Run for a Cause

Nonprofit organizations continue to serve their mission and participants’ wellness through endurance event team building.

By Diana Price

Peer-to-peer fundraising through endurance ath­letic events is booming. The model is a win-win for nonprofit organiza­tions facing an increasingly com­petitive fundraising climate and for event participants eager to support their favorite causes while accom­plishing significant fitness goals.

The concept works like this: Nonprofit organizations provide athletic coaching, training plans, and ongoing emotional support to participants who join the organi­zation’s “team” for an endurance athletic event (marathon, triathlon, or century bike ride, for example). The participants, in turn, agree to raise a specific number of dollars for the organization through personal appeals to friends, family, and col­leagues. Often participants have a personal connection to the cause that the nonprofit supports, lending passion to their fundraising appeals and boosting their motivation to carry through with the training required to complete the event. Successfully completing an endur­ance event can be reward enough for many, but adding the satisfaction of knowing you have raised funds for a cause close to your heart can make the personal victory all that much sweeter.

Craig Comins, national director of Team Challenge, the endurance training and fundraising program of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), says that statistics gathered about Team Challenge par­ticipants reflect that personal con­nection is a draw for many: “90 per­cent of our participants have a con­nection to Crohn’s disease or colitis, and 30 percent are actually patients living with these conditions.”

Comins says that as they work toward their fitness and fundrais­ing goals, patients, specifically, see physical and emotional benefit: “Patients say the training helps their body cope with their disease and also helps boost confidence and ongo­ing strength to manage the day-in, day-out issues that stem from the disease.” In addition, the compan­ionship and connection available through the relationships formed on the team foster a supportive envi­ronment, which can function as a support group for those coping with Crohn’s and colitis.

The personal benefit to participants is matched by significant financial reward for CCFA, funding program­ming and research. Comins says that since Team Challenge was founded in 2007, the organization “has raised over $58 million through the partici­pation of almost 12,000 individuals.” Funds raised have had “a tremendous impact on CCFA’s research efforts,” Comins says, “helping quadruple the organization’s research funding.” But, he stresses, just as important as the funds raised has been the opportunity to educate the public about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two types of inflammatory bowel disease affecting approximately 1.4 million Americans.

For organizations offering team endurance events, the fundrais­ing model provides an opportunity to support their mission and raise awareness while offering partici­pants something equally valuable: physical and emotional rewards.