I don’t really enjoy running. Every time I run longer distances (which for me is anything more than 3 miles), I inevitably end up thinking about how much I do not enjoy running. The experience becomes more of a mental challenge than physical one. And yet somehow I ended up signing up to run in a half marathon in Nov of 2013.
It all started one day when I was having dinner with my wife’s family. My sister in law, Joyce, brought up a charity half marathon that she was planning on running in that December. For the third year in a row she had committed to raising $3,000 for the charity and was trying to come up with new ways to raise funds.
It just so happened that about a week beforehand I attended a presentation given by the “Director of Digital” at Charity: Water on the topic of raising funds. The key components of his presentation were: Get Personal (tell a story), Be Visual (pics, videos), Make it Easy to Say Yes (small donations), and Know Your Audience (know what they care about and follow up). I had seen some of these points first hand when a friend of mine, Nigel, spontaneously ran a charity 5k. A group of guys were willing to pay to watch Nigel run, and Nigel set the threshold to do so at $2,000 raised for the charity. It took about 10 minutes for him to get the commitments.
Using the principals from the presentation, I generated ideas for Joyce. Some of the ideas were pretty out there, but I thought that overall they were pretty well…..amazing. Joyce was not so keen on my suggestions, which I took as a personal affront to my capacity as a human (previous blog post might provide some insight into this reaction). I was also very inspired by the idea of running for a cause. So I decided to run a half marathon for a charity using all my new ideas – the perfect way to simultaneously do something good and prove all of my suggestions were brilliant. Boom!
The charity I wanted to run for was Charity: Water because of the amazing work that they do providing clean drinking water to struggling nations around the world, and because they were the inspiration for my ideas. I ended up participating in their Birthday Campaign Program: giving up my birthday and asking the people I knew to donate to the cause as a way to celebrate my birthday. The icing on the cake was the run, which I ran on my birthday weekend.
My ideas: I made a video describing what I was doing, the charity, and the run.
I asked people to donate $27 (I was turning 27); the goal was to get 200 people to donate for a total of $5,400. Best of all, I gave donors the opportunity to vote on my outfit (tutu, rugby shorts, capris, tights or speedo) for the day of the run.
The most nerve wrecking part of the process was reaching out to my network, asking them to donate to the cause I was supporting. I put together a list of about 150 people to reach out to; hoping people would spread the message. The response was overwhelmingly positive: people loved the idea, the video, and the opportunity to make me run in something scandalous. I ended up raising $5,487.
My takeaway from this experience was that people are willing to help. But you need to do your part to get them to help, to make them feel good about helping. Provide context for why you need the help and follow up with how you used their help. Over the past two years I have been able to use these principals when asking for help in other areas of my life, especially work. I have found that as long as I prepare, give context, and send a thank you follow up with the results, people are willing to help above and beyond what I would have expected. If all else fails, promise you will run in public in a tutu…. it worked for me.