Nowadays, you can find a race that raises money for almost any cause. In fact, Running USA estimates that road races contributed $1.2 billion to nonprofits in 2012! The popularity of charity runs isn’t surprising: race directors see it as incentive for registration while nonprofits use them to raise awareness and build relationships.

While a saturated market makes it harder to stand out, don’t let a little competition scare you away! Here are our tips on how to plan a race for charity that won’t get lost in the crowd.

Choose Your Cause

If you’re a nonprofit, this part is easy! For race directors, you probably already know what kind of cause you want to support. But unless you have a specific organization, it’s worth shopping around. Meet with different charities and find out what they can contribute – yes, this race is for them, but nonprofits can help with promotion or sponsor and volunteer recruitment. The more they contribute, the less strain it will put on your resources.

Brand Your Event

Now that you have your cause, decide what kind of race you want to have. Don’t assume the charity will automatically attract runners: unless they are particularly passionate about your cause, giving back is more of a perk than the reason they race. So get creative!

Look for a fun theme or twist on your typical 5k: the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Undy 5000 has men run in boxers and the Krispy Kreme Challenge combines racing with donut-eating. Have runners dress up as their favorite animal to support an animal rescue or host your race at night to raise awareness of homelessness. You can even have people support the charity beyond money: host a blood drive or collect coats and canned food.

Make your race the place to be with shorter distances and a post-race party. With charity runs, it’s better to include the whole community versus a few dedicated runners.

Spending and Raising Money

A common question is how to plan a race for charity while managing your budget. Set realistic goals: you probably won’t get 5,000 runners your first race and you might not have the resources to support them anyway. Use our Budget Calculator to find out how much money you will need; if you have to cut corners, do away with pricey perks and fancy merch. Don’t skimp on “unglamorous” necessities like water stations and porta-potties. Once you know what you need and what you have, it’s time to start filling in the gaps.

A great way to offset costs is sponsorships. See if businesses would donate things like signage, shirts, food and drink or entertainment equipment. If not, create a package that offers exposure in exchange for money (read our guide on sponsorships here). You can also build a reliable volunteer base to reduce staffing costs.

Cover your bases and give more to charity by allowing runners to donate upon registering or checking in on race day. Let them set up individual or team fundraising pages (ChronoTrack uses Crowdrise for this) and offer incentives for different fundraising levels: raising $50 gets you a swagalicious water bottle, $100 gets you free entry into next year’s race, and so on.

Promote Your Race

When charity is involved, the media is more likely to cover your event. Send press releases with quotes from either an employee or beneficiary of the charity. Submit your race to event calendars and share success stories from the cause you’re supporting. Provide racers with fundraising tips and draft language for the charity, sponsors, and runners to share in their own communications.

Show Your Impact

race-for-charity_2_chronotrackThroughout the entire process, be clear about where the money goes. It’s not uncommon for only 50% of funds to go to charity, but be honest about this: you might negate trust if you don’t. Let runners know how much of their registration goes to charity, explain what happens to the rest, and encourage them to donate more.

When the race is over, share what you’ve accomplished! Create an eye-catching infographic to show how many runners you had and how much money was raised; share this with runners, sponsors, and the media! And be sure to say thank you: ask people impacted by the charity to write thank you letters to your runners, sponsors and volunteers.

A Final Note for First-Timers

If this is your first time organizing a race, we recommend you read our guide on How to Plan a 5k. This covers all the race planning basics from permits to price breaks! If you can, you’ll want to give yourself at least a year to plan this event as a first-timer, so start now!

And that’s how to plan a race for charity! There’s a lot more we could get into, so we’d love to hear from you! What is your experience in planning a charity run? Let us know in the comments below!

For more race management tips, contact ChronoTrack!