How to Organize a Charity Race From Start to Finish
For many of us, running is an outlet, a way to refresh our minds, energize our bodies and spend time in the beautiful outdoors. But there’s also an element of giving that we enjoy as well, since, some of our favorite races raise money for charities and non-profits that we believe in.
The pairing of pounding the pavement while supporting others is deeply ingrained in running culture; but what if you wanted to take it to another level? How do you go about planning your own race to support a cause that you love?
“Creating a race to raise money for charity is an incredible way to mesh a competitive athlete’s drive with their desire to help others and fundraising extends the race experience beyond personal achievement,” said Taralyn Tharp Kohler, Executive Director of the CORE Foundation, a social entrepreneur non-profit which mentors leaders looking to raise money and make a difference through athletic events. “It’s a great way not only to encourage training accountability but also exercise participation while raising funds and awareness for a cause that athletes are passionate about.”
If this idea piques your interest, here are some things to keep in mind if you’re contemplating putting money where your miles are:
Tip #1: Choose a Top-Notch Charity
Raising all the money in the world doesn’t do any good if it’s not going to the right sources. So if you’re committed to a cause, make sure you find a charity that will make the most of the money you collect through your participants’ sweat and tears.
One good way to vet charities is to check out the websites of the governing bodies of the organizations, such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar Charity Check. “These organizations serve as sort of the Better Business Bureau of charities,” said Kohler. “Anyone can research a foundation or philanthropy here and see how the funds they donate will be allocated and if it’s a quality non-profit.”
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Tip #2: Plan a Collection Strategy
“There are three primary ways that you can raise money from a race: entry fee, participant fundraising and corporate donations,” said Kohler. If you’re partnering directly with a charity or getting assistance from an organization like CORE Foundation, they can help with some of this. But keep in mind, that in order for donors to write off their contributions, there needs to be some kind of direct link to a non-profit. Unless you want to file and become a 501c3 entity yourself, it’s probably easiest to go through an already-established organization. With CORE Foundation, they’ll help collect the funds and then write a check at the end to the charity of your choice. Other organizations may have their own donation pages and protocol, but can probably assist with donation collections.
If you are looking for a good way to manage sign-ups for an event, consider contracting with a company like Active to help set up a page for the race that will allow you to easily collect entry fees (which can also be used to help you defray expenses with anything left over for donation). You should also consider including extra donation options (called fund integration) for anyone that wants to give more money of their own volition directly to the charity.
Many races will also allow participants to do their own personal fundraising. Kohler recommends a site like Crowdrise—which is akin to GoFundMe but for charities—as a great resource for this type of money collection. Participants can create their own pages in an effort to garner donors supporting their participation in the event, with funds raised going directly to the charity. Anyone wishing to take things a little further could also create race memorabilia, such as t-shirts that people can purchase with partial proceeds going to charity.
Tip #3: Consider Sponsorships and Recruit Volunteers
One way to minimize out-of-pocket expenses and maximize the charitable contribution from the event is to seek sponsors for the race. Contacting local organizations and vendors to get donated items like water, energy bars or even gifts for participant swag bags is a great way to involve the community. Sponsorships can also help bring in free press to your race and the companies involved.
Additionally, call on people. “Volunteers are critical to the success of a race,” said Kohler. “You’ll need help. That means people who can coordinate participants, be stationed at check-in points, and ensure athlete safety. It takes a village.”
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Tip #4: Keep Logistics and Legalities in Mind
There is a lot that goes into planning an actual race route, and it’s not as easy as just mapping out a distance and telling people to run in a certain direction. “You will likely have to coordinate with the city in which you are planning your race to obtain race permits, and coordinate any road closures that may be necessary or scheduling police to manage intersections,” Kohler shared.
Predicated on the length of the race, you may also wish to have first aid personnel on hand. And you’ll definitely want to get all participants to sign a liability waiver. “There are many liability considerations with races so you would want to speak to a lawyer about a waiver if not using an organization that already has a viable template in place,” explained Kohler.
Tip #5: Use the Event for Cause Awareness
One good element of a race is that it is a visible manifestation of fundraising and fitness in action! Don’t be afraid to promote the event on social media by creating a Facebook or Instagram page dedicated to the race. Also reach out to local press for coverage. Not only will you be raising money for the charity, but you’ll also bring awareness to the cause for all those racing, spectating or supporting. “Simply stated, anytime there is a race for a charitable cause, it’s a win-win for all involved,” Kohler said.
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