Top fundraising tips if you're running or racing for charity

fundraising tips for charity runners
Fundraising tips for charity runners Getty Images

It’s great running for special causes, but if you have a high fundraising target to meet, getting those donations in can often feel more daunting than completing the race or running challenge itself.

One man who knows a thing or two about raising funds for good causes is Gary McKee (aka ‘Marathon Man’).

Among his fleet of fundraising ventures for Macmillan Cancer Support and Hospice at Home, he ran a marathon every day in 2022, raising a total of £1.3 million and cementing his status as one of JustGiving’s top fundraisers.

gary mckee is aiming to run 365 marathons in 365 days
Carlos Reina Photography

'On the very last day of my challenge to run 365 marathons in 365 days, I was £450K short of my £1 million target, but I knew with the right final push we could get there,' says McKee.

'There were days when no donations came in at all, but I didn’t let that bother me because I knew that the longer I went on, the more chance I would have of raising the magic million.'

If you're inspired to take on a charity running challenge of your own – by McKee or perhaps even more recently by Russ Cook (aka the Hardest Geezer, who has just completed his mission to run the length of Africa, raising close to £950K for charity), then we have some pro tips on how to fundraise successfully from McKee himself, along with some handy insights from JustGiving.

Choose a cause that resonates with you

Many people choose to fundraise for a cause close to their heart, which makes their fundraising journey all the more motivating and special. But if you’re undecided on exactly which charity to run for, be it via a marathon, other race distance, or even a running challenge of your own, have a browse through JustGiving’s charity search engine for inspiration.

Popular races, such as the London Marathon, typically have a long list of charities with places available on their website, so that's your starting point if you're looking to secure a charity race place. You can also sign up to a race via a standard entry place and set up a fundraising page after.

McKnee started fundraising over 20 years ago after losing his father to cancer, and he says: 'I remember how we felt as a family. I wanted to do something in his memory so I became a fundraiser knowing that the money I was raising would help so many people who were in the same situation as me and my family.'

Set up a fundraising page

It takes just a few minutes to set up a fundraising page with a charity giving platform such as JustGiving and it’s an effective, easy way to shout about what you’re doing. On there, it's important to outline the details of your challenge, share your personal story and provide information on why it's such a worthy cause.

There are a few things you can do to help boost donations. Research by JustGiving has found that fundraisers who share photos raise 13% more donations per every picture shared, while those with a set target raise 17% more.

Some charities ask you to hit a specific fundraising target but if you're fundraising independently, you have the freedom to set that target for yourself.

'For anyone starting out on their fundraising journey, I would say keep your target realistic, have regular check-in points to see if things are going in the right direction and involve as many people as possible to spread the word,' advises Gary.

Plan some fundraising activities

Now you’ve got your fundraising page set up or secured your race spot, it’s time to think about how you’re going to be raising money (aside from tapping up your family and friends for cash!). Think about what incentive you can offer people to sponsor you – the chance of winning a raffle prize or a night of fun entertainment are popular choices. Businesses are usually happy to donate prizes for these sorts of things.

Alternatively, for your first fundraiser event, perhaps play to your strengths and pick something you are good at and enjoy. A budding pastry chef? Host a bake sale. Love nattering over coffee? Organise a coffee morning where friends can make a donation. Love to get dressed up? Arrange a fancy dress party.

Spread the word

The final step is sharing your goal so people can donate. Social media is a blessing here, making it easy for you to get your cause out there. Shout about what you’re doing on your Facebook and Instagram pages, and ask your friends to share your post, too. According to JustGiving, on average, every share on social media is worth £58 in donations to a charity, rising to £570 when pages are shared on WhatsApp.

Gary says: 'I’ve always thought that, whatever my fundraising page reaches, it’s that much more than when I started. Remember, it isn’t just about the fundraising – it’s also about signposting the charities and showing people what can be achieved with self-belief.

'My advice would be to set up your page and get it out there on all the social media platforms and ask people to share it.'

Aside from socials, a good-old round robin at work or any social clubs you attend can be a brilliant way to boost donations, too. Place a donation pot in the office or club house with a note explaining what you are doing.

Good luck on your fundraising and running endeavours. You’ve got this!

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