With only a few weeks until Marathon Monday, this is the #HeartBreakHill moment for many charity runners in their fundraising efforts. Time to find that second, or third, or fourth wind, to try something new, and to keep going.
Here are some ideas.
Here are some ideas.
Having run a few marathons before, when I signed on to run and raise this year for Dream Big! and their mission of empowering girls through sports, I was far more intimidated by the prospect of the fundraising than by all the training miles ahead of me in the dark and cold of a Boston winter. I fully expected that goal to loom over me right until race day, and that making it across the finish line would include my credit card being charged to fill the gap between my goal and wherever I was at that point.
To my surprise, however, I ended up meeting my goal months ago. As I wrote in an earlier post here, I think my first fundraising mistake was to calibrate a goal based on what I thought I was capable of in terms of outreach and asking, rather than on the incredible generosity of friends, family, and colleagues that would be unleashed by the opportunity to advance the mission of this small nonprofit doing big things for girls, and to support me in my efforts on their behalf.
So, to the extent it's helpful for others still on the upward climb this year (and to help me remember if ever I take on the challenge again), here is everything I've done thus far. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the tools in a fundraiser's toolkit. It's just what one novice tried one year. So, please feel free to suggest other strategies via the comments section below.
And if you're a believer in the power of sports to impact girls, and reading this prompts a spirit of generosity in you, please consider a gift to encourage one of my Dream Big! team members still on the uphill slog towards their goal.
- Give first. My first fundraising act was to make a gift myself. I didn't want to ask others to follow where I wasn't willing to lead.
- Be social. After I set up my fundraising page, and made a gift myself, I Tweeted a link to it. And almost right away I got a donation from two folks in my network. Over time, these gifts proved more the exception than the rule. Most of my contributions were prompted by other means. Though social provides a great way to keep steady drumbeat about your efforts. I included a note about my fundraising efforts and link to my donor page on my Twitter profile (and would have used Facebook too, if I were on it.)
- Blog. I created this blog as another tool to share about my fundraising and training effort, and for deeper reflections inspired by the mission of the organization I'm raising for. I started posting weekly, and always Tweeted out new entries - tagging Dream Big!, our coach, and/or others who inspired each post.
- Make it about we, not me. Two of my colleagues are also running and raising this year for another charity. We organized a single email appeal to all of our colleagues at once. I think this may have contributed to a sense that folks had a chance to support "our runners," "our team," not just me. Following the "give first" mantra, we each contributed to each other's efforts before sending the blast appeal. Most of the many who gave did so to all three of us.
- Blast it (but don't just blast it). Other than that one group email, the only other blast email I sent to a large group all at once was via a Google Group I am on with 40 or so runners I train with in my neighborhood. As with social, while there were a few gifts prompted by those blasts alone, and while I think they are important as awareness builders, they shouldn't be counted on alone. In most cases, an actual gift followed a face-to-face conversation, or at the least a personal email (where they say, "Oh, yeah. I remember seeing something about that. Could you send it again?)
- Make it personal. Given the cause I am running and raising for - empowering girls through sports - I knew that the mission was one that would resonate personally with many of my potential contributors, the same way it does for me as a dad of a powerful, sports-loving daughter. So, much of my personal outreach was directly to parents of girls. I also started offering up space on the back of my race shirt, which I am going to cover with the names of all of my contributors, and the girl and women athletes in whose honor they gave.
- Put it in your email signature. I added a sentence to my personal email signature about the fact I was running and raising and why, and included links to my donor page and to this blog. This led to at least one unsolicited - though mostly, I think, is useful in the category of keeping up that steady drumbeat - and possibly of helping someone follow through on an intention prompted by some other means you've already used.
- Leverage events. Some terrific friends of our were generous enough to host a party in their home to help me and another Dream Big! teammate in our fundraising efforts. Before the Evite went out, I sent individual emails to the 75+ folks on my list. Some came. But even more gave, prompted by that invitation.
- Tell everyone. When folks say, "What's new?" tell them you're running and raising. Several folks - especially those who've ever raised themselves before - beat me to the ask when I did. "Be sure to hit me up," they'd say, knowing how hard it can be.
- Say (and show) thanks. Possibly more important than any form of ask is what you do after the gift. I acknowledged most gifts by email. But I thanked all with a hand-written note. If it's worth your time to give, it's worth mine to take the time to say thank you. At an early point in our fundraising, I won a friendly competition among my Dream Big! teammates, and a gift card to the Adidas RunBase Marathon Museum and Store. I thought about buying myself some new gear for the big run, or using that card as enticement for more new donors. I decided instead to raffle it off among those who'd helped me to that point. Glad I did.
Good luck all you charity fundraisers. You can do it!