There are many options when choosing a training team as someone prepares to compete in long-distance running races, bike rides or triathlons. However, only Team in Training (TNT) allows you to raise donations and awareness for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at the same time.

The volunteer participants, known as “purple running people” to some, start their training process five months before the race date. Usually the fundraising goals range from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the event. 

Since TNT’s inception in 1988, more than 600,000 people have participated.  In 2009, 340 participants raised $1.275 million in Virginia. TNT remains the world’s largest charity endurance sport training program, but numbers have declined by almost 50 percent.

Nick Faraone, executive director of the Virginia chapter, recognized that the market has changed over the years. He needed someone to look at the program from a business perspective. Farone was connected to Debbie Fisher, associate director of The Richmond MBA, to discuss partnering with The Richmond MBA on a Capstone Project.. A year later they found the ideal student to tackle this business opportunity – Ed Trageser.

Trageser was interested in completing his Capstone Project with a non-profit organization, so when Fisher mentioned LLS, Trageser jumped at the chance. “I’ve had family and friends affected by blood cancer and the opportunity immediately caught my attention. The project also provided me with a chance to explore how emotions, relationships and human nature can impact business performance and organizational decision making,” he said.

On a day-to-day basis, Trageser worked with the Virginia chapter to gather as much data as possible about the local and national LLS. Trageser analyzed the organization’s financial performance, marketing strategy, competitive positioning and organizational behavior. He immersed himself further into the project by lacing up his tennis shoes and participating with TNT to better understand the organization. He felt this was necessary because otherwise his recommendations would seem shallow. Family, friends and fellow Richmond students helped Trageser raise over $2,000 for LLS.

Around the same time Trageser started reviewing the program, national LLS began Project Fusion and tasked them with the same initiative. The two ran congruently and both analyzed the ins and outs of TNT. However, Project Fusion was to decide the future of the program and implement the recommendations needed to improve TNT. 

Project Fusion and Trageser had parallel results. They both diagnosed the cause of TNT’s downward trend as falling short of appealing to millennials, growing competition of endurance runs/walks to raise donations, older operating methods and failing to capitalize on the popularity of shorter races and fun runs. By the end of his Capstone Project, Trageser suggested the use of a CRM system, such as Salesforce, and the use technology, social media and digital marketing instead of print pieces.

Faraone was very pleased with Trageser’s Capstone project results and enjoyed working with The Richmond MBA. He hopes there will be opportunities to work together again in the future.

“TNT won’t be going anywhere, it will survive. It is part of LLS and in their DNA,” Faraone said.  He believes that with a revamp for a new audience and incorporating Trageser and Project Fusion’s suggestions, TNT will be trending upward again.

At the end of his experience, Trageser leaves us with this final thought:
“It would be great to focus on how students take what they learn in business to become better community members as well as business people. Not just because 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S. make up over five percent of the nation’s GDP, but because many MBA students will go on to serve as board members of charities and foundations. They will need to call upon their multi-disciplinary perspective to understand and serve those organizations well.”