Charity Running & Fundraising: My New Approach


And here we have Charity Post Number Two!! Last week I found out that the majority of our fund-raising cashola goes back into projects, which was great to hear, and made for a very positive and happy post. :) This post will look at a more contentious side to charity fund-raising via running. :(


Often, when a runner signs up to run for a charity, there is a minimum amount they agree to raise for their spot in the race. The amount depends on the race – I had to raise £300 when I ran for Breast Cancer Care in the Great North Run in 2012, but I’ve had friends who have run the London Marathon, and had targets of approximately £2000.


When I was speaking with my running group, one member pointed me to this article, which claimed that charities are holding runners personally liable if they can’t raise the agreed targets. One organisation also revealed that one spot in the London marathon can cost them £400. A quick look at some of the charity listings on the VLM website showed the following fundraising targets:

  • MIND: £1750
  • Oxfam: £2000
  • Asthma UK: £1800
  • MacMillan: £2000


And here is the unfortunate darker side of the subject. I personally am torn between the idea that an individual should be held personally liable for that much money when they are essentially doing something voluntarily to raise money. However, on the other side of the coin, charities rely on these events to meaningfully contribute to their overall fundraising, and so they need individuals to take their targets seriously, and encourage minimum dropouts.



I remember one of my friends ran the London marathon a couple of years ago. Not only did he run the 26.2 miles in an inflatable Pamela Anderson outfit (which SB then wore o his stag do – ripe!!), but he also had to hold a series of pub quizzes to make sure that he hit the fundraising target: running the marathon wasn’t enough on its own to hit his sponsorship targets, which doesn’t seem quite right. When people need to resort to additional fundraising activities, I can’t help feeling that the targets are perhaps higher than they need to be.


I have done two charity runs: the Great North Run in 2012, and I did the Newcastle Stampede for the British Heart Foundation in 2013 (the target was £25 for that, which I paid myself for the pleasure of doing the event!). As I said, my GNR target was £300. Reasonably, I thought if I can get 30 people to donate £10, I’ll be ok.




But this was much harder than I thought. I advertised on Facebook, I sent emails to colleagues, family and friends, but there’s a fine line between begging, being over-demanding, and simply asking for donations. I had messages from people telling me why they couldn’t sponsor me: they had already sponsored their friends, or they were having a hard month. So then I felt bad for making my friends feel bad that they couldn’t sponsor me!




So. This all leads to the difficult decision: when you see all these Just Giving pages on Facebook, just who do you sponsor? Everyone has a great cause to support, and a great reason for their choice. And now we know that some targets are ambitiously high. Should you look at the event the individual has chosen, and how challenging it would be? Should you look at who is doing the event, and how challenging it will be for them personally? Should you look at the charity, and base your decision on that?


I don’t have the answer to these questions. Except I do recognise that there’s a difference between someone who has never run before wanting sponsorship for the Race for Life, and someone like myself, who runs 10+ miles regularly for fun, asking money for a half marathon. On some level I do think there should be a personal challenge involved if you are asking for money. One of my running friends summed it up well: they are more likely to sponsor someone if the event is ‘a real and perhaps transformative change’ (as discussed in last week’s post) as opposed to ‘just a way of gaining entry to an event’.


There are many events on my running bucket list,  but I’ve resisted doing too much for charity for the simple reason that I love running. I love it the way that Homer Simpson loves donuts, or Kim Kardashian loves selfies. And it doesn’t seem right to ask for sponsorship for something that I want to do for fun – even if the money is going to a good cause. I’d want to set a time goal, or run further than I’ve ever run before.


There’s also something intimate about running for a charity, and if the connection to the charity isn’t mine, then it feels a little voyeuristic. It has to be the right circumstance: I have friends who are going through some personal challenges, but if I chose to run for a related charity, I’d feel like I was shining a light on an area of their life that is very personal.


I think it’s time for a big, fat HOWEVER, because this post become more negative than intended! Remember my friend George Nicholson, torch bearer, park-runner extraordinary and all round top bloke?


He weighed into my runner’s group debate to say that the Great North Run charge charities the same as a typical runner for their places. He is also a very loyal supporter of Acorns Children’s Hospice for deeply personal reasons, and is grateful for all the support our fellow runners have shown when they run for Acorns. The hospice is not in the same league as Oxfam and The Children’s Society in terms of profile, but they raised £42k from the Great Birmingham Run and £26k from the London Marathon last year, and Josh’s story is a powerful reminder of how we can all make a small but positive difference to people’s lives. So keep this in mind too when you’re considering fundraising: don’t lose sight of all the positive you can do!


This is a big topic, and I thought about this subject for about six weeks before writing these posts. I feel I should do more for charity since I do run so much, but I’m not 100% convinced that signing up for huge financial targets and asking my friends and family all the time to sponsor me is the way forward. Plus, I’d want to consider which organisation to support to make sure it was right to ask for money. So, behold my own personal answer to this conundrum!!


When I ran my first marathon in May, I ran for myself and not for a charity. However, I dedicated the run to my former sports teacher, who had died of a brain tumour the year before, and donated to a relevant charity. When I was running the race, I thought about the charity, and the teacher who has influenced who I am now.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

Serious final-100m consideration going on there.

So this will be my approach going forward: I will consider the event that I’m running, and a charity to dedicate it to, and make my own, personal donation – the amount of which will be determined by the nature of the event, my personal goals and interest, and my personal finances!  I’ll let y’all know here who I’m dedicating the run to, so you too can donate should you wish.


It won’t raise as much money as it would through a standard charity place. But it means that I can support different organisations in a way that’s comfortable for me. And should I ever want to run in a formal charity place, I won’t have used up all the goodwill of everyone I know! I imagine that there may come a time when something happens in my life where I very keenly want to raise money and awareness through my running, and I don’t want to squander that.


I hope it doesn’t sound like the coward’s way out. It’s not intended to – it’s my own sustainable way to bring something constructive out of a hobby of mine. And in the spirit of my new system, I am going to dedicate Saturday’s  5k Neon Run to Oxfam’s Ebola Crisis Appeal, because they were kind enough to help me with information for these posts, and because I admire the way they drop everything to support the most immediate of crises. They are currently working in Sierra Leone and Liberia to prevent the spread of the disease.


What do you think on the whole subject? I am very interested.


Ellie B