Despite Challenges, Endurance Fundraising Has Staying Power for Charities

Events like the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon provide fundraising opportunities for nonprofits looking to expand their peer-to-peer options. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images for Rock’n’Roll Marathon)

Endurance fundraising — like most traditional forms of peer-to-peer fundraising — is in the midst of a major transition.

A number of nonprofit-led endurance campaigns have seen declines in participation and dollars raised in recent years, the result of a number of factors, including the explosion of do-it-yourself fundraising and the decline in popularity in running among millennials.

But organizers of endurance events such as marathons and triathlons say that there is still plenty of room for nonprofits and their supporters to get involved in their races — and raise significant money in the process.

For instance, Ironman — which stages its namesake Ironman Triathlon events, along with the Rock N’ Roll Marathon series and a number of other endurance events annually — says it is stepping up efforts to engage charity-minded athletes to take part in its events.

Tina James, Ironman’s manager of charity partnerships, says the organization has invested heavily in improving its event experience and expanding into new event types with the goal of providing athletes with diverse opportunities to challenge themselves and give back. Athletes can now take part in an array of events — 10k runs, half and full marathons, mountain biking challenges, and various levels of triathlon events — raising money along the way as they try new types of challenges.

Nonprofits typically get involved with Ironman and its events in one of two ways, James says.

Some have endurance programs of their own and partner with Ironman to give their supporters an opportunity to participate in a marathon or triathlon.

Other efforts are led by the athletes themselves. Some triathletes, for instance, decide they want to use their participation in Ironman as an opportunity to raise money for a charity they care about.

And as Ironman moves forward, James says the organization is actively recruiting nonprofits to get involved.

“We see moving into 2019 with the goal of being more visible and reaching out to charities that might want something different,” James says. “If you’re looking to diversify your peer-to-peer program and provide fun endurance experiences to your supporters, consider taking part in our program.” 

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