Fundraising Advice for Everyone Running on a Charity Team

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A bit of a random post today, but since it’s that time of year again when you can start applying to run the Boston Marathon with a charity team (more info on the BAA’s website HERE if you want to pursue that), I thought it’d be fitting. The post really applies to anyone fundraising for anything though.

You might recall I had a fairly–ok, extremely–tough time with the fundraising part of running the marathon this year. I was required to raise $7,500 for MABVI in order to get a bib and while I did reach the goal, I had 7,500 emotional meltdowns along the way. I was in a constant state of stress and didn’t feel like myself for months (that sounds dramatic but seriously everything was off–I was like a Bizzaro World Nicole). It was worth it in the end and I had an amazing race day but to be perfectly honest I wouldn’t do it again (the fundraising anyway–I’d run another marathon). 

I don’t mean to scare you off though because it doesn’t have to be that way! I went about it all wrong, learned a lot, and while I won’t be doing it again, I also wouldn’t discourage others from giving it a go. If you’re like me and really uncomfortable with fundraising but feeling like this is your year to run Boston (or any marathon on a charity team) I’ve got some advice for you …

Fundraising Advice from a Person Who Sucked at It

Find a personal connection to the charity with which you’re running. Immediately.

It may be obvious. Your mother passed away from breast cancer and you’re running for Dana-Farber. But it doesn’t have to be–something it took me months to fully understand when I ran last year. When I heard Team With A Vision members talking about the struggles that come with visual impairment–joblessness, depression, isolation, loss of independence–that’s when the personal connection clicked for me. I didn’t have any visually impaired family members or close friends, but did connect to those ancillary issues that can come as a result.  Remember, all charity causes are your cause because of our bigger, shared human experience.

Asking for money can be uncomfortable, but when that personal connection is there for you, it becomes a lot easier to do. You don’t just know the money goes to a worthy cause–you feel it and understand it.

Still feel uncomfortable asking for money? Make this your daily mantra: This is not a pyramid scheme. I am not selling age-defying skin serums or supplements on Facebook.

A major issue I faced was mentally grouping myself in with all the people relentlessly promoting Beachbody, Isagenix, You Name It on Facebook. I was reluctant to post about my fundraiser because I felt like a salesperson and that everyone would be annoyed by me. Asking people to donate to charity is completely different from asking people to buy something that then fattens your personal paycheck. Don’t even entertain the notion that there are similarities.

Find out if your company has a donation match policy.

Some companies (especially larger corporations) will match charitable donations you make (or at least a percentage of them). That’s huge! Just be clear on the policies. Usually it’s a match of donations you personally make, not the funds you raise. If this is the case, you can have friends and family donate directly to YOU rather than your charity so that YOU write one, big check for the combined sum, which your company may then match. Or maybe that’s shady? Your call (haha). Reach out to HR and ask about this.

Start early. Start with events.

Organizing events–charity fitness classes, happy hours, etc.–is an awesome way to fundraise because the donor is getting something in return (in addition to the obvious fulfillment they’ll feel from supporting a worthy cause). They’d be spending $30 on a boutique fitness class anyway, so why not have that money go to charity? I recommend doing these early on in your fundraising because they can take a lot of time and energy to organize. If you’re putting together an event at the same time you’re dedicating three hours each Saturday morning to your final long training runs, it can get overwhelming.

Some tips for fitness events:

  • If you’re going the fitness class route, reach out to spin studios or other high-capacity fitness centers. Depending on class size, you can raise upwards of $2,000 from just one charity fitness event! Definitely don’t discount smaller studios, but if you’re working full-time, training and fundraising, I get that it can be desirable to hit your goal in as few events as possible.
  • Think about incorporating refreshments and raffle prizes so that you can increase the suggested donation per attendee. You’d be amazed at the value-add free booze brings (haha). Most liquor stores would be happy to donate to the event. Offer a cocktail mixed with fresh juice after the workout to turn it from a normal class to a special event. Also think about reaching out to local vendors for product/service donations to be raffled. Even if a company isn’t willing to donate money, they may be able to contribute a hard product (dinner for two at a restaurant, retail gift card, etc.). At the end of the workout, as everyone sips on a cocktail, draw names for the raffle prizes you’ve collected. Everyone loves winning free stuff! If a spin class is normally $28 at the studio (going on Boston prices here), you can charge upwards of $50 for the event if you include refreshments and raffle prizes along with it.

If you’re a local reader running for charity this year–holler at me! I’d love to teach a group fitness class to help you hit your fundraising goal. pumpsandiron@gmail.com ← seriously, don’t be shy. I want to help. (I just don’t want to do the fundraising myself. Ever. Again. LOL).

Send an email to family members and friends a day or two before the big day.

Often it’s not that your loved ones don’t want to donate; it’s just that they forget or put it off. I know I’m guilty of it! I see a friend post about a fundraiser on their Facebook page and I think “That’s awesome! I’m going to donate to that tomorrow when my paycheck comes through.” Then I forget. If you’re worried about pestering people who haven’t yet donated, wait until a couple days before the race to reach out again. The immediacy of the event will get people excited and they’ll typically donate on the spot. The email I sent out to friends and family the day before the race brought in over $1,500 in donations!

Tips for composing the email:

  • Be heartfelt but brief–get to the point. With the exception of your grandma, no one reads these days–we’re a culture of skimmers. That being said, try to touch upon the following …

Update on how the training has been + why the charity is important to both you and the people whom it supports + how to donate + sincere thank you

  • Make it easy to donate. Include a link to your online fundraising page as well as all the info needed if they’d prefer to donate via check. If you’re a twenty-something reading this you might be thinking Check? What’s a check? But some people understandably don’t feel comfortable entering their credit card info online. Don’t assume everyone will donate via webpage.
  • Add a picture! Embed a picture of you training along with the email, or if you’ve already picked up your bib number, a picture of you holding it with a big smile on your face. Family and friends will love it. Well, your college buddies might tease you, but your extended family will love it. 😉

Don’t think of the money as a price to be paid for running.

If you’re a few months into fundraising, stressing the F out and thinking this is not worth a bib, you’ve got to change your mindset. If you can focus on the good you’re doing for others, you’re going to get way more out of the experience anyway–not just the opportunity to race, but that feel-good fulfillment that comes from being of service to those in need. It might sound cheesy but charitable activities really do benefit the person doing them as much as they benefit the people for which they’re being done.

If you’re a blogger and plan to use your site for fundraising, do it the *legal* way.

How could fundraising for charity possibly be ILLEGAL?? I guess I was naive thinking that when I decided to host some kickass giveaway for my fundraising on the blog. I got some of the brands I work with to donate awesome products and services and figured I’d have people make a small donation in exchange for giveaway entries. Wrong. The intentions may be good, but it’s the way in which you go about it that gets a little hairy. Asking people to pay money (even if it’s a donation to a non-profit) in exchange for an entry into a giveaway is technically a form of gambling.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage your online platform! Ashley shared with me an awesome charity auction she did on her blog that would be a perfect option. Because only the highest bidder/winner makes the donation, it takes the “gambling” aspect out of it. You’re not paying for anything unless you get it.

Know that it WILL be worth it.

I can’t speak for other races, but holy shit is running Boston worth it. If you’re still overwhelmed and regretting your commitment to fundraising, know that this negative feeling will be completely obliterated to a distance memory come race day. I promise. Running the Boston Marathon and crossing that finish line is one of the biggest highs I’ve had. Don’t believe me? Reread my recap.

If you have any advice to add, leave a comment!

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Comments

  1. Love these tips! I’ve done 2 fundraising rounds for races — my big one being for the NYC Marathon last year with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

    Having personal connection to the cause honestly helped keep my head in the game while training, and as terrible as this sounds made it easier to leverage and ask people for $$. People that know me know my dad has lymphoma (although has been SUPER fortunate and has never undergone any serious treatment) and knew I had this personal connection to the cause I was fundraising for.

    My big tip is to also send out info about fundraising the old fashion way — via mail! My “older” aunts, uncles and grandparents are not that internet savvy but certainly wanted to support the cause and my race. I also put together a print out to bring to a big family get together and was able to easily hand out a flyer when someone asked me about how the race was going.

    Every little bit helps when you’re going for a big fundraising goal!

    http://www.kaylainthecity.com

  2. I also like to remind people that donations to charity are typically tax-deductible; that makes it a win-win for everybody!

  3. AWESOME tips!! Especially the legal bit!! That’s a biggie!!!!

  4. Tips are very useful for NGO’s to raise fund for mankind. Help the poors and needy from charity money. Thanks

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