5 tips for charity runners (from a professional fundraiser)

Hey guys! This is a little deviation from a straight running-related post, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about charity runners. My first marathon was NYC, which I ran for the Celiac Disease Foundation, and I learned a ton from that experience. My not-so-secret leg up is that I have been working in the fundraising field for close to 7 years, and a lot of the basics of what I do at work were really helpful to me when I was fundraising for my race. As lots of folks gear up for the fall marathon season, I hope these tips are helpful!Image result for pearl i want my money

  1. Give yourself your first donation: Have you ever gone to someone’s fundraising page and before doing anything else, peeked at the donor scroll to see how much other folks have given? We all have! Setting the bar high is really, really powerful–if your potential donors see gifts of $5-$10 they won’t dig as deep as if they see gifts at higher levels. Also, no one wants to be the first one at the party. So stack the deck in your favor by giving yourself your first gift and making it a relatively generous one. It’s a lovely way to show that you are digging deep to support the cause out of your own pocket.
  2. Make a personal connection to the cause: It’s no big secret that many of us fundraise as a way to get into a race we otherwise wouldn’t be able to run, but it’s not particularly inspiring to give to charity just because someone thinks it would be fun to run Boston (or New York, or whatever). Even if you don’t have an immediate personal connection to the organization, find one! It can be as simple as sharing some basic facts/stats that show why the organization’s work resonates with you. Make sure every communication you send out says something about the cause itself in addition to updates on your training.
  3. Cast your net really, really wide: Especially if you’re on the younger side, your friends may not be able to give you large enough gifts to get you to your fundraising goals. Consider who in your networks might be able to give you a boost. I’d suggest starting with current/former colleagues, immediate family, extended family, and family friends. My parents have an amazing network of close friends who are pseudo-family to me, and many of them have been generous supporters of my charity runs. Be creative!
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask: My number one piece of fundraising advice is that you get 0% of the gifts you don’t ask for. Your friends and family are infinitely more likely  to give to you if you reach out to them directly, which can be via email, mail, or phone. Also, posting on social media DOES NOT count as an ask!! I’ve found sending emails to be really effective–just keep them light, personal, and fun. And make a connection to the cause! See tip numbah 2 🙂
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask AGAIN: Two main tips here. First, the reason someone didn’t respond to you the first time probably has more to do with the fact that they saw your email and totally forgot about it than them not wanting to support you. It can take 3+ touches for someone to actually give! So keep nudging people–they’ll be grateful for it. Also, some of your strongest supporters might be those who give to you more than once. It can be especially helpful to re-solicit your supporters when you’re close to your goal. For example, if you have had 50 people donate and you’re $250 away from your goal, you can send them all an email letting them know that if they each give $5 they’ll put you over the top! This is a really effective to help you “sprint to the finish.”

BONUS! You’ll notice that there are two big things here that I don’t recommend. First, fundraising events–these take a ton of time and effort that you probably would rather spend on your training. And they don’t yield as much cash as you might imagine since they cost a fair amount to put together. Second, fundraising via social media isn’t super effective, even if you have a ton of followers. Folks don’t generally give all that generously via social channels, and they definitely don’t give money to anyone they don’t know IRL. By all means, use social media to provide updates on your progress/training, but leave the solicitations to more direct outreach.

Phew! Lots of words there, but I hope this is helpful–please pass this along to your friends who are running and fundraising. Anything I missed? Other tips and tricks?


Linking up with Amanda for Thinking out Loud Thursday and with  Lacey, Meranda, and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0.

9 thoughts on “5 tips for charity runners (from a professional fundraiser)

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful! I would definitely encourage you to give it a try. It’s a little bit outside most people’s comfort zones (myself included!) but really rewarding in the end.

  1. Kelly

    I am hoping to run Boston next year as a charity runner. I wish the CDF had Boston bibs! To fundraise, I think you have to be passionate about the charity, and I was diagnosed 2 years ago.

    1. That’s awesome, Kelly!! I agree–it is definitely helpful to run for a cause you’re passionate about, which is why I ran for the CDF after my Celiac diagnosis. If you have any inclination to run NYC instead for the CDF, it’s a MUCH more approachable course and the fundraising minimums are less than half what they are for Boston. Best of luck with your journey!

  2. Wow, these are some really good, honest, tips. I’ve never fundraised for a race before but not because I didn’t care about a cause but more because I feel like people would wonder why I just didn’t make the entire donation myself if I felt that passionate about it. But I’m weird like that and don’t like to ask people for money.

  3. Great tips. I’m lucky that my office has built-in fundraising with our “jeans days” – anyone can sponsor a charity on a Friday and people donate $5 (or more) for the privilege of wearing jeans. My coworkers are so generous, we typically raise several hundred dollars on any given jeans day.

  4. Ha, I did two of the things you said don’t work when I raised money to run Chicago. I hosted an event at Pure Barre – the class was donation based. It was super easy to put together and I raised almost $500 from that alone. I also got a handful of donations from people I don’t know personally but read my blog. My point is, that casting a wide net and using a variety of strategies can be very successful!

    1. That’s awesome–I’m so glad those things worked for you! I definitely don’t think either is a bad strategy, but I don’t think they’re the most lucrative, so hoping to direct people to what I’ve seen that gives them the biggest bang for their buck. 100% agreed that it’s all about being creative and using all of the tools in the toolbox 🙂

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