Carol Ward

Apr 19, 2023, 7:15 AM

Fundraising from the Marathon? How to make sure your runners cross the line

By Carol Ward

For many people, running in the London Marathon is a long held ambition. Places, though, are hard to come by, so many aspiring participants find a charity that has spaces in return for raising a specified amount of money.

On the face of it this is a win-win. The volunteer gets to run, the charity gets a new fundraiser. The income can be unrestricted and an invaluable contribution towards core costs. For small charities, especially those that had the foresight to invest in a Golden Bond (or two), it can be a lifeline.

However – and it is a big ‘however’ – the amount requested/agreed on is in no way guaranteed. When a volunteer falls short it is not only incredibly disappointing, it can have a serious financial impact on the charity.

So how can you prevent this from happening? Here are some tips.

Get the message across

As a fundraiser of almost 25 years, I have experience of managing a variety of fundraising streams, including events like the London Marathon. I have worked mainly for small charities – quite often as a sole fundraiser – so I have covered whatever was needed. Part of this has been managing runners taking part in organised events such as the London Marathon.

If the runner has a close affinity with the cause, say for a cancer or animal charity, they may already have the desire and commitment to raise the money needed, even if this is secondary to their main aim of taking part and fulfilling a lifetime ambition.

For smaller charities, or maybe causes with limited appeal, it can be more of a challenge to help those taking part on your behalf understand that fundraising is an integral part of the experience. “We’re depending on you to raise this promised income, even if the amount [approximately £2,000 for most charities] can seem quite overwhelming.”

Provide constant support

Managing a team for this type of event can feel like you’re running the Marathon yourself. First you need to put in the time to find out why they want to run for your charity (establish affinity) and discover how they intend to raise the required amount (do they have the knowledge/capacity/capability required?).

I have heard that some charities ask interested parties to raise a certain amount prior to being awarded a place. I can understand why this happens: it shows intent and commitment – although personally I have never been that brave.

Either way, managing fundraising runners for the Marathon is a time-consuming job. While the Marathon organisers provide runners with a lot of information, advice and guidance about fundraising, providing your volunteers with additional assistance to fundraise efficiently and effectively is also part of the challenge.

In my case, this has included:

  • Explaining how to create an inspirational fundraising page – using stories to share why this is an important challenge, why this charity has been chosen.
  • Reminding them to post regular updates, the highs and the lows; to share the training regime using apps such as Strava; and to use every possible form of media to let family, friends, colleagues and just about everyone else know what is going on and when.
  • Supplying them with Top Tips and suggestions about getting others to plan fundraising events, such as cheese and wine tastings, curry nights, quiz nights etc, to spread the load. The list is endless – including the obligatory raffle at any in-person events.
  • Sending them weekly emails, to check how their training and fundraising is going and to offer fundraising support if needed.
  • Finally, reminding those taking part that they should not be afraid to ask for sponsorship. Drive home the old fundraising adage “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

Look out for anyone falling short of the line

Even with all this management and support, there are still times when those running for charities do not raise the agreed amount. The more you can do to prevent this, the better. If you spot a lag in the fundraising effort and notice that sponsorship has slowed, ask the volunteer two questions:

1.     Do you still feel able to take part in the Marathon and raise the required sponsorship?

2.     Have you considered how to make up the shortfall?

This approach has proved beneficial for me this year. All those taking part in this year’s London Marathon to raise vital funds for the small Christian charity I am working with have reached or exceeded the required £2,000 target. Now they just have the 26.2 miles to run!

If you need help or advice with your fundraising, please get in touch by calling 01737 814758



Carol Ward

Carol Ward is a fundraiser with close to 25 years experience. She has worked mostly with small Christian charities, managing a variety of fundraising streams including grants and trusts, major donors, legacies and events.

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