10 Fundraising Tips for Marathoners

10 Fundraising Tips for Marathoners

I received a message recently that the went something like this: “The Cancer Society came up on my FaceBook feed looking for people to run the London Marathon and raise money for them. Do you think I should do it?” It was followed by a passionate case of why this was a great cause, how it personally touched her family, and so on. And then, the admission: “fundraising is completely out of my comfort zone.” My immediate response was “yes! do it!”

There are two reasons I encourage marathoners to run for charity. Number one is that the charity benefits from the funds raised, and also because you share their message with your family and friends. Personal testimonials of your involvement with them are powerful marketing tools. The second reason is that you benefit. While running for a charity makes you feel damn good, it also comes with perks.

Many charitable organizations offer guaranteed entry, training plans, coaching and organized group runs. Many offer opportunities to participate in races for which it’s hard to gain entry. All offer something bigger than you in the populations they serve. Raising money for a cause also gives you an excuse to tell everyone you know that you are planning to run a marathon in a way that doesn’t sound self-serving.

So yeah, do it! But how do you go from “fundraising is completely out of my comfort zone” to successful fundraiser and marathon finisher?

  1. Understand the commitment. Before agreeing to raise money for an organization make sure you understand what they are expecting from you. Charities that are providing you with a spot in a sold out or hard to get into race, often have high fundraising goals. Many also require a credit card up front and will charge you for the balance if you don’t reach your goal by the deadline.
  2. Choose a charity that you can be passionate about. You can’t successfully raise money for an organization you know nothing about. So before announcing your fundraiser to the world know everything you can about the organization. If you don’t know much about them, visit the website, sure, but also consider taking a tour to get a real feel for what they do. If you have some personal experience either as a client or volunteer that will be a huge plus. At the very least make sure the organization’s mission aligns with your values and is something you can share with excitement and conviction.
  3. Give yourself plenty of time. You can’t raise $5,000 (or $2,500 or $1,500) over night. Start your fundraising at least four months in advance; six months is even better. Starting your fundraising at the same time you start formal marathon training is a good plan.
  4. Have a plan. Just like any project, a personal fundraiser like this requires planning (read what I wrote about the importance of having a plan). Who are you going to ask? How are your going to ask them? When? Create a list of all the groups of people you know – family, friends, work colleagues, classmates, social media and various community connections – and note the best ways to reach them (email, letter, social media, phone call).
  5. Create a Case for Giving. Most importantly, what are your going to say?  Why should they give to your cause? What is the story you want to tell? Why is this cause important to you and why should they care? What’s in it for them? Use some of the facts from the organization’s website, but make sure this is personal. Most organizations with formal marathon training programs will provide you with something, still personalize it!
  6. Ask! You’ve spent time writing a moving case of why you are passionate about your cause and why they should be too. Share it! Don’t be shy. If you’ve followed steps 1-5, this part shouldn’t be difficult or uncomfortable. The one thing I learned as a professional fundraiser for 20 years is that people like to give. It makes them feel good. By asking them to give to your cause, you are giving them an opportunity to make a difference, to show they support you, and to feel good.
  7. Keep up with your training. You want to make sure you get to the start line and deliver on your end of the promise, so make sure you’re following your training plan and taking care of yourself (read my tips for first-time marathoners). If the charity you’re running for has formal group runs, consider joining them. The camaraderie can be motivating. Certainly take advantage of any coaching they may offer.
  8. Ask again. If someone says no, that’s fine. Thank them anyway and move on, but most of our asks are through e-mail or social media and people might miss them the first time. So send them again…and again. A great way to stay in front of people is to provide updates on your training and then just tack on a reminder about the fundraiser with a link to the donation page. Keep the update short and interesting.
  9. Thank them! The most important part of fundraising is to thank your donors. Most organization’s fundraising pages will send donors a receipt for tax purposes that includes a thank you, but you really need to send something personal that acknowledges them, even if it’s a FaceBook post or message. I would also recommend thanking them again after the marathon and letting them know how much their support helped pull you through.
  10. Show up on race day.  You did the training. You did the fundraising. Now actually running the marathon is the easy part. Enjoy it. Take advantage of any race-day amenities the charity is providing their runners. Be proud of what you’ve done!

Hopefully your comfort zone will be expanded. I know there was a time, for me at least, when running wasn’t even in my comfort zone!

To read more on cause running, please see these blog posts from last year:

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Houston Marathon Weekend 2013

 

Why it’s important to be involved

Why it’s important to be involved

Sunday I volunteered at the Mile 21 Fluid Station for the New York City Marathon. Today, I’m crossing another finish line of sorts. It’s Election Day and I’ve been “training” since June; since two women I met last spring became candidates for borough council in my little northern New Jersey town. Read more

What it means to be an Active Community Investor

What it means to be an Active Community Investor

When I was working for United Way at the beginning of my non-profit career 20 years ago, I first heard the term “Active Community Investor.” While anyone can be a potential donor to charity, these Active Community Investors were the people who were deemed to be our best prospects. They were the people who were already donating their time. They were the volunteer little league coaches, scout leaders, volunteer fireman, and PTA members. They were the people who attended town council meetings, ran races or did walks for charity, or were actively involved in their house of worship.

We should all be Active Community Investors, but sadly this group is probably the minority. But it’s never too late to become one. There are opportunities all around us. If we dare to complain about anything, we are part of the problem if we are not actively part of a solution. I’ve put together a list of where you can start with the easiest to those that take a great deal of commitment. (Also read what I wrote last year about volunteering, here).

Vote. This is by far the easiest way to make your voice heard and engage in your community. Here in New Jersey we have a new Governor to elect on November 7 as well as State Legislators. In my town there is a heated race for two council seats. There are a lot of people with something to say, but about 30% of registered voters in town didn’t vote in last year’s presidential election. This year’s turnout is likely to be a lot less.

Donate. You do not have to be rich to make a donation to a charity or political campaign. $25. $10. $5. These amounts when combined with the small contributions of others add up and can be very impactful. Even my teenage daughter with the income of a part-time job made a small recurring monthly donation to a presidential candidate last year. So the next time you get an email from your cousin asking to support her run or walk, click on the donate button. It will make you feel good and make your cousin feel even better about you. If you’re happy your neighbor decided to run for office to do something about all that’s wrong in town, at the very least, make a donation to show your support.

Just Help. You do not need to be a full-blown volunteer who makes a commitment over the course of months or years and spends hours sitting in meetings to make a difference. Some people have constraints on their time that others do not. Figure out what you can do. Can you just pick up a store bought item for the school bake sale? Maybe volunteer to bring the juice boxes to the soccer game? When my daughter was in elementary and middle school I worked full-time, and spent over two hours everyday commuting. But when I saw a break between positions, I quickly committed to taking on the role of Girl Scout Cookie mom. When the call went out for chaperones for Teen Canteen at the Middle School, I sucked it up and gave up my Friday night.

Volunteer. Every non-profit organization, youth sports team, school, municipality, and special event relies on volunteer time. And it’s always the same people. I was at a meeting for my daughter’s high school Graduation Gala committee a few days ago when one of the moms noted that all the people in the room were most of the same people we’ve been seeing since kindergarten. She was my daughter’s soccer coach in 2010. The chair of the committee and the treasurer were my daughter’s Brownie Girl Scout Troop leaders. And looking around the room I saw lots of familiar faces, fellow chaperones from Teen Canteen and a woman with whom I remember working the snack stand at the park. There were about 50 people in the room, from a pool of close to 400 senior parents. If you are one of the parents who think you can continue to sit things out while your child reaps the benefits, or a citizen that wonders why your candidate didn’t get elected when you didn’t do anything, please reconsider. Your community needs you. Please think about what you can do to personally contribute your time (at the very least see #3).

Serve on a Board. Serving on a board (or even chairing a committee) is volunteering at a higher level. All of the organizations that rely on volunteers also need leaders. This is a time commitment and therefore you need to be involved with an organization that is personally fulfilling and honors your values. I have served on two non-profit boards for over the last 5 years, and have served on running club boards. These are meaningful to me, utilize my skills, and require a time commitment that is manageable. You don’t have to say yes to everything. But do strongly consider the things that are a good fit.

Run for Office. This takes an enormous amount of commitment, as well as courage. Our towns, cities, states, and country cannot function without our elected officials. And we need good elected officials, but most people would never think of running for office. It’s a big commitment of time; it’s a lot of responsibility. Plus we hear our neighbors complain and criticize and most people don’t want to be in the line of fire. As I’ve seen the local Council race heat up, I’ve heard about candidates getting harassing messages from citizens, citizens who chose not to run themselves.

The bottom line is, do something! Set a good example for your children and if you don’t like what’s happening, act. Even if your child is a senior and you’ve never volunteered at any school function, the Graduation Gala committee can still use your help. Even if you’ve never been “political” if there’s a candidate that you really like, they can use your time too. Both of my parents were Active Community Investors (I wrote about them here and here). I’m an Active Community Investor because they were. Although my daughter seems to be annoyed by even my attendance at Back-to-School night, I still know she’s watching. Ultimately, being an Active Community Investor is personally fulfilling and as the kids begin to live their own lives and you have more time, being actively invested in one’s community is a the perfect way to honor your values and fulfill your life’s purpose. There is a community investment opportunity for every area of interest.

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Ramsey High School. Ramsey, New Jersey. October 2017

 

You don’t know how it feels

You don’t know how it feels

This is another week in which I wrote something that will be saved for publishing another day. When I work with clients, sometimes it becomes apparent that there is an emotional issue we need to work through before we can focus on anything else. The term we use for that is clearing. Sometimes the client needs time to be in that moment…to be angry, sad, concerned or even celebratory…before they can focus on next steps toward their goals. So as this week unfolded, I realized I couldn’t just publish what I wrote last weekend. And honestly, it has taken me all week to process my emotions.

Americans are absolutely right to be outraged at the toll of guns. Just since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than all the Americans who died in wars going back to the American Revolution (about 1.45 million vs. 1.4 million). That gun toll includes suicides, murders and accidents, and these days it amounts to 92 bodies a day.

We spend billions of dollars tackling terrorism, which killed 229 Americans worldwide from 2005 through 2014, according to the State Department. In the same 10 years, including suicides, some 310,000 Americans died from guns.

Nicholas Kristof, Jan. 16, 2016, Some Inconvenient Gun Facts for Liberals, New York Times

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Let’s talk about this – it may save a life

Let’s talk about this – it may save a life

This is National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). We all know what suicide is. We hear about it. It’s something that happens to other people. I remember being touched by a documentary called The Bridge many years ago. I thought about it a lot when I had the incredible opportunity to run over the Golden Gate years later. I could never have imagined then how I would be touched by suicide.

WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

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