Marathons and Donations – Still a Winning Combo?

Nothing strikes more fear in my heart than the idea of having to run a long distance marathon. Well, there’s then the added pressure of having to raise money AND train at the same time.

Last year at this time the NPO that I worked for was undergoing the yearly ritual of badgering runners to reach impossible donation goals as participants in the annual ING NYC Marathon. You could tell that most of them were already stressed out and the pressure of raising thousands of dollars wasn’t helping. I couldn’t help but wonder how such an aggressive fundraising model could be sustainable or even attractive. Time and time again, the organization would fail to meet the fundraising goal and owe money to the race.

In doing my research, I found that unfortunately, this challenge is familiar.

Time to run a new race?

Time to run a new race?

Consider YAI, a nonprofit focused on helping those with developmental disabilities that raised nearly $113,000 tied to the New York City Marathon last year with more than 30 runners registered. This year, despite the group’s repeated outreach through Facebook and community recruitment events, only $16,000 has been raised and a mere five runners will wear bibs for the organization.

Team in Training has 432 runners in the New York City Marathon, compared with 542 last year. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation are among several organizations that reported having fewer new charity runners this year than last.  Of the 8,200 available charity spots for this year’s marathon, about 3,000 remain open. Organizers said they expected the total raised to be $11 million to $14 million less than last year’s.

While there are many repeat runners, getting repeat fund-raisers may be part of what is exhausting the model and even successful fund-raisers may be burned out on travel costs associated with charity running which hasn’t changed much since it gained popularity in the US in the ’90s.

Perhaps it’s time to run a different race?

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