It feels good to give back. And every year, runners raise lots of money to race for charity. In fact, the amount raised steadily increases annually, such was the case with the 2018 Boston Marathon. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) has even gone as far as creating its own personal charity team. You’ll find charity running options for most major races, and there are even charities that have their own events — such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure — and their own teams — like Cheetah Charity Runners (CCR), the fitness and fundraising team for the Emilio Nares Foundation (ENF) based in San Diego.
With so many options, you want to ensure the best fundraising experience for yourself as you navigate your charity choices. Here’s a short guide to help you through your next — or first — charity race.
THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING FOR CHARITY
There are many reasons to run for charity; you can support a cause you believe in, gain entry into a race, join a team and any combination of these. There is no right or wrong when it comes to your decision but it’s important to come away from the experience with a greater appreciation for the power running — and giving back — holds.
“Charity running has so many benefits; not only do we get professional coaching to support us in training and on race day, we are doing good for ourselves while doing good for others,” shares Susan Giesting, a CCR participant. “That is sometimes the extra motivation you need to push through when the miles get tough.”
THE DIFFERENT CHARITY OPTIONS
There is no right or wrong when it comes to racing on behalf of a charity. You can decide to fundraise for a charity partner affiliated with a specific race — like charity runners do for the Boston Marathon — or you can train with a group affiliated with a specific charity and run races of your choosing. The big difference will be your experience when training and fundraising.
“Typically with a race, there may be a local running team that puts on training clinics, but for the most part you are on your own — they provide you with a fundraising page and off you go. The commitment for this tends to be much lower,” explains Karen Shabel, campaign manager for CCR. “Joining a team provides a completely different experience, because you are all training together for one or two specific events. Coaches provide personal training advice and a schedule and you receive support in your fundraising efforts, as well as course support on race day.”
In addition to considering your fundraising and training experience, you want to consider the charity itself. In the case of CCR, runners are connected with the Emilio Nares Foundation directly so they can see where their funds are going.
“Since the Emilio Nares Foundation is a small San-Diego based foundation, we introduce our runners to the programs and services provided by ENF to patient families by offering tours of the ENF offices at Rady Children’s Hospital and ride-alongs in the ‘Ride with Emilio’ vans,” reveals CCR coach Cheryl Sheremeta. “It is very important for runners to have a human connection and know what the organization does so they can educate their donors and be better fundraisers.”
If you can’t visit the charity you are choosing in person, you should definitely do your due diligence and research their mission and work. Shabel notes that lack of accreditation doesn’t need to be a dealbreaker. In any case, it is a good idea to reach out to the charity to find out how funds are used — such as funding local programs or furthering research — so you can verify it aligns with your values.
HOW TO REACH OUT AND FUNDRAISE
When it comes to fundraising, the first step is, of course, setting a goal. Once that is set, you should make sure you have any necessary supplemental materials or assistance directly from the charity. Some charities will share your fundraising story to help spread the word (as was the case when I ran the Los Angeles Marathon on behalf of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America). Some races highlight their charity partners so the public can choose to donate to your fundraising efforts.
“Fundraising is a very personal effort,” affirms Shabel. “The best way to be successful is to know the best way to reach your potential donors. When I first began fundraising for charity running in 2009, we wrote letters and mailed them. Today, there are so many more options.”
What it all comes down to is there is no one way to fundraise for charity; you can choose to reach out to your personal network, get creative and perform outreach in your community or simply make an online donation page and collect donations there. Shabel says the key in all fundraising efforts is to share your personal story to encourage friends, colleagues and the community to donate to your cause.