Party for a Purpose

In case you don’t have a running countdown, there are 21 days until Marathon Monday. Fitting (and coincidental) that I should choose today to write about it while sitting in my room at #Mile21! In any case, last night I was talking to a friend who’s training for the Boston Marathon about his decision to run and his process of training and getting set up for the big day. One thing that he said that really surprised me was that he said it was competitive and difficult to be accepted by a charity to run the Marathon for them. He applied to 4 different charities and was accepted to run for Michael Lisnow Respite Center to help support children and adults with disabilities. It’s a great cause, and if anyone would like to support the cause and Dan Cunningham’s fundraising efforts, I’m happy to put you in touch with him to make a donation. In any case, I was confused that you had to work so hard to be given the chance to give money to a cause, but after a little bit of research, I understood that in order to get a charity bib to enter the race, he had to apply and raise at least, on average, $5,000 for your charity.


$5,000 is a lot of money, and I think people are often more reluctant to donate when just directly asked as opposed to when incentivized by activities or interactions with the runner and/or cause. Things like selling things and donating proceeds or silent auctions are classics that always work, and though I have never run or fundraised for a marathon, I’ve seen some really creative and fun ways that others have fundraised for their causes recently and I wanted to bring some attention to them.


March Madness Brackets

The reason I bring up this specific example is because this is Dan’s fundraiser of choice. He organized a large bracket competition where you pay to compete, and while the winner does get a sizable cut of the money, the majority goes towards Dan’s fundraising for the marathon. This one effort has raised over $800 for the cause and has proven to be a great way to get college kids on a budget to participate in the fundraising efforts. On my end at least, I can rest easy knowing that the $10 I spent and will definitely not win back will be going to support a friend supporting a good cause.


giphy15Internet Embarrassment

Needless to say, it’s entertaining to watch your friends make fools of themselves. While there are ample opportunities to do it without profit, if you can do so in a way that makes money, you’d really have a business. As I read in this interesting article about different ways that people have raised money, one man offered to sing and/or dance to any song for a $10 donation and would then post the videos his YouTube channel. Because of his less-than-professional singing abilities, the videos were funny to his friends and turned into a great way to raise money for his cause. One of the best things about this tactic is the potential for virality and attention growth. As @mariaknoerr recently wrote about in the context of the Ice Bucket Challenge and our most recent lecture, giving people the opportunity to interact and get involved with a cause directly encourages them to participate and donate.


Parties of Pretty Much Any Kind

One of the most popular fundraising techniques I’ve seen is hosting a party. I’ve seen lots of friends post about parties in which the drinks are marked up and the proceeds go to their charity, which in and of itself is a great way to incentivize people. While searching online, however, I also came across some other creative ideas that I thought could be fun to incorporate in the fundraising efforts:

  • Red cup party — Host a party and have participants buy red Solo cups at the door, at a wildly inflated price to be donated to your cause.
  • Paddle race —Host a standup paddleboard contest and let beach bystanders place bets on the winners.
  • World record attempt party — Give guests a list of “highly attainable world records” they can attempt to break at your event.
  • Beer run — Like a pub-crawl, but with more urgency. Participants stop at bars along the route who’ve hopefully agreed to donate their proceeds for a good cause.

These are all just silly ideas that stood out to me as fun and unique. While you can have a very successful fundraising party without any campy themes or gimmicks, I know that I would definitely be motivated by some of these things.


People have become very creative, and thanks to the Internet and friends of mine, I’ve been able to see some of the exciting ways people can do good work. I’m glad that there are so many outlets to raise awareness, involvement, and support for some of the great causes out there. Until I muster up the will power and athleticism to run my own marathon, I’m proud to support others racing for a cause, especially if I get to have fun while doing so!


  1. katherinekorol · ·

    Great post! I like learning about the creative ways that people are raising money, because I think it’s a lot better than just straight up asking like you mentioned. Whether we like it or not, people like to get things in return for giving you money. A trend I’ve seen lately is people asking for donations through their Snapchat or Instagram stories – something along the lines of “how much can I Venmo request you” followed by a poll with two dollar amounts, usually from $2 to $5. I am not a huge fan of this, because it seems kind of lazy to me but I always feel bad when I click past it.
    Being able to interact with a cause seems like a much better idea for me, because then rather than just passively donating, people can actually learn something about it or even get involved. Yeah, money is great for helping a cause, but spreading awareness is something intangible that I think matters much more.

  2. mpduplesmba · ·

    I have never thought to use a March Madness bracket pool as a way to raise money for charity, good idea! I organized a bracket pool this year, so maybe next year I’ll try implementing this idea where a portion of the prize pool goes to a charity we vote on.
    Another method: One of the coaches at my gym will be running the marathon and during the last week of 2017 he posted his donation page to the gym’s Facebook page announcing that for every $1 raised during that week he would do 1 burpee. He raised $770 that week, so at some point after the marathon we will all get to watch him suffer through 770 burpees in a row via Facebook Live. To your point, he definitely found a successful way to incentive the gym members to donate instead of simply asking for money.

  3. profgarbusm · ·

    I think it’s great the way you discussed how successful a charitable event was when the fundraising was built into a part of the charity (so people entering brackets could still win money) vs. direct fundraising for a cause. I do think that people tend to be more willing to participate in such events, and that as you say this creates a larger chance for more income based on the quantity of people participating. One of my personal favorite fundraising efforts has been the use of live-streams in which users act out certain requests real-time on stream in return for a donation. I do hope more businesses take this kind of charitable approach, thereby building the charity into their business model rather than simply schlepping out cash for a good cause.

  4. roarkword · ·

    I like the motivating curiosity behind this post! I feel like social media and digital technology are allowing for money to be raised very quickly for both meaningful and ridiculously frivolous causes. This post reminded me about the presentation about GoFundMe and Kickstarter which revealed people’s penchant for donating to downright silly causes versus genuinely decent ones. These efforts that you described in the post seem like they are using the willingness of people to contribute to good natured fun (as they do with the GoFundMe pages) but also making these contributions meaningful by tying them to a noble charitable cause. I agree with @profgarbusm that keeping built in incentives for the participants in events like the bracket challenge is crucial to keeping people invested rather than solely direct fundraising for a cause.

  5. Keenan Neff · ·

    I think that the idea of having incentives built in to the donations is a great way to keep people interested in the cause. A couple of my friends had to raise money for a local summer camp program, and they decided to create a set of different milestones, and at each milestone they would do some sort of task. For example, one of my friends had $100, $250, and $500 milestones. At the $100, he said he would paint the camp’s logo all over his face and wear it to class one day. If he raised $300, he said that he was going to eat 45 McDonald’s chicken McNuggets in one sitting, which is very very difficult. Finally, if he raised $500, he said that he would spend 24 hours in the library on a weekend. Since a lot of his friends wanted to see him spend 24 hours in the library by himself, the donations started pouring in. He reached his goal in a few days, and it was pretty amazing because without these incentives it would have taken him a lot longer to reach his goals.
    On another note, one of my friends is also running the marathon this year. He decided to make Marathon Monday t-shirts with a Arizona Iced Tea theme. All of the profits from the sales are going to support his charity. These are just a few ways that people are using incentives to reach a donation goal. It will be cool to see what creative ideas people have in the future.

  6. Nice post. Could have been a bit more focused on the digital aspects, though.

  7. tuckercharette · ·

    Paige I think that your onto something here but I was wondering how much you thought the emerging technologies were affecting these charitable opportunities. Do you think that the Snapchat stories that @katherinekorol mentioned with polls are the best incentive to donate? Do you think that online social media allows for mass distribution of a message but a somewhat impersonal one? What ever happened to the good ole telephone call to ask for donations? Do you think technology has made donating easy but impersonal, or effective at targeted audiences of mass numbers?

  8. bc_eagle1 · ·

    I am a runner person so you got me to read. I know my friend has been a bartender, made burritos at chipotle, and I have shared her status on linked in offering those that donate over $200 a call with me to discuss their most pressing business issue. Whatever it takes being creative and fun is king. We are all fighting for attention. I rarely donate to boring unless they are a good friend.

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