How not to raise money for charity – my London Marathon experiences

As the date of the London Marathon approaches, there has been an increase in the number of articles providing runners with fundraising hints and tips. For the vast majority of runners, raising money for charity requires just as much time and effort as training for the London Marathon itself.

My marathon fundraising attempts haven’t generally been very successful. As I wouldn’t want other runners to make the same mistakes, I decided to write my own guide on how not to raise money for charity.

1. Overshare your fundraising page on social media. As soon as I confirmed my place in the London Marathon, I created a personalised fundraising page. I eventually shared the link to my fundraising page on Facebook. Within 24 hours my fundraising total stood at £10 and I’d lost 5 friends. Following advice from the charity I’m fundraising for, I shared the link a second time to correspond with the final Pay Day before the marathon. Several more friends unfollowed me. Another friend asked me stop oversharing the link to my fundraising page. Sorry!

SamaritansMy fundraising page has offended a few people!

2. Email everyone you have ever met. As article recently published in the Guardian suggested sending an email to everyone in your address book. This is potentially a really effective way of finding out who has changed jobs, got married, left the country and changed their email address. It’s not such an effective way of fundraising. Seriously, would you donate money to someone who hasn’t been in contact with you for several years? I’m not so sure that I would.

3. Leave it to the last minute to start fundraising. I didn’t start sharing the link to my fundraising page until February. The London Marathon takes place on April 24th. I have set myself a fundraising target of £500 and I’m struggling. If you accept a guaranteed charity place in the London Marathon expect that target to be substantially higher. If I had to raise in the region of £2000 I would allocate a minimum of six months to my fundraising.

4. Make assumptions. When I started fundraising I assumed that people I had previously sponsored would sponsor me. This hasn’t generally happened and has taught me not to make assumptions about people. I’d also assumed that the family member who sponsored someone £50 to complete a Race for Life would sponsor me a similar amount. My reasoning was that completing the London Marathon is far more challenging than completing a Race for Life event. I was wrong again.

5. Be unemployed. I’m currently spending most of my time searching for and applying for jobs. Being unemployed means that I’ve lost a large source of potential sponsors and supporters. When I worked at the Environment Agency the generosity and support of my work colleagues was incredible. I’ve really missed this support. In addition, many employers have fundraising policies and will match for fundraising up to a certain amount.

6. Have a history of getting injured and not making it to the start line. I have a history of getting a place in the London Marathon, starting my training, setting up and sharing a fundraising page, getting injured and then not making it to the start line. I can understand why people are quite reluctant to sponsor me. I’d be reluctant to sponsor me! Hopefully a few more people will sponsor me when I’ve successfully completed the marathon on April 24th.

Ill injuredI didn’t make it to the start line of the 2012 London Marathon.

7. Raise money for Samaritans. Like many other runners, I had a personal reason for fundraising for a specific charity. When I personalised my fundraising page I shared some of my reasons wanting to raise money for Samaritans. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that some of my friends and family don’t feel very comfortable discussing mental health related issues.

Luckily not all of my London Marathon fundraising experiences have been negative.

8. The kindness of the online running community. The majority of the money that I’ve raised has come from members of the online running community. I’ve never actually met most of these people. These people seem to understand why I’m running with an injury and why I’m raising money for Samaritans. Thank-you!

Have you ever made any fundraising blunders?

 Do you have any tips for successful fundraising?


6 thoughts on “How not to raise money for charity – my London Marathon experiences

  1. Mary says:

    I am pretty certain that I could never commit to raising the huge amount of money asked for by charities in return for a place in the London Marathon. I was lucky enough to gain a club ballot place back in 2014 and as much as I would love to run the event again, I’ll hold on until I win another ballot place however long that may take. Training for a marathon is a huge commitment, add to that the pressure of having to fundraise and having to be fit enough to make the start line and I can see why most regular runners either work hard to achieve a GFA time or take their chance in the ballot draw. Who wants to sponsor a regular runner to do something they would be doing at the weekend anyway?!
    The runners who have persisted year after year with charity places and have been more successful tend to be those who put on events to raise the money. This year I’ve been to a bingo quiz and a band night where all profits went towards the organiser’s marathon charity pot. In the past I’ve also been to bake sales and race nights. I think people like to have a good time for their money and this type of fundraising seems to go down best.


    • Emma says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment on my fundraising thoughts. Although if I had enough time to organise a series of fundraising events, I could raise the £2000 charities ask for, I’m not sure that I would want to. I doubt that I’d run London again unless I got a GFA time or ballot place. If I get the urge to complete another marathon I’ll enter either Brighton or Manchester.

      My fundraising was far more successful the first time I ran London in 2006. My family were very supportive of the charity I was fundraising for and my work colleagues were very generous. I also believe that because marathon running was more of a novelty 10 years ago, people were more likely to sponsor runners. Now running is more popular, I suspect that running a marathon possibly isn’t perceived as such an achievement. I was also a member of a tennis club; a lot of my sponsorship came from tennis players who couldn’t imagine running a marathon.


  2. Maria @ runningcupcake says:

    I always feel shocked by how much the charities ask for, particularly for London (I do know they are changed a lot for the places too). I ran for charity for the GNR, as Andy got a place in the ballot and I didn’t- we didn’t want to make the trip twice. It was a charity that some of my family worked for, so having that link was good. I tend to get some donations from work- I would bake brownies or make fudge (I do this anyway, a lot through the year) and would ask for a donation in exchange. I know what you mean about sponsoring people though- I am generally happy to sponsor others, but a lot of times people who I have sponsored, have not returned the favour. In the end, it’s all for charity and unless you disagree with what the charity does, I really don’t see why people would be so offended by it.
    Some of our runners are doing the London one for a charity, and they have held raffle nights, Bingo nights, nights in local pubs, and that way people feel they are getting something (although then, they can’t get giftaid which annoys me).


    • Emma says:

      I do think that some charities do ask for too much money, I guess they have to take advantage of the popularity of running at the moment and of the London Marathon. I’ve heard some real horror stories about runners being hounded for money and having to meet a whole series of fundraising targets. This comment included in an email I received from my charity annoyed me. “With only 1 month to go until the marathon, we would expect fundraising to be going up by a lot more each week than it is currently doing”. If I hadn’t been in a position to set my own fundraising I would have found that comment quite stressful. I do miss fundraising at the tennis club and at work. Some of the cake sales and quiz nights were really successful.


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