Written By: Meredith Hughes - Jun 13, 2018
Blog6 min read

Top 3 Considerations Before The Launch of Your Next Big Walk, Run, or Cycling Event

When it comes to engaging constituents and gaining exposure in the community, there is nothing quite like having your own charity event. Most nonprofit organizations look forward to these events not only because they help them reach specific fundraising initiatives, but also to develop deeper connections to donors and event participants.

No matter if it’s a run, walk, or cycling event, there are tons of good reasons why these work so well to benefit nonprofits. However, these events also have a lot of moving pieces and there’s a lot to keep in mind when hosting them. Some of the big questions you’ll want to answer right away include:

  • Do you have the necessary budget?
  • Will this properly engage your community?
  • Do you have enough hands on deck to help out?
  • What are some of your goals and objectives? Are they reasonable to attain?

Provided you have the basics covered to have your event in the first place, charity events still have a few other considerations because of how many people they involve. For me, charity events go beyond just fundraising as they offer the perfect time to learn more about our communities, constituents, and the great stories we all have.

To give you some perspective, I’d like to share my experiences with charity events in the past.

4K for Cancer & The Ulman Cancer Fund

Back in 2004, I had the incredible opportunity to cycle across the country with the 4K for Cancer, a cycling event which originally began as the Hopkins 4K for Cancer in the fall of 2001. The 4K event all started with a group of undergraduate students at Johns Hopkins University who decided to combine their dream of cycling across the country with the desire to fight against cancer.

For some time, the 4K continued to operate as student group with an annual summer ride from Baltimore to San Francisco until it became an independent nonprofit organization in 2009. Several years after, the 4K event merged with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults to create one organization.

The Ulman Cancer Fund was created in 1997 by Doug Ulman and his family to help fill a gap in resources and literature to speak to the unique needs of young adults affected by cancer. Since its creation, the UCF has expanded its reach to provide young adults and their families with a unique and comprehensive system of support.

Remembering back to that first summer where I was involved with the 4K for Cancer, my experience was one that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I became instantly hooked and stayed involved with the 4K for Cancer, even holding a position on the board. After the 4K for Cancer became part of the Ulman Cancer Fund, I’ve stayed involved with UCF and the 4K ever since. The Ulman Cancer Fund is unique in that they have a huge “support through sport” program. It allows people to get active while supporting a larger cause.

My Point to Point Run Experience

In the fall of 2017, I joined the Ulman Cancer Fund for their inaugural Point to Point run from Baltimore, MD to Key West, Florida. I spent seven days running down the coast with 25 strangers who became family — it was truly one of the most incredible weeks of my life.

We visited cancer centers along the way and shared our stories with different communities along the coast. Everyone was walking or running for friends and family affected by cancer. Some days were spent running through the pouring rain, while other days had us experience the blazing hot Florida sun. Even when we struggled to keep going, we cheered each other on to help our fellow participants remember why we were running in the first place.

One of the days I will remember most from my run was in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We put in 10 miles on a hot stretch where the sun just beat down on us the whole time. When we were done, we were all circled around the support vehicles, grabbing water, when a woman pulled up and called me over.

She asked what we were doing and when I told her we were running to Key West to raise funds and awareness for the young adult cancer fight, she instantly pulled out her wallet and handed me $40 cash and thanked us for what we were doing. She began crying as she pulled away. It was in that moment that I was reminded that my teammates and I were a part of something much larger than simply a run down the coast.

My Point to Point experience was just one of the many reasons that I will continue to be involved with the Ulman Cancer Fund for young adults. I’m thankful for the opportunities they have provided me to be an advocate for a cause that I am so passionate about.

How Big Charity Events Can Be Beneficial

There are many factors which can determine how successful a charity run, walk, or cycling event can be for an organization. Speaking from experience, here are a few ways charity events can be such a positive for nonprofit organizations.

Peer to peer fundraising:

As a runner for the Point to Point run, I was responsible for raising $4,500 and I am happy to share that I exceeded my goal and raised just over $5,500. This is the second time I’ve been a part of an event like this with the Ulman Cancer Fund.

For my first event, I raised over $6,500 in just three months through social media alone. It’s been my experience that people are more drawn to donate when you are participating in an event that seems daunting or strenuous. I’ve also found that the more personal your fundraising appeals are, or the more a participant is willing to share why they are participating in an event, the more likely they are to be successful in the fundraising.

New Constituents:

There’s also something very unique about supporting a larger cause you are passionate about while pushing yourself to the limit. Whether you are walking your first 5K or half marathon or running down the coast, the activity is what will draw the participants closer to the organization and create lasting supporters. Physical events also attract many people that may not be as familiar with your organization but afford you the opportunity to educate new participants about your mission and forming a long relationship.

Spreading the Mission:

Between the peer to peer fundraising, the new constituents and organic advertising like team shirts, more and more people will learn about your organization and what you do.

Top 3 Considerations Before Your Next Charity Event

Physical charity events have a lot of upsides, but there’s also quite a bit happening behind the scenes which are necessary for the success of these events.

1) Don’t Assume, Triple Check Everything

A well-run event can help you build the loyalty of your supporters and showcase the work of your nonprofit. If you have any questions regarding the specifics surrounding the event, don’t leave anything to chance and make sure you have concrete answers. Some of the big questions involve:

  • Obtaining proper licenses and permits
  • Technology and internet connection concerns
  • Directions
  • Detailed routes and itineraries
  • Alerting local safety and health authorities

2) Have All Safety Documentation Updated

Your charity event will require a thorough and robust event safety management plan since the last thing you want is to put your staff or participants at risk of harm. This also means taking a rigorous magnifying glass to any vendors, suppliers, or contractors to ensure their risk assessment and method statements are up to your standards. Because event organizers are responsible for mostly everything, nonprofits need to make sure that safety is of the utmost priority.

3) Promote The Event Well After

Because a nonprofit’s mission or cause will not end after a given charity event, you will still want to promote and share the results of your event well after it has happened. Awareness and contributions should continue because of how important they are to advancing any organization.

For example, if your event has a branded hashtag you’ve been using before and during the even, continue to use it for several days on your chosen social platforms. This is also a good time to encourage people to continue to donate, as well as for event participants to share their experiences through photo and video. This is all in addition to keeping your followers updated on contribution totals from the event and how donations will be put to good use.

Promotion of the event could continue for several weeks after, whether its explicitly on social media, or sending a final email to constituents about the results of the event. People are donating because they care about the cause, so remind them of the difference they are making.

Final Thoughts

Charity events are fantastic opportunities for nonprofits to engage new donors, educate and raise important awareness, as well as help fundraising efforts. I hope that sharing my personal experiences with charity events demonstrates just how powerful they can be while also highlighting some important considerations before you launch your next event. With all of this in mind, you have the power to maximize the positive impact and shed much-needed light on your noble cause.

If you love to walk, run, or cycle and want to join a great group of people supporting the young adult cancer fight, I challenge you to look into Ulman Cancer Fund’s Point to Point this September. Applications are open now. I promise — you won’t regret it!

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About Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes is the Partnership and Alliances Coordinator for Omatic Software. She is responsible for the operations of the partner program. Prior to joining Omatic Software, Meredith worked at Blackbaud for 8 years in various departments including partnerships and technical account management. She is also a Cancer to 5K coach. Meredith graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science.