adds Up” by Leaving Richmond

Pan-Mass Challenge: Spring Training

Now that we are well into spring, I am stepping up my training for this summer’s Pan-Mass Challenge. I’ll be riding my fifth PMC in August, and I keep coming back because it’s such a well-run event, and raises money (over $30 million a year) to fight and cure cancer at Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. This has become an ever more important event and cause for me, after my father and father-in-law both passed from cancer over the last year and a half, and many friends and their families are also suffering from dealing with cancer.

Fundraising has gone well so far, thanks to many of you generous folks. Of course, we’re not done yet- as I type this, I have just under $5,000 left to reach my $7,500 goal for the event, matching last year’s total. Will you help? Please sponsor my ride at

Meantime, I put together some footage from my early training rides to illustrate some of the things I typically see in Boston’s Western suburbs:

Also, after consulting many friends on Twitter and Facebook, I adopted use of the Strava app to track my rides this year. It makes keeping track of my training easier, and even shows how I do in certain segments of rides. So farm, so good. This widget shows some of my most recent rides. If you encounter this post (or this widget) later in the season, I hope you will see some greater distances- and faster speeds.

Pan-Mass Challenge: 2011 Fundraising Overview

UPDATE: I am officially signed up for the 2012 Pan-Mass Challenge: to sponsor my ride (and make these graphs prettier next year), please go to to donate. Thanks!

Last year, after riding in my third Pan-Mass Challenge (an annual two-day bicycle ride/cancer fundraiser), I thought I had enough of a track record to look at fundraising trends. In that post, I saw the rise in overall fundraising, number of sponsors and average donation amount as the progression of an improving fundraising effort and the expanding reach of my social networks. This year, the numbers were different but still interesting. First, the fundraising total shrank for the first time:

While an organization may see this as alarming, I should add that I once again surpassed my goal; after 2010’s success, I upped my goal from the minimum ($4,200) to the “Heavy Hitter” line ($6,300), and actually had little problem making that mark. I see the $9,000-plus total from 2010 as somewhat of an aberration– not in success, but in the amount of it, as several one-time sponsors donated late last year in memory of my father-in-law’s passing (the family had actually steered people to the PMC in the obituary, a fitting tribute). Despite the “one-time” donations in 2010, I still saw a sharp increase in sponsors from 2010 to 2011, the most encouraging number in the bunch. The message of the PMC’s cancer-fighting cause continues to spread:

Repeat sponsors was a bit of a mix, but again no surprise: more “repeats” donated this year, with the falloff in percentage a factor of the ever-growing total number of sponsors. I can probably do more to keep current donors involved and perhaps get the repeats up over the 50% next year.

The average donation fell off, close to 2009 levels. The major reason for this was that several of my “corporate” donors, people representing organizations that generally donated in the $500 range, did not repeat this year. The median donation was still $50, meaning that individual donors were not giving less, as this number might indicate and for the short-term that will continue, I suspect. So, the drop in average donation is not so alarming, though if I were a non-profit organization I would be concerned about the corporate sponsor drop-offs (and would certainly welcome them back, hint-hint).

Putting the numbers in perspective: I am happier with the increase in people sponsoring than I am disappointed at the lower dollar amounts. If I were an organization I would have some concern about the dropoff in larger “corporate” donors, but as those have been outliers in my case rather than the primary targets I cannot be totally surprised.

For 2012? I will target getting more repeat donors while continuing to increase my base of generous sponsors as well as my overall fundraising target. I hope the look at numbers does not make my PMC fundraising seem too clinical- as I sincerely appreciate each and every sponsor, as well as others who support me in various ways.  On to 2012!


Pan-Mass Challenge 2011

Pan-Mass Challenge 2011 – Done!

Two short weeks ago, I finished my fourth Pan-Mass Challenge. As always it is a great, well-run event, a 2-day ride to Provincetown to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (you can still sponsor my ride here:

What was special about this year?

  • The last year was a tough one for cancer in our families. Last September my father-in-law, John Perkins, passed away from cancer, and then on May 14, I lost my own father. I always held the PMC cause dear, but this year it was more than just a bike ride.
  • Sponsors were as generous as ever, having donated more than $7,500 (so far) in support of my ride. More impressive, I had a record number of  sponsors this year, which means even more than the amount.
  • I tried something different this year; I took on a “shirt sponsor,” Helmtops. They sent me this great jersey that I wore on Day 2, and along the route I stopped on occasion to hand out some helmtops (decorations for children’s helmets) when I saw a kid with a bike cheering us on. Special thanks to all sponsors, but I wanted to single out Helmtops out for making this effort, on top of their ongoing support of the many children’s PMC rides.

Pan-Mass Challenge 2011


  • I also took video, as usual. This year I used a Contour HD Camera, which I found easier to use than the Flip and Kodak cameras I employed in previous years. In fact, the reason this post is two weeks after the event is that I wanted to find the time to edit down this tribute to the wonderful people who come out to cheer the riders all along the route- even on the Bourne Bridge at 5:30 am.

  • In all, what a great event! We even managed to avoid the rain on Cape Cod on Day 2 (well, while we were riding at least). It’s great to have the long ride behind me, but the fight against cancer continues; if you have yet to sponsor my ride, we are collecting donations through October 1 at– and again, Thank You!
Bonus video: if you have the stomach for less, well, brief video, I did my usual Day 1 and Day 2 “Rider’s View” videos, embedded below: