Dear Charity Runner: 5 Unsolicited (hopefully helpful) Pieces of Advice

Hi friend –

Are you thinking about running Grandma’s 2024, but everything sold out before you hit “Register”? Or maybe you signed up, but want to add even more meaning to your race.  Grandma’s Marathon partners with twenty-three amazing charities who offer numerous opportunities to run for a cause.

Regardless of whether you are already signed up or toying with the idea, the idea of fundraising may be a little daunting. I have had the privilege to run three marathons as a charity runner (huge shout out to my CharityTeams family!), and I am here to promise you that it is not only doable but also so worth it and so rewarding. No matter which charity you partner with, you are running to make the world a little bit better and brighter.

Over the years, here are five things I have learned about being a charity runner (sometimes a little later than I would care to admit).

1. Find your why and write it down. You may know off the bat what your “why” is or would be. If you do, write it down! Identifying and remembering your “why” is important for so many reasons.

First, your training and personal progress is not just about the sweat and sore muscles. Know that no matter how you finish, the funds and awareness are about bettering the lives of people and causes that are so worthy. Training is hard, and not every moment of it is going to be fun. Understanding and internalizing your “why” help immensely during those tough moments when you need to dig deep and remember that this is also a memory to make while impacting the greater good. Every step you take as a charity runner carries a little bit of extra light to make a difference in the world around us.

Second, being able to communicate your “why” is one of your biggest fundraising assets.  You are already connected to your cause; your goal is for others to feel connected it as well.  Friends, family, and strangers may feel more inspired to donate when they see and understand the meaning behind your ask.

2. There are so many ways to fundraise. Fundraising doesn’t have to involve asking people for direct donations! Engaging your donors with the cause you are running for is a great way to raise both awareness and funds for your organization. For example, you could reach out to local businesses (e.g., spin and yoga studios, bars/restaurants, bowling alleys, etc.) and see if they would host a fundraising event. In-person events can include raffles and/or silent auctions and they give your donors an opportunity to actively participate in your fundraising while also having fun.

Selling football squares and regular squares are also great ways to make progress on (or entirely complete!) your fundraising.

And remember, if you do ask for direct donations, incorporate your why!

3. Breakdown your fundraising goal into smaller amounts. We break out our training cycle into weekly goals and milestones, why not fundraising too? Breaking down your fundraising minimum into smaller goals will help the total feel more attainable and less intimidating. One way you can do this is by setting target benchmarks. Your charity may suggest or set their own benchmarks, but don’t be afraid to make your own as well. I have found that bi-monthly internal goals work best for me, but maybe you will feel more comfortable with monthly or weekly goals.  Just remember that they are exactly that – goals. Their purpose is to help you stay on track with your fundraising and avoid last-minute panic from procrastination. 

I also am a big numbers and patterns gal, so another approach I have taken is to calculate how much I would need to fundraise every day.  For example – if my fundraising minimum is $1,000, and I start actively fundraising on the first day of an 18-week training plan, I am fundraising over the course of 126 days. $1,000 divided by 126 days is ~ approximately ~ $8 a day.  That’s basically a large Caribou Coffee! Do you know 126 people who would donate $8? 63 people who would donate $16?

Long story, short – breaking down your fundraising into whatever increments feel attainable to you will go a long way in easing your stress around fundraising and may help you find creative ways to (and will help you stay accountable for your progress!).

4. Read the emails your charity sends you. These emails are full of nuggets of information and wisdom! First, these emails tend to include updates and tips about training, fundraising, race weekend details, etc. You don’t want to miss signing up for your singlet because you didn’t read the email! Second, the emails may talk about the work your charity is doing and how your fundraising directly supports the cause. This is great information to include as you fundraise. Seeing the tangible impact of a donation can be profoundly impactful. Third, if your charity hosts events throughout the year, the emails may highlight upcoming opportunities to meet up and connect one-on-one with the cause you are running for. If you can, I highly recommend attending at least one event with your charity.

5.Connect with teammates. To be honest, I don’t love running, but I sure as heck love running with a team. In what can otherwise be a very solo sport, charity running provides a unique opportunity to connect with people who not only share a passion for a cause, but are also in the same boat when it comes to navigating both training and fundraising. If you and some teammates live in the same area, meet up and go for a run together! Or organize and host a group fundraising event. From my experience, team runs send morale through the roof and makes miles fly by. And if they don’t fly, you have a buddy or two to commiserate with and maybe grab some Dunkin (sorry, Scooters?) with after. Game changing either way.

TL;DR – You’re going to do great! Find your why and internalize it. Get creative with fundraising. Schedule interim, attainable fundraising goals. Read your gosh darn emails. Connect with your teammates.

And if you’re on the fence – take the plunge. In the words of Nike, Just Do It.  I promise this will be one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences.

Ally Colton

Ally Colton is a 2024 Grambassador. Meet the other Grambassadors here

Follow Her on: InstragramTiktok

Favorite Grandma’s Marathon Memory: PR’ing my half marathon was a huge highlight, but cheering my best friend across the finish line of his first full was by far the best part of the weekend (I’m also a sucker for any opportunity to ring a cow-bell and cheer at a race).

A quote that guides, inspires, or embodies your training, racing, or life:  Hills don’t care about your feelings (@immrsspacecadet, Erin Azar), also an accurate description of my training. 

Song that must be on your running playlist: Big Bootie Mix Vol. 13 by Two Friends;  the Hamilton Soundtrack; anything Pitbull

Reason you absolutely won’t run outside: hail or dangerous ice. They don’t cancel the marathon when it rains 🤷🏼‍♀️

Favorite post-race beverage: DUNKIES (medium iced coffee with blueberry and hazelnut, oat milk & sugar, basically a blueberry muffin)

2024 running goal: Right now it’s a sub-5 marathon, but if I hit that in NYC, I’ll be brainstorming a new goal.