If you take a place in a marathon and don’t raise what you pledge, then you should pay

Marathon fundraising is a nightmare. I’d
rather run one than fundraise through one again after my experiences this year. 

While an exceptional minority raise
thousands of pounds to feed orphans, I’ve found that the majority take the few
places we have and don’t raise enough money to cover costs never mind feeding
orphans – something I’m sure their donors wouldn’t be happy about.  

And some others haven’t even bothered to run it.

What they fail to understand is that it’s a
reciprocal partnership. I spend hours calling runners to show appreciation
for their support and help them fundraise. I’ve sent them running vests
which have never been worn and hired post race reception areas which stood
empty after runners stayed at home. 

I struggled to even get places, eventually
securing one through a marketing package by advertising Msizi Africa to ‘own
place’ runners on the London Marathon website.  Dozens of people
applied. We gave it to someone who pledged £2,500 – but raised £801. Thankfully
the person was apologetic and set up a direct debit to pay this pledge off. 

I was sure this wasn’t unique to our
charity and the London Marathon would help charities protect themselves, so I
contacted the organisation and suggested it put a downloadable agreement on its
website whereby the runner, regardless of what charity they’re running for, is
contractually obliged to make up the minimum sponsorship on their credit card
if they fail to fundraise enough.

Its response was I shouldn’t depend on the
London Marathon to raise funds. I don’t, and I’m sure other charities don’t
either, but I felt it dismissed my concerns and I realised I was on my own.

Places for the inaugural Brighton Marathon
in 2010 were easy to secure and organisers were helpful. Four runners
raised £7,000 so we happily bought more for 2011. Three were taken by a
senior banking figure, the founder of a luxury food company and a
celebrity. They told us they’d reach and smash our target – then ignored
months of emails and calls from us. 

The former two told us five days before the
race they weren’t running; we never heard from the celebrity. We lost an
immeasurable amount of money as they could have raised thousands.

I wonder what the true loss is for
charities nationwide. If you take a place and don’t raise what you pledge, you
should pay. I would like to see race organisers present this to potential
runners as their policy – if it’s left up to each charity to implement their
own protective measures, runners will simply refuse to sign it and run for a
charity without such an agreement.

Charities shouldn’t have to protect
themselves against so-called fundraisers – we’re busy enough caring for our

Lucy Caslon, founder and director of Msizi
Africa, a charity feeding orphans in Southern Africa