Marathon fundraising tips

Fundraising can be tough. It generates a range of emotions, just like the race itself and the four months of training it takes to get there. Today I share some marathon fundraising tips that have helped me.

I’ve partnered with a charity for all three of my NYC marathon places and doing so has deeply enriched each experience. When people ask me about fundraising for my NYC marathons these are some thoughts that immediately come to mind…

rewarding, satisfying, absorbing, obsessive, focused, passionate, satisfying, humbling, connecting, challenging, intense, surprising, energising

So if you’re thinking about partnering with a charity for your next, or first marathon here are 16 marathon fundraising tips for you. That’s one for each week of  training.

1. Financial commitment

Understand the fundraising commitment you’re signing up for, because that’s the price you are responsible for paying in full.

2. Find the cause you relate to

Take time to find a charity partner that’s meaningful to you. It makes everything that follows easier. The closer you are to the cause the less it feels like work, and the more likely it will energise you.

3. Leave your expectations behind

Go into your fundraising with an open mind and set aside expectations or you will be disappointed. You’ll know people who you expect to donate, but they won’t reply to email or posts; there are people that send you messages of support and like your social media updates but don’t donate.  But there are surprises too; unexpected people who completely humble you with their generosity because you’ve tapped into something deeply private and meaningful. Accept all of it it without judgement, assume good intent, and stay focused.

4. Write your story

It may feel corny, but you have to tell people your story, the reason you run.  Write it down. Rewrite it, delete unnecessary words. Keep rewriting and refining and you’ll get to the bare truth of why. With that you’re well prepared. People will respond to your story.

5. Start early

Marathon charity places are expensive. Raising the total takes time. A typical training plan is 16 weeks and is a good synchronisation point. Some of your support might come from corporate gift matching schemes and these generally take a full month or two to process and distribute payments. Individual donations given through funds also have more processing time.

6. Find your audience

Make  a list of the different groups of people you can ask. List the obvious ones and then go crazy finding more; family, close friends, work mates, social media friends, people you follow, neighbours, work mates of the partners of your friends, the book club, the sports club, the local pub, local businesses.

7. Ask

This is simple. If you don’t ask you don’t get!

Why will anyone pay you to indulge a hobby?” Tell the voice in your head to zip it. It’s less about what you are doing and more about why your are doing it.. Go back to your story.  People will see the hard work you are putting in.

Work through your list slowly. Start with the group that will get a good initial response, like your family. Get some donations on the board. It will give you confidence to approach the more distant groups.

8. Follow the charity advice

Your charity survives by knowing how to find people and ask them for support. They have up to date advice on how to approach people over different media. Trust them and push yourself to try something new. Chances are it will get results.

9. Keep your story alive

Keep your story alive and share updates. Take a risk, be vulnerable and share your effort with others. Include the highs and the lows. Not everyone will follow your story, and that’s fine. For those that do, your updates will be inspiring and informative. Updates deliver additional value your supporters.

10. Thank your donors

Stop and thank donor as soon as you see their donation. You will have systems in place to help you do this. Someone just gave their money inspired by your actions. Say thank you.

11. Ask again

Keep sending updates to your different groups, and asking for support. Some folks will have already donated, which is fine, and some of those might donate again. If not, they won’t be offended by your asking because they’ll assume you are not talking to them.

12. Get to know the charity contact person

Reply to emails, send questions, find a reason to establish a dialog with your charity contact because they are there to help you. They are grateful for your efforts and will praise you. Everything will be smoother if you get to know the charity better.

13. Increase your target

Reaching your target is a massive moment. Now set a new target and tell everyone. Use this moment as another piece of your story and tell everyone about it. Aim higher, you’ll probably surprise yourself.

14. Listen to your supporters

It’s a long training cycle. Take motivation from your support team. Go back to your fundraising page and read the messages of support people left you. Look through your social media. Look at what you’ve achieved so far!

15. Go the extra mile

If your fundraising stalls take a break and consider what else you could do to raise awareness. What more are you willing to do? I’ve seen friends take bids on shaving/growing/styling facial hair, take your running to new locations, sell your skills in an auction.

16. Update people after the race

You completed your race! Write to everyone that supported you. It’s like sending that letter or email to grandparents to say thank you for the birthday gift.


What fundraising tips have worked for you?

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