My cousin Liz started running with a New Year’s resolution in 2013. That year, I ran her first race, the Harpoon 5-Miler, with her. She has since completed a bunch more including 2 half marathons. I’m proud to say she’s hooked.
I’m even more proud that she decided to fundraise for her next half marathon, the Heartbreak Hill Half. She’s raising money for a camp for kids with disabilities that her sister attended before passing away last fall. Liz set her goal to raise $1000 and is surprised that she has already surpassed it with over a month to go before the race. I’m not.
Fundraising is way scarier before you get started. Having raised money for 8 Boston Marathons and several other races in between, I’ve gotten over that fear. Here are some of my tricks and tips that have helped me fundraise year after year.
- Fundraising will be most successful if the cause is meaningful to you. People are often uncomfortable asking their friends and family to make donations. If a cause is truly important to you, you shouldn’t feel bad asking for donations. After all, it’s not like it’s ending up in your pocket. And chances are if the cause is important to you, it’s important to some of your friends and family too.
- Trick you family and friends into donating by paying for goods and services they would purchase anyway. OK, so don’t exactly lie to them, but you can find ways to raise funds without making direct asks. Even if someone doesn’t have a specific tie to a cause, they might be willing to pay for a wine tasting event or bid on a auction item. This year, I held a “spa day” fundraiser at Tranquility Day Spa. I spoke to the owner after a pedicure one day and told her I was running the marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association. Long story short, she said she’d love to help! My friends had no problem scheduling appointments for massages and manicures and Tranquility generously donated 50% from all services to the Alzheimer’s Association.
- Don’t discount even the smallest donations. I have friends who each year get a chunk of their fundraising done doing an old-fashioned boot drive, soliciting donations in a boot walking through stopped traffic at busy town intersections. (The first time I heard the term, I actually didn’t know what a boot drive was.) Lots of loose change collected over a few hours on a Saturday afternoon has equaled over $1000 in donations for them!
- Have a strategy. Just posting your fundraising link on Facebook does not raise thousands of dollars for most people. Have a few ideas planned to increase your chances of reaching the most people. It might take some planning, but the worst that can happen is you raise more than you planned.
- Get creative. I fundraised for my first race in 2004. Sure my networks have grown and changed, but there are a lot of folks who have been getting emails from me for all 10 years. Every year, I try to find a new idea. This year, it was creating t-shirts. I designed a shirt around this year’s race and with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association, sold them to the team, in addition to my friends and family. I worked with One Billion Shirts to produce the shirts. I chose them because in addition to making a great shirt, they also donate $.25 from each shirt back to the charity of the customer’s choice. And as it turns out, they were also really nice to work with.
- Say thank you. Whether someone donated $5 or $500, let them know you appreciate it. I try to send quick email and Facebook thank yous as donations arrive. After the event however, I take the time to create cards, usually with a photo from the race and a personal note to thank my donors as well as let them know how the race and my fundraising ended up.
Since I can’t write the check myself, fundraising for a charity is one way for me to try to cause change around issues that are important to me. And combing it with running just makes it more fun. Yet despite my unsolicited, hardly-an-expert advice, I know fundraising will never appeal to some. But if you are considering it, I would encourage you not to let your fears get in the way of doing something I can guarantee will make your race even more rewarding.
Consider my 2 cents your first donation.
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