One of the most rewarding things that you can do is to combine raising money for a heart-felt charity with something that you enjoy. I've put down some of my experiences, and would love to hear yours, especially different and inventive ways of raising sponsorship.
Choosing a Charity
When a Charity helps a cause that you have a true connection with, it is so much easier to raise money, and for people to understand why. I have raised money for Marie Curie and Barnardos in the past. Marie Curie looked after a good friend of mine during her last days, helping her to pass away at home, and Barnardos help so many children that don't get the breaks that my children do. One of my younger brothers ran the London Marathon to raise money for Velindre hospital as they helped our uncle David. It is possible to work with a charity that is outside of your own experiences, especially as part of gaining entry into over-subscribed races, but things always work out best if you have a personal connection with the Charity, or the work that they provide.
Why do Charities require you to raise such a large amount of money to represent them in a major race? Often, they will need to buy the place, so need to be sure that you will raise enough to cover their cost, and raise more again for themselves. They will look upon you as an investment, therefore it's crucial that you understand the commitment that you are making when signing up. As an example, for a Charity place at the Virgin London Marathon, the Charity would have paid about £1000, which is why they typically set the minimum sponsorship amount at £1750.
Benefits of running for a larger Charity include training days, personalised vests, cameraderie, and race-day facilities, like post-race massages and hospitality. Another benefit, certainly at the Cardiff Half, toilets - Barnardos and a few others allow you to use City Hall to keep warm before the race, and use their facilities.
Most large corporates will match your sponsorship money, up to a set limit. This is far easier when your sponsorship has been done through an on-line website. Proof of sponsorship amount is required from the Charity, which I have found to be a challenge in the past with one particular charity. Going back to the "minimum sponsorship" for large races, different charities count the matched funding in different ways. When investigating this in the past, some included the matched funding as part of this figure - e.g. minimum sponsorship £1750, employer matches funding to £750, you need to raise £1000 total (£750 raised + £750 matched funding + another £250 raised = £1750). Other charities don't include matched funding, so you still need to raise £1750, but they would get £2500 in this example. Worth confirming first.
Ways of getting sponsorship
Do something new
The first charity event that I did was the "Spartan Race". Now this came as a suprise to most of my family, colleagues and friends, given that I was a nine stone weakling at the time (as opposed to an eleven stone weaking now). I had only just begun my journey into fitness, and showed no real sign of putting physical effort into anything. This was a 5K run on an army obstacle course - I ran through streams, crawled through a 100m sewage pipe in pitch black darkness, waded through a duck pond (up to my neck), jumped over fire and crawled under barbed wire. You get the idea.
For the "Spartan Race", I created a number of Training Videos which went up on Youtube (gone now, don't bother looking). These included me and the boys crawling under tarpaulins, throwing spears and running up a hill being attached by water-carrying savages. Okay, the boys had the hose pipe on me and threw buckets of water. I'll never forget the look on my wife's face when she threw a bucket of water over me!
These videos went up after I reached each level of sponsorship and comments - they proved to be pretty popular. How much they contributed, I don't really know, but I raised a fair bit of money.
Running a Marathon certainly counts as "doing something new", especially if you're only a 5K runner (Nick), or if people know you as being "especially fond of Pizza" (James). Something where people can watch the journey that you've taken and the work that you've put in. If you're a regular Marathon runner, then you need to shake it up a bit - maybe training for a set time, fancy dress or an additional challenge.
Give Something Back
It's key to remember that you're not likely to be the only person asking for sponsorship, and always nice to offer something back.
I saw an opportunity last year, and jumped on it. The club AGM was just before my event, so I gathered some of my favourite photos from the year in running and made a Calendar. While I think I was Mr July, the calendar was really based on other lovely people from Lliswerry Runners. This was raffled off at the end of the night, raising just over £100 in the process. It is now pride of place in Jan's kitchen, with either Paul "Chicky" Chick or Zara / Claire up for January (some months got a choice, depending on preference / mood).
Something that's also proved successful is "Guess my time to win a prize". I gathered a selection of prizes that cost nothing, and offered them as incentives for people to sponsor me. Each sponsor predicts your finishing time, and the closest people get their pick from the prizes.
The first year, I had such lovely items as Eggs (from my hens), Apple products (from my own trees), Wendy: The bumper book of fun for women of a Certain Age, a new scarf, and some re-gifted items. Second year, I approached some Businesses that I have some association with and was rewarded with such things as Exercise DVDs, BootCamp passes, NightClub entry, Tatoo Tonic, CDs and other lovely things.
It's great to see how different people believe in you (or dont!). I was asked many questions about normal running times, fitness level and injuries. I collected the times on my sponsorship forms / e-mail and put all of the details into a spreadsheet (because I'm like that). After the race, I used the spreadsheet to find the winners, and also to conduct a little experiment. I took the average of all times (hours, minutes AND seconds) and compared it to the time that I actually ran. Cardiff Half 2012 - the average over 100 guesses was within 7 seconds of my actual time. For 2013, I blew up at Mile 12 and took longer that I either wanted or expected. Interestingly though, the average over 80 guesses was 1:45 exactly. This was my target for the day. There is a phenomenom called "Wisdom of Crowds" that describes how this works.
Also, be aware that getting sponsorship can be costly, especially in a Corporate environment where "good citizenship" is encouraged. It's easy to get into the thought of "I must sponsor them because they sponsored me, and for the same amount". This is simply not true, you should still sponsor people because you believe in them, believe in the cause and spend only what you can afford. This should be respected on both parties.
Where possible, encourage people to tick the "Gift Aid" box. This allows the charity to reclaim the tax that the sponsor originally paid when earning the money.
Break it down, keep it going
When you have a large amount to raise, don't try to do it all in one go. Different things over a period of time is likely to keep the interest going, and if your sponsors are benefiting then they're more likely to sponsor you again for the same thing.
One of my neighbour's son is doing AfriCamp, going out to Africa for 4 weeks, working on charitable projects. This means raising thousands of pounds to cover costs. So far, he has been washing cars (weather permitting), and he was collecting and selling Mistletoe over the festive period. I can't reveal what he has lined up over the coming months, but it's worth researching online different things that you can do.
I've got a few more ideas lined up for a raffle, including dedicating a day to the highest bidders' chores or fancies. Notice "bidder's" - an hour each if you please!
Good sponsorship benefits everyone -
You - giving something back to people that have helped you, a loved one or a cause that you believe in
Charities - They cannot continue to do their work without generously donated funding
Your Sponsors - make them feel that they have made a difference, and thank them for supporting you
Even races - the cost of putting on a mass participation race these days is so high that without the backing of major Sponsors and Charity organisations, they simply would not take place