If you're running the Virgin Money London Marathon for charity and need some fundraising inspiration, read on to find out how four runners got creative and smashed their pledge targets.
Occupation: Retired GP practice manager
Charity:Â Rainbow Trust
Total raised: Â£5,020
"I am a latecomer to running: at the age of 50 I said I was going to run the London Marathon with my daughter but it took several years to get a ballot place. I raised some money for charity that year as an â€œown placeâ€ runner, but having got the bug I realised the way forward was via a charity with Golden Bonds. It was important to me to find something I really believed in - and having an autistic grandson I know a little bit about how a sick child impacts on a family.
"So when I came across Rainbow Trust with its mission to support the entire family of any child with a life-threatening illness, I knew it was right for me. That has been confirmed by the fact that I have now run for them three times since 2013 and I feel like part of their family and appreciate how supportive they are of their runners.
"I like to think I am repaying that support as my 2016 total took me to more than Â£13,000. When I first signed the pledge committing to raise Â£1800 I must admit it felt like a lot of money. But you have to have a plan and mine was not to rely solely on 'handouts' from friends and family. Music is my other big interest and my husband and I go to pubs and other venues locally and sing and play our guitars and pass around a collecting tin. Many of these places like to give ongoing support to the Trust, so pubs will sometimes run raffles or other events and next time I am in hand over Â£200 to add to the funds. Having this level of local support explains why 'donor fatigue' has never been an issue.
"My advice to anyone planning to join me in the 2017 Marathon â€“ I am already signed up for No.4 with Rainbow Trust â€“ is to start early and use your talents, whether itâ€™s singing, baking cakes or anything else for which people will stump up cash."
Occupation: MD, energy company
Charity:Â Melanoma Focus
"Lisa Griffiths was just 45 when she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in early 2013 and she died a matter of months later. Lisa was our companyâ€™s Finance Director and it seemed logical for us to remember her in a tangible way by teaming up with Melanoma Focus in its important work in funding research into melanoma and skin cancer as well as providing support to patients.
"We set ourselves a company target of Â£10,000 of which I, as a relatively serious marathon runner, was looking to raise 50 per cent. I believe in targets, so having had my place confirmed in December, we set Â£500 as the challenge for January and kept on going from there; we were over Â£4,000 by race day and more money came in over the summer.
"I had done some fundraising in the past but nothing as organised and focused as this. Lisa and her partner Stephen had a favourite saying about business: 'Leap and the net will appear'; nonetheless, having a plan always helps so I started with a list of the people who would help me and the likely sources of income.
"One was always going to be an e-giving page but many, inevitably, were workplace-based, ranging from supplier and customer donations to in-house staff events. Christmas gifts from suppliers were raffled off and we put on cake sales and even a fancy dress day when everyone in the building wore Disney costumes. The cakes and fancy dress event contributed around Â£250 each - not bad for a company of 40 people.
"There was an unexpected but important benefit in the way employees and senior management rallied around and worked together. Post-marathon, we have continued such events that bring everyone together â€“ and continue to raise money and contribute to Lisaâ€™s ongoing legacy.
"The Marathon always has moments that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but this was extra-emotional. As I crossed the line, I really felt I could have continued for another five miles: maybe Lisaâ€™s 'net' is waiting for me in an ultra-marathon!"
Occupation: Manufacturing Manager
Charity:Â Orchard Vale Trust
"Following my recovery from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the removal of my spleen; I was advised that only light, non-contact sport was the order of the day. So I took up some gentle running. I had always had an interest in running the London Marathon after seeing the first one on television.
"I entered the ballot several times without success. Then a colleague at work with connections to the Orchard Vale Trust charity mentioned they were looking for runners and I decided straight away that I was just going to take the chance. The Trust is based in Somerset, and provides residential care for people with learning disabilities.
"As soon as my place was confirmed I started thinking about the fundraising and what better place to start than with the CEO of the Company that I work for, Brompton Bicycle? He offered to let me build and auction a bike as part of my sponsorship. It was a one-off, unique build with a brazed logo which hadnâ€™t been done before.
"I put it up for online auction and it sold to a buyer in Singapore. The auction proceeds more than covered the whole pledge I had committed to and proved for me the value of involving my Company with my fundraising.
"I also picked up advice on more traditional fundraising methods from the Meet the Experts event held in February by the Virgin Money London Marathon for Golden Bond runners. One of the tips was to sendÂ fundraising appeals on a Monday morning; nobody wants to be working then and my emails appeared to provide some displacement activity!
"Friends, family and colleagues helped me raise another Â£1,700. My advice to any would-be runners is â€œjust do it!". It is a fantastic feeling being able to help a small charity especially a focused, local one like OVT. As long as youâ€™re committed, stay persistent and use the support around you, then you can make a real difference."
Occupation: Theatre producer
Charity:Â Elimination of Leukaemia Fund
"It wasnâ€™t until my friend India was diagnosed with lymphoma that I considered taking on a big fundraising challenge. The odds were not in her favour, but she was given the all-clear 18 months later. I was bowled over by the support and good care she received over that period.
"Itâ€™s my belief that her experience was a true reflection of the value of charities and individuals who are dedicated to research into blood cancers and support of patients who are suffering from them. I found ELF on the crunch.org.uk website and I was inspired by the charityâ€™s own story.
"My first fundraising effort was in a triathlon in 2014 and I took some of the lessons I learned from that, like wearing my wetsuit at work (much to the amusement of my colleagues) when I hit certain targets, into my marathon plan. This time, I offered anybody who donated at least Â£5 on my Virgin Money Giving page the chance to select a song for my running playlist. This went down really well although I did have some rather 'interesting' song choices given to me. Thankfully no-one asked me to run in silenceâ€¦
"The fact that this was my first London Marathon and that I had a strong connection to the charity really helped drive donations up. I found that the most effective platforms for me were email and Facebook. I checked in monthly with an email or Facebook post but always took care not to bombard anybody since that can be a real nightmare. The most important thing was to ensure I was having bespoke conversations with people rather than impersonal, generic messages.
"I will definitely run London again for charity. It was an absolutely fantastic experience: not only is the day itself amazing but knowing that so many people are raising big money for so many great causes is really incredible. My advice to anyone with a charity place is to have a plan, find a hook, and dream up some incentives. But most of all, have fun!"