Last year, runners raised more than $650 million for cancer charities. Six-hundred and fifty million! The current running boom itself is in no small way indebted to the efforts of people getting involved in races to raise awareness for cancer research. If you're ready to join the fight against cancer-or raise money for any charitable organization-you've got to read this first. Writer Jena McGregor chatted with three fundraising superstars (they've each collected at least $100,000) and they share their secrets to raising big bucks for good causes.
Kristin McQueen, 32, Naperville, Illinois
Money raised: $102,000 since 2002
Currently has thyroid cancer. Runs for DetermiNation/American Cancer Society
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1. Open up If you have cancer, sharing details of your experience may help your solicitations stand out. After her cancer returned in 2006, McQueen shared more of her emotional journey in her appeals. She wrote about radiation and the side effects from surgery that sometimes left her unable to eat, talk, or move her face. "A lot of people don't understand how deeply cancer impacts your life," says McQueen, a physical therapist, runner, and triathlete.
2. Don't be sorry It can be uncomfortable when you first start asking people for money. But "if you start an e-mail by apologizing, you're not drawing people in," says McQueen. "They might assume you'll be bugging them if you're already apologizing."
3. Accept anything McQueen's notes always tell prospective donors that their positive thoughts, prayers, or volunteer time are as appreciated as donations.
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Susan Sonley, 57, Reston, Virginia
Money raised: $400,000 since 1999
Breast-cancer survivor. Runs for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
4. Hit "send" on weekdays Sonley targets primarily businesspeople for fund-raising support. "I find they pay more attention to their e-mails during the week," she says. "E-mails sent on Friday night or weekends tend to get lost in the junk that comes in during that time."
5. Include your cause in your email signature At the bottom of every e-mail, solicitation or otherwise, Sonley includes a few sentences about Race for the Cure, the amount she's raised, and a link for people to contribute online-and komen.org is on every e-mail in hot pink. It's a simple way to inform people without directly soliciting them. Recalling her signature, a real-estate client of Sonley's contacted her after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The woman invited Sonley to her company holiday party to receive a check-for $25,000. The same company has since made additional donations of $5,000 and $25,000.
6. Make team names recognizable People who fund-raise and run as part of a team often name their effort after a loved one, like "Race for Jenny" or "Heather's Team." But potential donors might not know Jenny or Heather. "They may have their own story, and that could discourage some to get involved," says Sonley. Stick to a general name or one that's affiliated with your charity (Sonley's team name is "Champions of the Cure").
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Kevin Kline, 41, Houston
Money raised: Together with Snowdrop volunteers, has raised more than $500,000 since 2006
Runs for the Snowdrop Foundation (a nonprofit started by Kline and his wife to fund pediatric cancer research and provide scholarships to survivors)
7. Friend famous people Kline used Facebook to connect with not only Houston-based runners but big names in the running world like Dean Karnazes and Jeff Galloway. "They're followed by so many people, they gave us greater exposure," Kline says. "We've raised well into the four digits just on Facebook donations alone."
8. Be merry Contact local restaurants or brewpubs and ask if they'll donate a percentage of their sales on a midweek night. Post the date on your Facebook page (and ask your friends to post it, too) at least a week in advance, with a couple of reminder posts in the ensuing days. "Wednesday night is a blase night for restaurants," Kline says. "If we bring in 100 people or more, it's a win-win."
9. Make connections Find a group connected to your cause and ask them about working together. Kline gets schoolchildren to raise money for Snowdrop. He approaches their principal about coming to career days where he talks about being a radio deejay and about how he started running to raise money for pediatric cancer patients. He then offers to help the school set up 5-K races to teach the students about the importance of exercise. Several schools have embraced his mission; Stanley Elementary School in Katy, Texas, has raised more than $16,000.
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JOIN THE FIGHT! Want to do more to help fight cancer? Then visit crowdrise.com/runnersworld, where we've compiled a comprehensive list of cancer charities with a running connection-be it a race or a marathon training team-and made it easy to support any of them. You can make a one-time donation or start a fundraiser! Runner's World and its publisher, Rodale Inc., have pledged $5,000 to the organization that raises the most money by September 5, 2011. Join us!
VIDEO: Runner's World Editor in Chief David Willey and Crowdrise co-founder actor Edward Norton on how you can outrun cancer-and be entered to win sweet prizes!
Susan Rinkunas is an associate editor at Runner's World, a magazine (and website) that informs, advises, and motivates runners of all ages and abilities-and we mean it. Her blog on Yahoo! Shine offers tips on running technique, nutrition and weight loss, shoes and apparel, and balancing fitness and life.
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