Running For Charity—Innovation and Technology Have Arrived
Firstgiving (www.firstgiving.com/usa), a three-year-old company based in England and New England, has given you, the runner, the tools to make charity fundraising quick, easy, fun, efficient and effective.
Posted Tuesday, 28 October, 2003
The power of the Internet can send your message worldwide; it can generate interest, promote your cause, collect donations, thank contributors, and keep records. Why didn't someone think of this before?
Advanced technology and innovation, integral to the running scene for years, are now available for fundraising and charitable giving. New tools from Justgiving provide tremendous advantages for participants, donors, charities, and race administrators. And these tools can also provide something immeasurable—communication between the runner herself and friends, family members, former classmates, old neighbors, military personnel, and supporters of every kind from every land.
Running for charity is the largest growth area associated with the sport. Fundraising for charity, so much a part of major events today, can be made much more simple and relaxing, yet far more effective, by using personalized, custom home pages for each and every runner. A fundraising page can be created around any event in support of any charity. You, the runner can concentrate on training and running your race, letting the page you've created speak to the world about your cause and your goals.
Donations and collections can be as simple as an on-line purchase, or an on-line race registration. But the pages are much more informative and effective than the old-fashioned, cumbersome, hard to decipher pledge sheet. Your personalized Web page is available to anyone throughout the world, yet is far more private than a pledge sheet handed round a table, or offered on the work-place floor. And the Justgiving page is totally updateable, secure, immediate, and complete.
Charitable giving and running for a cause, so closely linked with major events such as the Flora London Marathon and the Boston Marathon, have clearly turned a very significant corner with this breakthrough. Not surprisingly, the two major offices of Firstgiving are located in or near these two fabled cities.
What and Where? —Imagine creating your own home page with photos, race and charity logos, training logs, information on your favorite charity—perhaps your personal tribute or dedication to a cancer survivor or a terminally ill child. The page can list event information, race route, ideal locations to observe and cheer for you, funds raised to date, race goals, fund goals, total miles, and special comments. This page is yours to create and maintain, and you can add your own innovations and invitations. Best of all, it is quick (about 5 minutes) and easy (no technical expertise required). Such a page can be created from www.firstgiving.com/coolrunningcharity (Justgiving is providing this capability for members of the Cool Running community).
Your page link can be distributed by e-mail, or linked to the home page of your particular charity, or that of the race itself. It can be posted on company bulletin boards—physical and electronic--social group newsletters, or any other locations.
"This is so easy I almost feel guilty. My friends and relatives think I worked for weeks to create my page, it is so attractive and professional," said one enthusiastic marathoner.
I can't wait to build my page for the BAA Boston Marathon and the MS Society
"I can't wait to build my page for the BAA Boston Marathon and the MS Society," said another.
How? —You, the event participant, can now simply and quickly create your own personal page, a page unique to you and your charity, your event, your goals. This page will inform close and distant relatives and friends of your quest. It raises awareness of both the charitable cause and the event. Your personal page allows secure donations with Visa and MasterCard, and lists them individually, and also lists and tracks the total to date.
Donor entries can be signed or anonymous, and donors can have full confidence that their money will go automatically to their charity via electronic transfer. There are no pens and pledge forms to fill out, no embarrassment for the coworker or friend without cash or checks on a particular day. There are no checks to write, gather, store, and no putting cash into your own account, only to write yet another check to the charity. If your Uncle Ralph and Aunt Hazel have no computer, they can send cash or checks and their total can be entered along with the electronic funds.
The page is clear, concise, personal, and informative. Your message is powerful and professional. There is no bragging and no begging. The site speaks for you and speaks for itself. The page and its message can be accessed everywhere, and donations can be made from anywhere. And they can be made at anytime, whether the time zone includes Qatar, New Hampshire, or New Zealand.
When the event is over, you, the athlete can relax and enjoy the experience, basking in the glory. There are no post race collections, no awkward explanations, no repeating the same information—time, pace, mileage, weather—over and over. You can post results and list race information right on your page. Everyone will want to know, and all will feel they have a part in your experience. Press releases, using the data from your page, are nearly automatic. And Justgiving will help to create them. This is another advantage to local papers, the charities, your social organizations, and race administrators.
This page is your best advertising. There is no bragging, yet this page provides information about you and your accomplishments in regard to your cause. Yes, it is always about the cause, and your efforts are targeted to benefit a noble cause. Communication is critical. This is a tool, a vehicle that allows your relatives and friends to do what they really want to do—support you and your cause.
Friends, co-workers, and acquaintances want to know. Often you will benefit from a secondary promoter—relative, friend, or associate--that will forward your message to her or his organization and spread the message far wider than traditional pledge collecting. This is especially important when there is a specific target to reach, for example the $5,000 needed in pledges to accommodate an expenses paid trip to Dublin, Ireland. This is no time to be shy, and you can speak volumes as your message explores cyber space.
Who?—Firstgiving is a private company dedicated to bringing the benefits and advantages of technology to charitable fund raising. The company was established in London, England in 1999 to provide a means to more effectively collect charitable donations, while at the same time reducing the cost of doing so. The concept was designed to make fundraising easier and far less costly in time and money. Justgiving collections are far less costly than traditional organizations and methods; approximately 5% of donations being the only charges for this incredible service.
The company provided these tools and support services most notably for the Flora London Marathon. These innovations allowed over 3,000 runners to collect more than two million dollars—easily and efficiently.
We constantly hear from runners how much more they are able to raise for charity and how simple it is.
Although established in the UK first, the US offices for Justgiving.com are now located in Lexington, Massachusetts, and headed by CEO Mark Sutton. "So many people run for charity here in the US, online fundraising pages are a powerful addition to these efforts", said Sutton. "We constantly hear from runners how much more they are able to raise for charity and how simple it is."
Recent events in the United States, which highlighted Firstgiving, include the United Technologies Hartford Marathon and the Baystate Marathon. Additionally, many charity marathon teams including groups from the American Red Cross, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Y-me, the Organization for Autism Research and others have used Justgiving's online fundraising pages to help their runners more effectively raise funds.
The Organization for Autism Research of Arlington, Virginia signed on with Justgiving for the recent Marine Corps Marathon. Most of their 100 charity runners used this service and created pages.
It is exceptionally user friendly, and all the runners I talked to loved it
"It is exceptionally user friendly, and all the runners I talked to loved it," said OAR Development Associate Sarah Snow. Executive Director Mike Maloney made the decision to go with Firstgiving well before the marathon. All of the runners and everyone in the office considered the service exceptionally responsive and tremendously helpful.
"It made things really easy for me, including end of month summaries and donor lists and totals," said Snow. And the runners liked the concept, which made their fundraising much easier. They were particularly impressed with the e-mail 'thank-you', and the list of names so they could follow up," she continued.
Why (advantages)—There are very significant advantages to using this innovative system for donations and collections—advantages to runners or participants, as well as donors, charities, and race or event organizations. The advantages to runners or participants are obvious—getting the message, your personal message, out to more people more quickly and more easily at the top. And there is no cost to the runner. The effectiveness and strength of the message is not only more widely spread, but also is far more effective. There are no geographical or travel limits. You and your message are part of the global economy. You do not have to worry about checks and cash, mail, deposits, records, pledge forms. This is fundraising as it should be.
Thank you notes can be automatically triggered by e-mail. Records and totals are automated, and transfers are electronic. Updates on your page will keep all contributors and supporters informed of training and fundraising progress, goals, and personal feelings about preparations and significance—about your beneficiaries, and your making a difference.
Charities are big winners too. They get automatic electronic transfers of funds, making them available quickly, deposited to their bank. This technology reduces costs for charitable organizations--paperwork, forms, mailing, handling, and more. Record keeping is automatic as well. Wider exposure and promotion at the race and at hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these individual web sites is immeasurable. All donors are "satisfied customers", making repeat donations much more likely.
Donors get more and better information about the charities they are supporting. Personal stories of those benefiting from charitable funds are always powerful. They are meaningfully relayed with photos on your page. Donors will have much more of a personal connection with you the runner-athlete; they feel a part of the team. They have constant access to progress and information on the individual participant's page. Security in credit card exchanges is critical, and there is no more secure transaction. The donated money gets to the intended charitable purpose quickly and efficiently. Donors receive an acknowledgement of their gift, and also a tax record.
Races can be big winners too. Exposure and constant promotion of the event on individual pages, multiplied by hundreds or thousands of promotions, can be of great benefit. Some races, such as those targeting holiday funds, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, scholarship funds, and others can work directly with Firstgiving. Most of them routinely distribute pledge forms as a part of--or attached to -the race application. Justgiving Web pages and links provide a less costly and far more effective means of collecting donations. The pages, as with other events, can promote the race itself, and also promote and enlighten potential donors of the targeted charity.
Fundraising for charity has finally caught up with the kind of innovations that brought about Cool Running, chip timing, electronic monitoring, and more. Runners can run, train, and "collect" at the same time. These pages can be as creative as the individual, as powerful as any media, and as personal as any letter. The message—your message—can be more effective than you ever dreamed.
It is personal, it is fun, it is Firstgiving. If you or your friends are running for charity, try setting up an online fundraising page to help you -- www.firstgiving.com/coolrunningcharity.