Running & Raising

The London Marathon is the world's biggest annual one-day fundraising event. Andy Etchells looks at how to secure a charity place and get the money rolling in by following in the footsteps of the world's greatest fundraisers.

Check out a rundown of the top proven tips that have worked for fundraisers over the years below. The following links also offer invaluable advice on how to make the most of your efforts.

  • Fundraising heroes
    Four runners share their stories and how they smashed their targets
  • Getting to grips with Gift Aid
    How Gift Aid works, and what it means for your fundraising
  • Giving more
    Key fundraising findings from the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon from official online giving partner Virgin Money Giving

Start early

They used to say of corrupt Chicago elections, 'Vote early and vote often'. Similarly, a good fundraiser starts early and keeps up the pressure.

Get personal

It helps to convey as precisely as possible how your money will be put to good use. Who will benefit and how? Platitudes about 'helping the disabled' or 'saving babies' lives' will not engage as much interest as ' £350 pays for a week's holiday for a child with a disability' or ' £100 pays for an operation for a child in Africa'.

Take centre-stage

Use your e-giving page, Facebook or Twitter account, or blog to keep friends and colleagues up to date with your training progress – good and bad – as a way of keeping them involved. Throw in occasional reminders about the link to your e-giving page.

Be thorough

Make a list of all the people you have access to and work out the best way to reach them. It will probably be online, but sometimes face-to-face will be best.

Think big

Don't just approach individuals but organisations and groups too: the company you work for; the organisations you come into contact with via work; your kids' schools including bodies like parents' associations; your sports club or gym; your church or bridge club. Sometimes it's a question of reaching the individuals within these groups; at others it will be a corporate pitch.

Matched giving

If you work for a reasonable-size company, the first thing to do is ask HR or payroll if they operate a Matched Giving scheme under which you get corporate support. At its most generous Matched Giving can double what you raise, but most schemes have some sort of cap and some may only match donations made by your colleagues. But it's money that's there for the taking. If there is no Matched Giving scheme in place, ask them why not!

Mixed media

As we note elsewhere, more than nine out of 10 marathon runners have e-giving pages, but don't knock the old ways: sponsor forms can still do the business. In the latest survey of runners recruited for charities by the Charity Runners Clearing House (CRunCH) 20 per cent of total income was offline, often via such forms. Sponsor forms (or collecting boxes if available from your charity) can tick along nicely on reception desks at work, counters in your local watering hole, and on noticeboards anywhere you may be known.

To avoid the palaver of collecting post-marathon, ask for money upfront, just as people are accustomed to doing when giving online; if someone wants to see you sweat first, ask for a cheque post-dated to April 24!

Share the load

Get others in your family and social network to bang the drum on your behalf if they are committed to you and your cause by replicating what you do on email and social media. In the days when sponsor forms were the only game in town, I always urged runners to circulate them far and wide (remembering, of course, to put name and address on them for safe return). Some runners appoint a family member to manage their campaign – be it
on or offline – for them.   

Think outside the box

People can get tired of the naked pitch, but may get caught up in the excitement if there's something in it for them, even if it's just a sociable night out with friends. Frequently mentioned 'wheezes' in the CRunCH survey include the following ideas...

Organise a curry night

Invite your friends to your local Indian restaurant and charge an entrance fee on top of a negotiated deal for food with the management. If not curry, then coffee mornings, quiz nights, dances, tombolas: you name it, someone has used it to boost their London Marathon sponsorship pot. Make sure no one leaves without taking a card with your e-giving URL or filling out a sponsor form.


If you don't have the time/resources/friends to organise a stand-alone event, ask someone else if you could ride on their coat-tails. This might be a pub landlord or an event such as a village fete where you get permission to set out your 'stall' when people are in giving mode.

Private sweepstakes

Organise a sweepstake for friends and family (and attendees at any events you arrange) around your predicted finishing time.

Sell your body (or vest)

Carry an ad on Race Day for a local company (and get your picture wearing said vest in the local paper).

Bag packing

This was the top single earner one year for one enterprising runner who packed bags at a big-name supermarket. Again, prior permission is essential, as is manpower. It helped, therefore, that our man was in the Air Training Corps with a ready supply of air cadets at his beck and call – but he came away with virtually his entire pledge figure from one pre-Christmas evening stint by the tills.

Bucket shaking

Unlike bag packing, this does not provide something in return, but some runners swear by it. However, this method of fundraising comes with a health warning: public street collections are beset with legal and bureaucratic difficulties. It has to be the charity that applies, not the individual, and it is illegal to ask for money without the right permits. However, in private areas such as out-of-town shopping centres or in the immediate entrance areas to big stores you can avoid the bureaucracy as long as you have the business owner's permission. But you need to plan ahead as such coveted shaking 'slots' are often rationed.

Stand up and shout

Be prepared to stand up in public to make a heartfelt pitch. Examples include: a Baptist minister from his pulpit; a singer hijacking a choir rehearsal; a teacher in a school assembly. (As with other events mentioned here, the follow-through is important: cards with your e-giving URL or sponsor forms by the door really are a must.) Finally, talking of schools...

Dress-down days

Mufti days can raise phenomenal amounts if, say 1,000 pupils pay  £1 for the privilege of wearing jeans for the day. Obviously, such events are most easily exploited by a teacher, but I know of runners who approached the school via their children's teachers and got the rights to a termly slot (plus attendant publicity on the school website and newsletter for the cause). And while we are talking of being creative, if it works in schools, why not elsewhere – like your office or workplace?

And the most-mentioned tactic for fundraising success? A simple one: making sure every email you send out has a sign-off at the bottom promoting your London Marathon adventure, your cause and, of course, your URL.

Harness the internet

Which brings us back to the power of the internet and social media. It is now easier than ever to harness the technology to simplify the sponsorship process and to extend the reach of your campaign.

The simplicity comes from the near-universal accessibility of an e-giving website where payment can be made upfront in a matter of seconds, with the site even going to the trouble of collecting Gift Aid, where this has been assented to by the donor. It can even send a personalised thank-you message from you and/or your charity to the donor and presents an opportunity for the donor to engage further with the cause, if they so wish. As page-owner, you can add all kinds of bells and whistles: click on 'Help' for access to everything from letter templates to adding photos and creating web banners and buttons.

To sum up, make sure you include a footer at the bottom of every email that includes your URL link to your fundraising page. You could also send out daily tweets and re-tweets that draw the attention of an ever-wider audience to your cause. And don't forget to ask your friends, family and work colleagues to promote your various fundraising efforts too. However you go about fundraising next time you run for charity, good luck and get started early!

Andy Etchells founded and runs CRunCH – the Charity Runners Clearing House – which has been matching runners with good causes in the Virgin Money London Marathon for 20 years. Visit