January 13, 2011

Why Are Marathon Runners Effective Fund Raisers?

Runners who raise money for charity by participating in marathons need to recruit sponsors at least four months before they race, secure commitments from 30 to 40 sponsoring donors, and ask donors for contributions in the $100 to $125 range, according to a new study.

FirstGiving, an online fund-raising tool, analyzed 907 Boston Marathon runners who used its peer-to-peer Web platform to raise more than $2.6-million for 114 charities. The study found that 73 percent of the money raised by these Boston Marathon runners was collected online.

"We wanted to figure out what set marathon fund raisers apart," says Debra Askanase, author of the study and community engagement manager for FirstGiving, in Boston. Based on the study, she offers the following tips for those who want to use events for peer-to-peer fund-raising efforts:

Ask for higher amounts. The Boston Marathon runners collected the majority of their money from donors who gave $25 to $75 or $100 to $150. But the most successful of those fund-raising runners—those who brought in more than $7,500—generated twice the number of donations in the $100 to $125 range than their peers. "If you ask for higher amounts, they will give it," Ms. Askanase says. "Don't ask for $25. Ask for $100. You very likely could get it." The average online donation was $75.

Start early. Runners who started raising money seven to nine months before the marathon raised higher amounts, on average, but more than 90 percent of donations came in during the four months before the marathon. Ms. Askanase recommends that runners ask their close friends and families for support first, since they're more likely to give and donate higher amounts. Those gifts can then be used to motivate others.

Hit your benchmark. To raise $3,250, the minimum requirement for the Boston Marathon, runners needed to obtain  contributions from 36 to 40 donors, on average. "If you want to raise this much money, this is how many donations you need to get," Ms. Askanase says.

Charities are also advised keep in touch with those who fund raise on their behalf: Nearly 90 percent of Boston marathon runners said they planned to repeat the marathon experience.