You signed up for a race through a charity entry—congratulations! Your athletic journey will be even more rewarding knowing that it will also benefit others in a truly meaningful way. In just two years, Team Save the Children, the official charity partner of Life Time Tri for the 2017 race season, has raised over a million dollars to support initiatives that protect and improve the health, education and safety of kids around the world. is just one example of how sport—triathlon, specifically—can provide a powerful fundraising platform that is as productive as it is gratifying.
While the commitment to raise funds for charity may seem initially daunting or overwhelming, any financial goal can be easily met with a few simple strategies from someone who’s been in your shoes—dozens of times. Kyrsten Sinema, a U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona and passionate multisport athlete, has devoted countless hours to the fundraising craft (and it is, in fact, a craft) in both the political and non-profit realms. Chair of Women For Tri’s fundraising committee, she also teaches a graduate school class at Arizona State University focusing on fundraising for non-profits.
Here, Sinema shares her top tips for successful—and painless—fundraising.
Keep it personal. While a generic letter writing campaign sounds efficient, it’s not going to yield a big return. Nor will asking people for money through Facebook chat or text. “Fundraising works when it’s personal,” says Sinema. “There is nothing more powerful than picking up the phone and calling someone to ask them for money.”
Embrace the ask. A lot of us are uncomfortable asking others for money. But why? “Remember the emotions you felt when you were donating to a charity or a person supporting a charity they care about,” advises Sinema. “The truth is, when someone calls you for money, you don’t feel uncomfortable. More likely, you feel touched, honored and impressed. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.” Keep this in mind every time you pick up the phone to make a financial ask.
Schedule time for fundraising. Sinema will block off an hour or two on her schedule to sit and make fundraising phone calls. “If you don’t block off time on your calendar, you likely won’t get to it,” she says. It will also help you avoid waiting until the last minute to gather your minimum commitment. Avoid the dreaded scramble mode!
Start with the low-hanging fruit. “Nothing helps you grow success like early success,” says Sinema. Get momentum and confidence out of the gate by first asking your close friends, family and training buddies for support. They are going to happily give because they care about you and your success.
Use Facebook—correctly. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can raise $25,000-$30,000 through Facebook posts, says Sinema. Instead of hammering your friends with a constant barrage of appeals and getting a $10 donation here and there, use Facebook to refresh your memory about people in your network that could be potential donors. And then call them. “This is the second group of people you want to approach—people who share what we in politics call an ‘ideological belief,” explains Sinema. “They are going to give because they share your passion for the sport or the charity.”
Ask big (and do your research). Instead of asking everyone for the same $50 donation—or simply saying “give what you can,”—take the time to understand each person’s unique ability to give. “Figure out the individual’s charitable giving history or try to understand what their means are and ask specifically for what you think they can give,” suggests Sinema. “If you make an ask that’s appropriate, they will give it.”
Use this genius fundraising strategy. When Sinema and her friends were fundraising around the 2014 Boston Marathon, one of the things she did (eight different times!) was approach a local restaurant and ask the owner if he/she would donate a portion of the proceeds for an entire day to support her effort (for example, 25 percent of sales from all day Friday). She posted flyers at the restaurant and used her social media network to invite people to eat at that restaurant on the designated day, explaining that a percentage of proceeds would benefit charity. “That yields me about $500 each time, and it takes no work,” says Sinema. The restaurants like it because they’re getting new exposure (and they write the check directly to the charity so it’s a tax-deductible contribution), and all you have to do is eat and drink with your friends.