Five Questions: The Nerd Herd (Jamison Reynolds)

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I first met Jamison Reynolds in 2011 when I became a member of Deb Wills‘ Incredible “Team AllEars” running and fundraising team.   Long a supporter of the Avon Walk for Beast Cancer, Deb founded Team AllEars five years ago.  In that time, this amazing group of runners raised $330,000 to help end breast cancer.

Jamison Reynolds played a key role for Team AllEars.  Now that the team has disbanded, Jamison and friends started the Nerd Herd, a virtual race series to raise money for cancer research.

1) The Nerd Herd.  Tell us how the Herd got started

That’s a two part answer to a one part question.  The “Herd” is a bunch of friends that met over the past 5 years as members of Team Allears, an internet based running team comprised of Disney fans (which came to conclusion this year).  Although some of us had known each other for years, during WDW’s marathon weekend in 2013 many of us stayed at the same resort and because of that we really came together.  We started touring the parks and dining together and after multiple attractions where all we did was critique the attraction or start comparing our favorites someone said “we really are a herd of nerds.”  It stuck.

Nerd Herd Running evolved from our ongoing relationship after that weekend.  We thought it would be fun to start our own website to collect our thoughts on everything from Disney to running to cupcakes to beer.  After we established the website we had the idea to hold a Virtual Race Series.  Its now a year later and the website is constantly updated with new content, we have a robust following on social networks and we’ve raised over $17,000 for Stupid Cancer… having fun all along the way of course.

2. This is one of the most creative fundraising virtual race series I’ve ever seen.  Where did you get the idea? And the medals that create a larger medal?  Dare I say nerdtastic?

Thanks.  The idea of virtual racing was new to some of us in the Herd.  Others had taken part in them in the past and really saw the potential.  Last year the idea had been to do ONE race.  Since I work with libraries I immediately thought Banned Book Week would be a fun race.  Some the nerds wanted a “practice run” and we started researching other themes.  May the 4th (be with you) was immediately chosen.  Since there was 5 months in between races (and what good nerd doesn’t appreciate a trilogy) the Happy Birthday Harry Potter race was adopted and we had our trilogy.

The medals coming together started simple.  We used our logo, decided to offer a bonus 4th medal and… well… there ya go!

One thing we strive to do with Nerd Herd Running is operate as a lean organization.  A major tenet of lean organizations is GET THE FEEDBACK OF YOUR CUSTOMER.  After our series was over last year we surveyed our finishers.  Two of the questions were “Should the medals be more unique to the individual themes or should they continue to form a single image” and “What themes would YOU have?”  The suggested themes were tallied and prioritized.  The nerds than had 4 rounds of voting to get to this year’s themes… Revenge of the 5th (a follow up to last year’s May the 4th), the Lord of the Bling and the Rebellion Begins.

The feedback on the medals from our runners was almost evenly split.  How do we go unique for each race while forming a single design?  After looking at the themes that were chosen it was clear that they followed a classic writing device; the Hero’s Journey.  When thinking of journeys or quests we thought of the classic Knights… and what Knight doesn’t have a shield?  Thus the Hero’s Shield was born.

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3. Tell us about how you settled on Stupid Cancer as the beneficiary.  And while we are on the subject of money, let me say I am nothing short of impressed with your transparency and stewardship of race entry fees to benefit the charity.

We hate cancer.  We know we aren’t unique in that regard.  Many of us in the Herd have seen it up close and have seen it take our loved ones.  We are also been inspired by those that fight it every day.  Survivors are our heroes.  We knew from the beginning we wanted to support a nonprofit that supported the fight against cancer.  Our “Money Nerd” Sara asked a coworker who is a survivor for a list of the nonprofits that she would recommend to others.  On that list was Stupid Cancer.   Their mission is to support young adult cancer survivors and their families.  We are all young adults in the Herd (Brad’s getting a little up there in age but we won’t hold it against him- and he can beat most of us in a foot race too) and we know that the 18-40 range of survivors is greatly underserved so we chose to support them.  Its been an amazing relationship.  They have been amazing partners.  Imagine a nonprofit that when you ask them “Where did my money go?” they actually tell you.

When it comes to money we feel transparency is the key.  We want you to know exactly how we are using your race fees.  Since signing up for our events is not tax deductible we want you to know exactly how much of your fees are going toward Stupid Cancer and exactly how much goes to cover the cost of medals, printing, shipping, etc.   We use Active.com as our race management system because they are a known name in the industry and even though they may not be the “cheapest” when it comes to race fees, that trust level we get from using them is worth it.  Hasty Awards is our medal vendor and they have been amazing to work with.

We do not profit one cent from these races.  We do not secretly own the vendors we use to gain a backdoor profit and we do not take out labor fees either.  Because of that, instead of only 10%-15% of the proceeds going to support Stupid Cancer we are able to send them over 50% of the total race fees.

4. Your battle cry is “EARS UP!”  Love it!  How did you come up with it?

Ah. EARS UP.  We actually wrote a post about the origin of Ears Up.   In fact, I really suggest reading that to understand the full origin of the story.  It has become our sign of love and our sign of acknowledgement to each other and to all our nerds out there.   I have to say that during this year’s WDW marathon weekend a bunch of nerds set up a cheering spot at the Mexico Pavilion.  We were screaming our heads off and yes we had a Nerd Herd Running Banner with us.  The coolest thing happened.  Runners we had never met before started running up to US and giving us EARS UPS!!!  It was so cool!!!  I can also say that after 11:30 am,  runners who gave us an “Ears Up” got a margarita.

5. How can prospective nerds get involved? How do your virtual races work?

We’d love for you to run with us!  For information on how to virtually race with us check out our announcement post.   I’d also recommend following us on facebook or on Twitter–(@herdofnerd).

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