For a lot of race runners, fundraising is a reality. Many people have charities they believe in, and some join a cause to get a spot in a race.
However another reality is that collecting money from friends, loved ones, and strangers can be difficult. As I'm running the NYC Marathon with Team USA Endurance, the official NYC Marathon team of the U.S. Olympics, I am also raising money for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and I've been confronted with this challenge.
So I spoke to someone who knows a thing or two about inspiring people to donate, my fellow Team USA Endurance member Gene Derkack, who also happens to be the USOC director of leadership giving. He's personally raised approximately $25,000 for multiple charities in the past five years. A triathlete, marathon runner, and IronMan completer, he raised the bulk of his funds when he summitted Mount Kilimanjaro and ran the Kilimanjaro marathon three days later(!).
Here are his best tips, as well as some advice from the USOC fundraising packet. Even if you're not currently fundraising for a race, raising money is a great skill to have. Who knows, you could some day you could find yourself in my running shoes, so bookmark these tips to reference later!
1. Use a fundraising platform. I have a profile page set up on Fundly.com. This makes it super easy to direct your friends and family to one page where they can simply click a button to donate.
2. Hit up social media. Facebook, Twitter, and a personal blog are the fastest, easiest way to reach a lot of people, especially those you don't know personally.
3. Send out e-mails asking friends and family to support your cause. Sifting through my email contacts list was sort of nostalgic and pretty awesome, actually. It gave me an excuse to reach connect with people I hadn't reached out to in a while, so even if no donation is made, I consider that a win.
4. Give them something in return. Have them sponsor a mile or two, and dedicate the distance to them by doing something while you're running. A tweet as you cross the mile marker? A pic of you when you're done? For example, if you donate at least $50 to my campaign, it buys you a spot on my running playlist. $100 buys you two spots, and I will listen to your favorite running songs at some point during the mile of your choice.
5. Host an event. Find a favorite bar or restaurant where you can host an event and ask to pay them after it's over. That way you are never out any money, plus it's a fun way to get a lot of your favorite people together. Derkack organized a wine-tasting with a local winery that was just starting out and wanted the exposure. He was also friendly with one of his local neighborhood restaurants, so he asked to coordinate the event with the owners, and they agreed. They let him use the space for a wine tasting and pay him the cost of the space after the fact. His friends and family tasted and bought wine, Derkack raised money, the restaurant made a lump sum, and everyone got to spend quality time together, swishing and swirling. Win, win, and win.
RELATED: SHAPE Shoes Awards 2013
6. Keep sending and posting reminders. People are busy: It's not that they don't love you or care, they just forget. Don't be afraid to follow up and send a little note about how you'd appreciate their support. Don't be annoying. Just be diligent with your follow-through.
My Cause: The U.S. Olympics and Paralympics
So let me tell you about my cause: I'm supporting the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Games to help send our U.S. athletes to Sochi next year and Rio in 2016.
The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that receives zero government funding for Olympic programs. In fact, the USOC is the only National Olympic Committee in the world that does not receive government funding for its Olympic programs. Ninety-two percent of their resources directly support U.S. Olympians and Paralympians. A nonprofit, the USOC currently supports 1,350 athletes, but they're aiming to support 2,700 members by 2020.
My goal is $10,000, which seems measly when it takes twice that amount to send just one athlete to the games. But anything helps! Even $10. Simply click on my fundraising page and hit donate. You guys rock.