How a community fundraising run grew from 200 runners to more than 1,000 participants

Johnny’s Jog for Charity is a St Patrick’s Day themed 5k event in West Hartford, Connecticut that raises money for local children’s nonprofits. The run celebrates Johnny’s brief but impactful life by bringing the community together for a good cause each year.

Over the past nine years, the event has grown from a small 200 person race to a 1,000 participant event that fundraises more than $80,000 for local nonprofits. Laura Moran, Johnny’s mother and race director, gave valuable advice to community-based fundraising races:

If you have a good cause, that’s the most important. And you have to sell that to people, and make them want to donate. Automation that saves us time, sponsor packages that give local businesses great marketing opportunities, and swag that our community wears year-round have also helped us grow our race.”

Here are Laura’s best tips for community fundraising races:

Donations and Fundraising: A good cause grows the race and donations.

  • Johnny’s Jog partners with 3 local charities that community members want to donate towards.
  • Anyone who donates or fundraises more than $500 gets a sign featuring their name and recognizing their achievement along the course. 
  • Everyone who signs up online gets a fundraising page automatically created, and the option to join or create a team to fundraise and/or participate with friends and family. Laura set this up on RunSignup by going to Donations >> Setup >> Basic Setup in the Race Dashboard and enabling fundraising settings.

Automation: As the event grows faster than the organization, automation that saves time is increasingly important.

  • Johnny’s Jog easily renews online registration on RunSignup to keep the same race website, URL, and registration & fundraising set up.
  • The Race CRM makes it simple to view a participant’s participation and fundraising history with the race, and to email targeted lists of past participants and fundraisers in an instant.
  • “RunSignup’s free Email Marketing platform is really helpful. I can go in, tweak an old email, and resend it to my current mailing list, which saves me a lot of time. It gets better each year – this year, it was so easy to add pictures to all of my emails.”

Sponsors: Provide a valuable marketing platform for local businesses in order to grow your race’s sponsorships.

  • In the early years of the race, Laura, her husband, and friends went door to door marketing sponsorship packages to local businesses. “It’s important to be proactive when you are just starting an event that doesn’t have recognition yet.”
  • Different sponsor packages with a wide range of prices ($100 up to $3,000) and marketing perks for sponsors, including featured sponsor logos on all email blasts. You can see the full list of sponsorship opportunities that Johnny’s Jog offers here.

  • Creative marketing perks for sponsors take advantage of Johnny’s Jog social media following. Top sponsors get posts that are shown to thousands of community members on Facebook and Instagram.

Swag: Johnny’s Jog logo and messaging promoted year-round.

  • Tying the race’s theme to its swag can promote sales of branded gear. Johnny’s Jog sells St. Patrick’s green t-shirts for $10 to participants when they sign up.

  • They also sell swag year round, specifically for kids who love the gear and logo. Items include trucker hats, socks, headbands, pom-pom hats, and sweatshirts. “When kids are at school, it’s the trendy thing to wear – that promotes our brand.”
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