Running for a Cause

JustGiving president weighs in on the state of participant fundraising in endurance, and how it can become a more personalized, positive experience

Running for a cause continues to be an important motivator for the running industry. From participant acquisition, to driving community engagement, improving runners’ experience and building positive brand perception, charity programs are a vital part of the endurance space.

One aspect of fundraising that has undergone a dramatic transformation of late is the power of social media to drive crowdfunding campaigns. An expert in the space is Jerry Needel, President & GM, Blackbaud Consumer Solutions, which acquired JustGIving last year. JustGiving is the top online fundraising platform in the world.

Needel and his team focus on helping charities better acquire and engage donors. His passion for personal fundraising started with his own campaign, which raised over $500,000 from 12,000 donors in under two weeks with a total out of pocket investment of only $35.

What does your event need to know about fundraising and participant activation right now? Read on to find out:

Tell us a little bit about JustGiving – and your current role in the endurance space?

Needel: JustGiving is the world’s most trusted platform for online giving. We are enormously proud to have helped people in 164 countries raise over $5 billion for good causes since we were founded in 2000. We’re a company that cares and we love what we do. Helping to grow the world of giving is why we get out of bed in the morning. We use our 18 years of online giving experience to empower our amazing community, offering tailored support, knowledge and insight. With over 24 million users and 26,000 charities who recommend us, JustGiving is one of the UK’s most trusted and recognized brands.

Tell us about JustGiving’s recent success at the London marathon? How many runners used JustGiving to fundraise resource and how much was raised for charity?

Needel: As the biggest fundraising event in the world, the London marathon is an exciting time for us here at JustGiving. London marathon runners on JustGiving raised an incredible $33.1M this year, we had 160,000 visitors and received 138,000 donations to charities on race weekend alone. One of the things that makes the London marathon so special is the camaraderie. The way the runners encourage and support each other (quite literally!) every step of the way is incredible. In January we set up Running for Good, an online space where runners could get advice from professional running coaches. It’s turned into an incredible community of runners, all offering each other advice and encouragement, not just for the London marathon, but for lots of different races. We discovered that runners really want to talk to each other when they’re training – it’s reassuring to hear from the people who are going through the same thing – we even saw members meeting up on race day!

How do you see that changing or expanding in the future?

Needel: In late 2017, we joined forces with Blackbaud, the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. Blackbaud solution users' raise, invest, manage, and award more than $100 Billion in global giving every year, supporting thousands of charities and events of all sizes around the world including some of the largest endurance, run and walk events on the planet and 8 of the 10 largest Peer to peer fundraising run, walk and ride events.

It’s an exciting time for us at JustGiving. We’re creating the next generation of tools to help people and causes raise more money than they ever thought possible. Teaming up with Blackbaud is an exciting opportunity and will help us to expand our offers to U.S. endurance events, U.S. charities and beyond.

Share your thoughts on the current trends in charity fundraising as they relate to the endurance space?

Needel: Individuals are looking for unique experiences, and expect personalized attention. But charity programs often come as either an after-thought for event organizers, or a program they leave in the hands of their charity partners who are often strapped for time and resources. Charity programs in the endurance space are fragmented, and the participant’s experience often varies greatly depending on the level of sophistication of the charity leading the effort. Streamlining your charity program using Blackbaud solutions, including JustGiving, creates an integrated, seamless experience for every party involved – event organizers, charities, fundraisers and their donors.

When it comes to personalization, we use data science to optimize every step of the fundraising journey for the individual. The same way athletes need coaching, training and support, fundraisers (and often times charities) do too. Backed by our experience and sophisticated data science team – we coach fundraisers to raise more and make more impact, creating a personalized experience resulting in more impactful outcomes that users and charities love.

And, people want to bring fitness, fundraising and philanthropy together. Charity has long been a catalyst for growing endurance events. But globally, traditional run, walk, and ride event participation in general is slowing. And, traditional events are time and resource heavy. Driven by advancements in digital, social media, mobile, and wearable tech, virtual events bring fitness, fundraising, and communities together – and provide participants with a unique experience on their own time, in their own neighborhoods. By removing all physical barriers and making things virtual, race organizers can create unparalleled engagement while expanding reach - driving more participation and increasing funds raised for charity. We expect virtual events to continue to grow and organizers of running events would be missing an opportunity to not explore adding a virtual component to their charity program.

How can race organizers or charity program managers learn more about raising funds through your platform?

Needel: We simply love talking to new partners – be they race organizers, event managers, charity program managers, or charities directly. Drop us a line and we’ll be in touch.