Racing for charity has become increasingly popular: It brings a sense of purpose to your training and gives you the opportunity to race for the benefit of others. But what about the fundraising? It's hard to ask people for money, particularly in a down economy, so I asked a group of highly successful fundraisers to share their best tips on raising money while training and racing.
The New York City chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society graciously put me in touch with seven of their most successful Team in Training (TNT) fundraisers in the New York metro area. They come from a wide variety of professions including attorneys, artists and construction managers. Some were raised in the city and others recently moved there for new jobs. All share a passion for adventure, triathlon, and supporting great causes. Here are their top recommendations on how to exceed your fundraising goals...and your charity's expectations.
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#1) Start the Fundraising Process Early
Veronica Perez, Senior Director for New York City's Team in Training says timing is everything. "We never want people to procrastinate. We don't want people to hit goals, we want them to exceed them." Alejandro Moreno, a financial analyst and first-time fundraiser, raised close to $9,000 last year for the New York City Triathlon, echoed this message. "Email people the minute you start...once you're in training, you will lose a lot of free time and energy," he advised.
#2) Lose Your Inhibition to Ask People for Money
Most of the people interviewed are now mentors for other Team in Training participants. All agreed that getting over this hurdle is one of the most important steps to getting started. Doug Jossem says, "Get over any nervousness early in the process." Jossem is an advertising executive who personally raised $39,000 last year for the NYC Triathlon and was captain of acorporate team that raised over $200,000 that same year. "Recognize that this is truly a selfless act that will benefit others," he said. Jason Hare and his wife raised over $16,000 last year for the same event. He also emphasized the importance of a positive mindset. "Be proud of raising money for a cause. "Think that 'I'm proud to raise it' and that 'you'll be proud to donate'," he said.
#3) Find Your Personal Connection to the Cause
To be an effective advocate for a particular charity, you must have conviction about the work it does and the people who benefit from it. Some have very direct links to the cause--Jossem's mother passed away from acute leukemia. Amy Abramson, who raised over $10,000 at St. Anthony's last year, lost an aunt to lymphoma. Hare and his wife built a connection to the cause by talking to people who had lost children to leukemia. Hare also started working for the Bone Marrow Foundation.
#4) Craft a Compelling Message
The fundraising letter must be impactful. It must explain why you are raising money for the charity and why the charity deserves it. The first year that Jossem raised money for TNT, he raised $4,500 within 24 hours of sending his email. Laura Leitner said that if you're raising money for a second year in a row, tell people about last year's race and tie it to your motivation for this next year. Leitner has raised $12,000 for three different events. "Just before a race last year, I received a text from a friend who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. It said 'thanks.' I kept that in mind for the race the entire next day. I told people that story the following year."
#5) Include an Effective Call to Action
Let people decide on their own how much to donate, based on your story and their own tie to the cause. "On the pledge page, don't push people to specific amounts--high or low. Let the strength of your story draw the appropriate donations," Jossem advised. Encourage people to submit matching gift forms if their employers have a program. Include ways in the email for people to support you without sending money. Ask them to join the blood marrow registry as a donor or send you names to put on your shirt to run in their memory. And remember to ask them to forward the request on to others who may support the cause.