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Meet the Vendor
Producing the Largest Turkey Trot in the World with Kelly Siefkin
by Chris Carver
on November 25, 2015
@SacFoodBank

(6 minute read, or 7 minutes after a little turkey)

INTRODUCTION

Thanksgiving is such a fascinating holiday. It seems like more than any other holiday, we Americans have some funny traditions on Turkey Day.

Think about it: What other holiday would get grown men to act like they are twelve and play tackle football in the street (torn achilles, cracked rib and black eye waiting to happen), or cause us to gorge ourselves with as much food as possible until we pass out. Well... I guess that is everyday in America, but you get my point. 

However, if you live in Sacramento, it’s pretty likely that your Thanksgiving Day tradition is the Largest Turkey Trot in the country. Yep, you and the fam are doing the Run To Feed The Hungry. Soooo, we had to go to Sactown and talk with one of the key folks behind this baby.

Enter: Kelly Siefkin.


Run to Feed the Hungry Start Line
Photo Cred: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

LET’S SET THE SCENE
I have to say, when you interview someone so dang humble, it really makes it difficult to get to what makes them special. And of course, Kelly Siefkin, the organization's Communication and Development Director is no different. But... I wouldn’t be the incredible, investigative journalist that I am if I didn’t get to the good stuff. 

Enjoy. This is a good one. Seriously, you'll want to become a better person after this one.

Run to Feed the Hungry Start Line
Photo Cred: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Ready Kelly?
Oh yeah.

Where did you grow up?
Right here in Sactown.

What was 12 year old Kelly like?
I was riding horses. Very involved in 4H. I raised 4 guide dogs for the blind. Just a happy kid.

Ok interview’s over, you’re making us look bad.

Kelly Siefkin Child Photo
Photo Cred: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Favorite side dish during thanksgiving dinner?
Stuffing. I am vegetarian so my mom makes me my own.

Apple or Pumpkin Pie?
It’s all about the Berry pie. That’s what we have at our house. My mom's Berry pie is amazing. 

If your friends were a little tipsy (2 cocktails), how would they describe you?
Oh, you mean the loud one over there. I’m pretty much loud all of the time.

If you were a little tipsy, what would you be drinking?
Definitely Champagne

If you could get one celebrity, artist, politician, etc. to run the race, who would it be and why?
Chef Jaime Oliver. I’d love him to see the Food Bank Revolution we’ve started here in Sacramento.

When you think of the word successful, who comes to mind? 
My Parents – hard work and lots of love make all things possible.

So in 5 or 10 years what are you going to be most proud of when it comes to your work?
That my career was about something bigger than myself. And of course all of the funds we raised to help to help support the families in need.

Man, all this food talk is making me hungry. Let’s talk about the run.
Let’s do it, that’s my job :)

What time do you get up on race day?
3:15 a.m.

Be honest, how many times do you hit snooze?
There’s no time for that. I have my tea and I’m off.

So what’s your favorite part of the race course?
Definitely the start line! Seeing the anticipation and feeling the excitement from 28,000 people is exhilarating and worth the year’s work.


Run to Feed the Hungry Costumes
Photo Cred: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

How many years has the Run to Feed the Hungry been around?
22 years

How many people ran that first year?
796

And how many people ran last year? 
27,768. We're really proud of that.

So, what do you think keeps people coming back year in and year out?
That’s the beauty of tradition. Once a family does it once, they really tend to just keep doing. They want to be apart of it.

I also think they like the fact that it gives them a pass to have a second piece of pie.

I’ve noticed some people wear costumes on the course, what has been your favorite over the years?
Matching sets. Whether that’s a flock of turkeys, a bunch of bananas or a collection of people dressed as Thanksgiving side dishes, I loved a good collection of coordinating costumes.

Run to Feed the Hungry Teams
Photo Cred: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

So, how much money has the Run to Feed the Hungry Raised?
I’d estimate since it's inception, we've raised over 8 Million dollars.

And when it comes to fundraising, what are the 3-4 metrics you pay most attention to?
There’s a number of things we're watching, but I think three critical things we look at, are:

FIRST: Number of participants (registrations). The revenue from the registration fees has a major impact on the 14 different services the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services provides to the community.

One of the ideas we've added is a virtual runner. This let's people participate even when they can't make it. We’re always trying to remove any obstacles for people to participate and support the organization. Also, I didn't want my mom to have any excuses not to participate :) 

Kelly Siefkin Mom
Photo Cred: Kelly's mom

SECOND: Fundraising Dollars. Many people fundraise on top of their registration fee.

We’ve done a lot of education and one of the cool things we are starting to hear people say is “they do so much more than just food”. The more people learn about our programs, the more they typically fundraise.

THIRD: Number of people who form teams.

Teams are really critical to helping people fundraise and getting them to bring their friends, family and co-workers.  It used to be just big companies and organizations that formed teams, but now a family or group of friends can be a team. You get a shirt with your team's name on it.

It’s already proven to be hugely successful. 

Run to Feed the Hungry Costumes
Photo Cred: A typical Run to Feed to The Hungry

From a communication perspective what would you want to be able to do better?
Well, a lot of participants are not aware that Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services owns and operates the event. And I think if they were more equipped, they'd be more likely become ambassadors for the organization.

Our challenge is that there is so much information we could give them, but we want to be careful not to overload people. We're always looking for creative ways to communicate our impact and educate people on our services without overwhelming them.

We really want people to be proud of their support.

When you think of the Run to Feed the Hungry as a Brand, what is your promise to your participants?
A fun, local, family friendly event through the beautiful streets of East Sacramento. Such a positive experience and a great way to support our community. People are smiling a little bit larger than they were before.

Run to Feed the Hungry Costumes
Photo Cred: Runners going bananas on race day.

What three areas are you focusing on with extra care to ensure you deliver that brand promise?

FIRST: Professional race direction with extreme attention to detail.

SECOND: The best use of our donor funds.

And Impact is critical but the participant experience is also really critical, so I’d say that

THIRD is that It has to be a fun experience. There’s live bands, costumes, it’s just a great atmosphere. We have a volunteer that dresses up as Elvis on Elvas Street and sings and plays the guitar.

Run to Feed the Hungry Elvis on Elvas Street
Photo Cred: Elvis on Elvas. Doing his thing.

I understand you enlist the help of an operations partner. What has made the relationship with them so successful?
We work with Capital Road Race Management. And what has made the relationship so successful, is their experience running a plethora of other local and international races. Their brilliant team is always bringing new ideas to the event to increase participation, bolster fundraising, engage spectators and inspire our staff and volunteers. We're really grateful to have them as a partner.

If you were starting the Run To Feed The Hungry in another city, what are 2-3 things you’d focus on?

FIRST: I would look for a city with good weather.

SECOND: I would look to involve non-runners.

THIRD: I would look for a place that has a strong volunteer movement.

Run to Feed the Hungry Volunteer Team
Photo of the RTFH Volunteers and Kelly of course.

What is the best piece of career advice you have been given?
Stand up for what you believe in and let a lot of the small battles go. When it comes to surving in your career, especially a non-profit career, you have to keep your eyes on the mission and not drown in just the details.

Parting Wisdom?
Thanksgiving is a great time to start a tradition and I’d love to challenge people to find a way to get involved. But also to think of people in need throughout the year, not just the holiday season.  

MY TAKEAWAY
When I started talking to the staff at The Run To Feed The Hungry about the interview, everybody kept trying to pawn me off on someone else. Basically someone who was more deserving. They also constantly wanted to make sure that no one person got the credit for the event. It’s a clearly team effort. 

The reality is that this is a tight group that's having a major impact. So if you can't make it out to Sacramento, I hope you'll become a virtual runner. Besides, we all know you're definitely eating that second piece of pie. Shit... I might have three :)

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