Have you ever wondered why people go out and sweat for a charity? They may like to move, no matter what, or they might be focused on the mission of the charity sponsoring the run or walk.
But, research by some respected folks has found that people are more likely to support a cause and to donate IF they suffer a bit.
Yep, it's called the "martyrdom effect." It's a real thing. And the martyrdom effect seems to be more potent when we suffer on behalf of a terrible problem, disease, or condition.
These days that suffering can take all kinds of forms. Like the IceBucketChallenge for ALS, or the PolarPlunge for the Special Olympics, or maybe just a 5k with your animal best friend for Strut Your Mutt supporting Best Friends Animal Society (hardly a case of martyrdom in my view, however).
Martyrdom aside, there are several other excellent reasons to participate in a charity athletic event:
- Socialization. People who regularly participate in charity athletic events become family. You'll run into the same people often at different events. And the t-shirts you sport from those athletic events are a natural draw for other people from the curious to the equally obsessed
- Motivation. When you commit to a charity athletic event, you'll likely want to train. That makes you more fit and motivated to keep moving in between events.
- Support a Cause. Don't underestimate the good feelings that come with doing good. Charities do make money from these events. And it's more fun than just donating online.
- Raise Awareness. Charitable athletic events get a lot of attention, raising the visibility of that cause — such a fun way to be an ambassador.
What are Charity Runs and Walks?
Can you believe that "thons" have only been around since the 1970s? The March of Dimes put together its first event in 1970. Since then, that successful event has been replicated by just about everyone. Now known as March for Babies, that event is still going strong too.
Walk/Run/Cycling events are both competitive and non-competitive races sponsored by many charities to raise funds and as a way to involve many more people than they might otherwise in their causes.
Participants usually pay a registration fee and collect pledges. In return, they get to enjoy a great walk/run that is organized for them, snacks, drinks, T-shirts, and other souvenirs.
Walks and runs can be enjoyable family activities or arrange for a bunch of friends to go along with you. Energetic participants can raise thousands of dollars for their favorite charities with the online tools most large runs/walks provide.
If you want to do more, charity walks and runs need lots of volunteers on the day of the run or walk. You might stuff information packets, take registrations, help set up the route, or distribute drinks during the event.
How to Get Involved in a Charity Walk or Run
Here are some of the top annual national "thons":
- Walk to End Alzheimer's
- Girls on the Run (building confidence and health in girls)
- Bike MS
- The American Cancer Society's Relay For Life
- Wounded Warrior Project Carry Forward 5K
- American Heart Association's Heart Walk
- Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- Walk Now for Autism Speaks
- Walk to Stop Diabetes
- AIDS LifeCycle
- St. Jude Heroes for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
- Buddy Walk for National Down Syndrome
- JDRF One Walk (Junior Diabetes Research Foundation)
- LIVESTRONG Challenge Fun Run (LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes)
Want Something Different? Try These
- MuckFest for the MS Society (mud!)
- IronMan Arizona for SmileTrain (multiple tortures!)
- Chicago PolarPlunge for Special Olympics (icy!)
- Krispy Cream Challenge for North Carolina Children's Hospital (donuts plus running)
- Cupid's Undie Run for Children’s Tumor Foundation (just what you're thinking)
Perhaps the best way to find a charitable walk/run is to check your local paper or its website. Dozens of local organizations run charitable walks/runs every weekend in your area. You can also try searching the web using "walk" or "run" plus the name of your state.
How to Make the Most of a Walkathon, Bikeathon, or Marathon for Charity
- Find a walk/run/ride for a cause you feel passionate about.
- Learn all about the event's expectations and requirements. Some events require participants to raise a specific amount of donations and pay a registration fee.
- Raise money with enthusiasm. Tell everyone you know about your participation and urge them to support you and the cause. Research has shown that people who use online social media to raise money for their causes bring in six times more money than those who don't use it!
- But, also be reasonable about how far you will walk/run/ride and about how much money you hope to raise. Set yourself up for success, not a failure.
- Check with and then ask your employer to match or otherwise support your cause.
Get moving now. Help a cause and get in shape at the same time.
If you are curious about the whole field of charity fundraising with athletic events, check out the Peer to Peer Professional Forum. It is the professional group for the organizers of charity athletic events. There is a report on the organization's site that lists the 30 top athletic event fundraising programs ranked by revenue.