Runners taking part in the Flora London Marathon have earned more than £200 million for a range of charities since the first race way back in 1981. And the pace of fundraising shows no signs of slowing – more than £30 million was raised this year, making it the most lucrative one-day annual fundraising event in Britain. And with charity runners making up a large part of the fields at an increasing number of events, from the Great North Run to the London Triathlon, or even the Paris and New York marathons, the profile of fundraising looks set to rise further still.
Of course, you can’t expect to make it through the race without applying yourself to your training, and the same is true of fundraising – the more you put in, the more you (and your chosen charity) will get out of it. So pull a fundraising schedule together and get into it – you might even find it is more fun than you expected. Here are 10 can't-fail tips to help you maximise your fundraising potential.
1. Choose a charity you care about
"It’s vital to pick a cause that is close to your heart," says Lloyd Scott, the man who ran London in a 122lb deep-sea diving suit in 2003. "Not everyone who runs for charity has had a major illness, but it may be that they know someone who has been ill or homeless – some kind of personal link is important. You need to have something you believe in." A personal crusade is easier to get fired up about, and the more fired up you are, the harder you’ll work to raise that money. Plus your enthusiasm is more likely to rub off on others (provided you don’t annoy them by pushing too hard).
2. Stay one step ahead
Once you've been accepted by a charity, tell people what you’re doing before you even get your forms and start planning. Let as many people as possible know about your 'adventure'. Break down the target sum into smaller chunks so a sense of achievement is gained at each point along the way, and keep all your donors updated as your total rises and your training progresses (a bulk e-mail works really well). If people feel involved in what you are doing, they're more likely to support you.
3. Use your imagination
Dare to be different in your approach. When Scott ran his five-and-a-half-day marathon, he raised more than £100,000 for the Cancer and Leukemia In Childhood organisation. You don’t have to go that far, but the more extraordinary you can make your fundraising effort or race activity, the more likely you are to get people interested and enthusiastic. Run in costume, sing your way round or offer to walk people’s dogs while you’re training. If you can use your imagination to catch people’s attention, you’ll probably catch their money, too.
4. Give something back
It’s often easier to get people to part with their money if they feel like they’re getting something in return. "We had some special forms made up, did some T-shirts, some badges and stickers," says Scott. But you could also consider getting them to sign your race kit so everyone can see they’re supporting you, or use the time-honoured cake sale to raise some extra funds. Or you could get your hands dirty and offer to wash people’s cars or windows.
5. Ask the experts
Most charities are well-versed in the art of fundraising (obviously) and they are an invaluable source of information to get you on your way and over your target in good time. "We supply materials such as collection tins, balloons, posters and leaflets," says Leigh Pearce, events organiser at the National Meningitis Trust. "We send people a list of tips as well, and we even help them to get into the press by providing template press releases that they can then send to their local newspapers and radio stations. Local papers are looking for stories like this all the time, so it’s not that difficult."
6. Learn the tricks
Even an old trick like ensuring the first person to sign your sponsorship form gives a substantial amount can go a long way to boosting your funds, as people will tend to follow suit. And don’t leave the money collection until after the event. Ask for it up front when they sign your form, because it is really easy to write the figure down and not so easy to go back and ask for the money. If something happens and you don’t run the marathon for whatever reason, then try to come up with some sort of agreement with your sponsors – you’ll find that most people donate anyway.
7. Every little helps
"Just standing outside your local supermarket with a collection tin for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon can be really fruitful," says Pearce. Even fundraising at the last minute can do wonders – why not carry a collection tin for gathering donations during the race, or even on training runs?
8. Delegation’s what you need
The secret of effective project management is delegation – so get family and friends involved. They’re probably dying to present one of your sponsorship forms to their own workmates and among their circle of friends, so they can vicariously bathe in your glory (without doing the training). Or team up with a fellow charity fundraiser to pool your resources – doubling up this way can often more than double your money.
9. Cast your net wide
The Internet is becoming the most potent weapon in the modern fundraiser’s arsenal. Shelter works with an online facility called BMyCharity.com that allows fundraisers to set up websites to promote their efforts. "You can get sponsors involved with what you are doing because you can post images and articles to keep people updated," says Jemma Drummond, marathon project manager for Shelter. "It’s a great place to publicise your story – to spell out why you are doing what you are doing. If you are communicating with your sponsors on a regular basis, then it is easier to go back and ask them for money."
Other sites also act as a payment place for donations. "People tell us that trying to get the money after the event is just as bad as doing all the training," notes Nick Cater of Justgiving.com. "It’s often a bit embarrassing and people can forget."Setting up a website gets round these problems, but also offers a convenient way for the giver to pay, not to mention a Gift Aid tax incentive, which can add up to 28 per cent to the grand total, courtesy of the Exchequer.
10. Play the corporation game
There’s more fundraising potential in your office than just the wallets of your colleagues. As Drummond points out, "Many companies will have a policy on how they work with charities, and they’ll have a policy on staff getting involved with charity." Ask your employer to match your own fundraising efforts – you might be surprised by how willing they are to help. And if all else fails – there’s always that deep-sea diving suit.
All in a good cause|
Hannah Clark and Sean Meredith organised a multiple blind date for friends, raising £2000 of their £3000 total in a single night|
"I’d met Hannah at the 2002 London Marathon,” says Meredith, "and we decided to pool our resources for the following year. We were chatting one evening, and she was telling me about a blind date that her friends had set her up on. That sparked the idea for organising a mass date using her friends and mine.
"We sent a simple questionnaire out to about 80 people, then paired everyone up based on the replies we got. Everyone who took part was asked to pay £10 for the privilege.
"We booked tables at restaurants in Soho and hired a room in a nightclub. On the night, which was the weekend after Valentine’s Day, all the guys met me in one pub, and all the girls met Hannah in another. Each half of a pair was given an envelope with a map to a restaurant and the name of their date. The guys were sent off ahead so that they were waiting for the girls. They paid for their own meals – though we were able to arrange discounts at most of the restaurants – and then everyone gathered at the nightclub for a party to which other, attached, friends were also invited – for a £5 fee."
"It was fun to arrange and fun for those taking part, though we didn’t manage to set up any lasting relationships. People are usually very generous, but sometimes offering a little incentive can make them even more willing to pay out. And the fact that we were able to raise so much in one go, and so early on, certainly made the rest of our fundraising less stressful."
Linda Gelernter raised over £25,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity
"My son Theo was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph gland back in December. It turned our lives around completely. The day after the diagnosis he was in hospital, and five days afterwards he was in Great Ormond Street having chemotherapy. I’d started running last summer and had applied to do London, but I hadn’t got in. So when one of the nurses mentioned that some places were still available, I decided to run for Great Ormond Street because they’d given such stupendous medical and emotional support."
“The fact that the cause was so personal really helped. I think if you want to raise a lot of money you have to be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to it. I was absolutely mercenary. I typed out a letter telling Theo’s story and explaining what I hoped to achieve, and I sent it to everyone I knew. Not only that, I asked them to send me lists of people they knew who wouldn’t mind receiving the same letter. Then I sent letters to them, with extra notes explaining who I was and who I’d got their details from. I must have sent out over 350 letters. The response was amazing. People I barely knew took sponsorship forms round their offices to raise more money when they got the letter. And I’m still getting cheques through the post."
Adam Marcinowicz built a bench to help him raise £1500 for Mencap at London
"I’m a student at Newcastle University, and in our student house we have a picnic bench in the dining room instead of a table (it was cheaper). People who came round started signing the bench. So, when I was trying to get a charity place to run the Marathon I did a brainstorm to find a unique way to demonstrate my commitment – something that would catch people’s attention.
"I decided to build a charity model of that bench, and wrote my training diary, list of donations and totaliser on the bench. I did all the usual sending out letters and fundraising, but I also took the bench with me everywhere. I took it to Newcastle Quayside and the Angel of the North to raise money with my collection tins. I took it to my training races and got the winners to sign it. I balanced it on my chin for the runners in the Flora 1000-Mile Challenge. I even dismantled it, put it in a backpack (it weighed about 16kg) and trudged up Ben Nevis in the snow, then reassembled it at the top. It even waited for me in the Mencap charity tent at the end of the Marathon. I think it’s important to get people’s attention, and I wanted to do that little bit extra so I’d stand out."
Five Of The Best Ways To Run For Charity
- Do a mass-participation race. But do it abroad. That way you get the thrill of travel, the buzz of a great race and the opportunity to make new running friends as you meet other members of your charity’s team.
- Do it yourself. You can just as easily approach the charity yourself and tell them you’d like to run a race for them, they’ll often help with fundraising materials, advice and contacts within the sport.
- Take it to extremes. One of the best incentives in a race is knowing you’re doing it for a worthy cause, which means that charity running is ideal when you’re stepping up to a new challenge. There are runners out there running across deserts, up the sides of mountains and in the depths of the jungle – all in the name of charity.
- Little and often. Dedicate your entire year’s racing to a charity, take a collection tin to the race and take a collection after you finish. You’ll be surprised how much you can raise over an entire year.
- Become a star. You can’t turn yourself into Madonna, but you can still get noticed and build a reputation for yourself and your fundraising efforts. Wearing a costume, run in your underwear, sing or dance round the race. All that matters is that you get noticed.