Sunday, December 17, 2017

Running for Charity (Tips, Tricks and How I Ran for the National MS Society, Kellsie's Hope Foundation, and Remember Betty)

Whether you've run for a charity before, you're thinking about running for a charity, or you're just interested in what charity running is all about, this post is for you!  I have done multiple fundraisers for three different charities so far and I'm going to break it all down for you.  In this post, you will find tips and tricks for fundraising as well as information on some of my favorite charities to run for and a few of my own personal fundraising stories.  

1) Choosing a charity to run for.   The charity you choose should be personal to you.  When it's personal, you'll be more motivated to fundraise.  Plus having a personal story to share will also motivate others to make donations.  For example, I chose to run the Muckruckus MS (now known as Muckfest MS) in 2012 to support my dear friend Shannon in her fight to end MS for her mom and other relatives, and for my two friends with MS.  Muckfest MS is a 3.1-mile mud run that supports The National MS Society.  Donations help support people living with MS as well as assisting the National MS Society in their tireless search for a cure.  

My choice to run multiple RunDisney races for Kellsie's Hope Foundation came from a personal experience during my first attempt at the Walt Disney World full marathon in 2016.  I twisted my ankle at mile7 and unfortunately had to drop out.  As I sat on the shuttle back to the start line in tears, the woman next to me told me she was proud of herself for getting as far as she did, especially since she knew she wouldn't finish anyway.  When I asked her why, she replied "Well, cancer'll do that to you."  Pity party over.  I decided that I would finish a RunDisney race and this time, I would do it for charity.  Since I have also had students with cancer, I decided to run the 2016 Inaugural Star Wars: Dark Side Challenge races (10k and Half Marathon) and the 2017 WDW full Marathon for Kellsie's Hope Foundation.  This foundation provides gifts and trips to children with recurring cancers, as well as providing nursing scholarships and funds to hospitals to support research and pediatric patient care.  You can run any RunDisney race or Rock n' Roll series race on Kellsie's Krew! 

For Remember Betty, I decided to create my own running fundraiser in conjunction with going on the 2017 NKOTB Cruise.  I have supported countless friends and co-workers with breast cancer over the years and I wanted to raise money for a cause that could help them and others in similar situations.  Remember Betty was founded by Danny Wood of the New Kids on the Block after his mother passed away from breast cancer in 1999.  Remember Betty provides direct financial assistance to breast cancer patients and survivors.

2) Deciding on a type of fundraiser.  Once you have chosen the race/distance and charity you want to run for, it's time to figure out what type of fundraiser you'll be doing.  Below are some various examples of fundraisers I have done:

-Virtual Race.  Create a virtual 5k race for donors to participate in and invite them via a Facebook event.  All donors have to do is make a donation of a set minimum amount and let you know when they have completed their 5k on their own.  As soon as they've completed their race, mail them a custom medal, certificate, or t-shirt along with a personalized thank you card.

-The Gift of Handmade Goods.  If you're crafty, you can make thank you gifts to send each donor to let them know how much you appreciate them.  For one Kellsies's Hope fundraiser, I made several cards (blank, holiday, thank you, etc) and handed/mailed them out as gifts to each donor.  This works especially well around the holidays as people love having handmade cards to give to family and friends.

-Random Gift Giveaway.  When you're about to hit a milestone amount of money raised in your fundraiser (ex. the halfway point or your minimum goal), offer up a handmade or purchased gift to the next person or people who bring your total over the milestone.  When I was almost to my goal of raising $500 for Remember Betty, I sewed pillowcases and offered them to the next two people who donated and therefore brought my total past the goal.  You can also raffle off prizes, or offer special perks to donors who give above a certain amount.

-Create Fundraisers Through Small Businesses.  I recently hosted a 'Cards for a Cause' fundraiser through a friend at Usborne Books.  About half of the amount from every $30 set of cards sold went to my fundraiser and my friend even covered the shipping costs as her contribution to the cause... thanks Kim!  If you know someone with a small business, try asking him/her about fundraisers.

-Offer to Do Something Special in Honor of Each Donor.  For my Remember Betty fundraiser, I ran a 5k on my own for every single donor, no matter how much they gave.  And I ran a mile on the NKOTB Cruise with the names of every donor and the people they asked me to run in honor of on my shirt!  I also know someone who created GIFs on social media for donors and someone who did a burbee and pushup for every dollar donated!

-Set Up an Event.  This is one I haven't personally done yet but I have friends who have organized each of the events described here.  Talk with the owners of your favorite local bars, restaurants, and businesses to see if they would be willing to host an event where you can collect donations as admission.  Check with your gym/fitness center to see if your favorite instructor would be willing to teach a donation-based class.  Or ask your crafty friends to donate artwork to an auction you set up.  Some businesses will even donate a small percentage of sales during a few set hours to your fundraiser.  It never hurts to ask so go for it!  

3) Getting Your Fundraiser Set Up.  Now that you know what type of fundraiser you're doing, it's time to set it up.  If you've signed up for a race through a charity, they will most likely send you a link to set up your fundraising page via a site such as FirstGiving.  This is where you have a chance to really draw people in with your story!  Make sure to address each of the following:

-Describe the race itself.  What distance(s) will you be running?  Where is the race?  Are you racing individually or as part of a team?  Is this your first time running this race or distance?  Potential donors will want to know!

-Include what your donors' contributions will be going to, who their donations will be helping and in what way, and most importantly, why you are running for this particular charity.  Don't be afraid to get personal and include photos if possible.  

-Will donor's get anything tangible out of this?  Will you be sending each donor a gift or raffling off prizes?  If so, make sure donor's know exactly what they could receive.

-Make sure to thank your donors in advance and let them know how much their donations will mean to the people they are helping, as well as to you!

-Make the first donation to yourself!  People are more likely to make a donation if there is already at least a small amount raised.  Donate $20 or so anonymously to get things rolling.

My fundraising page for The Star Wars: Dark Side Challenge with Kellsie's Hope Foundation.

My fundraising page for The WDW Full Marathon with Kellsie's Hope Foundation.

For Remember Betty, the mechanics worked a little differently for me since there wasn't an actual race attached, but this gave me the flexibility be creative.  I created a fundraising page for Remember Betty on Crowdrise and since there was no required fundraising minimum, I set a goal for myself to raise at least $500 by the time of the cruise.  As you can see, I well exceeded my goal!

I don't know why the site squished my photo... but oh well!

Now that you're set up, it's time to start spreading the word!  Post about your fundraiser on all of your social media outlets and let people know what you're doing and why.  Send personalized e-mails or messages to family and friends and ask them to share the link to your fundraiser with others.

4) Following Through.  Now that you have your fundraiser set up and donations are starting to come in, it's time to start following through on your end.  I always make sure to thank my donors immediately after they make a donation.  If they included their name publicly on the donation site, I will thank them on my social media pages.  If they made their donation anonymously, I will thank them through a personal text, call, or direct message.

If you promised donors a gift, make sure you're keeping up with sending those out in a timely manner.  And if you're doing something for each donor such as running in each donor's name, try to complete and document each run and thank you within a day or two of each person's donation if possible.

5) When All Is Said and Run.  When your fundraiser is over, it is essential to let donors know how your race or run(s) went and how much you appreciate their support.  Most fundraising websites let you post updates that all of your donors will see.  Utilize this tool, as well as your social media outlets, to keep donors up to date on your progress and thank everyone when it's over.  If possible, wear the name of the charity you're running for on you during your run/race so other runners and spectators know whom you're representing.

I know this was a long post, but I hope you were able to pick up some usable tips for your next running fundraiser.  I HIGHLY recommend running for any of the charities I described in this post and would be happy to help anyone who is thinking of doing so!!  Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't thank a few people who have been key players in my fundraising adventures!!

Thank you Timothy, Shannon, Sara, Lindsey, Donna, Beth, Kelli, and everyone on team Sync or Swim who helped me fundraise for and finish my first mud run for The National MS Society!

Thank you Ashlyn for your love and support of all the Kellsie's Krew runners and your commitment to the foundation!

Thank you Kimber for being your amazing self and supporting me as I finished my first marathon on Kellsie's Krew!

Thank you Abbie for answering all of my questions, supporting my fundraiser, and organizing the amazing Remember Betty organization!


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