Picking a Charity for the 2014 Chicago Marathon

Tomorrow, registration for the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon officially opens. As we’ve already discussed, marathon registration this year will look different than it has in year’s past, and if you are not a speedster and are not a legacy runner, your best way to guarantee your participation in this year’s Chicago Marathon is by signing up as a charity runner.

There are 187 charities as part of this year’s charity program. While you could easily pick one at random, register for that charity’s team, and find yourself with a bib for the Chicago Marathon, it’s probably wise to put some thought into who you’d like to run for. After all, if you’re getting into the marathon through a charity entry, you’re putting yourself in a position where you’ll need to do some serious fundraising. I’ve only been around the pick-a-charity-to-run-for block once, but since I imagine that I’m not the only one in that boat again this year, I figured I’d humbly offer up a few charity picking tips.


1. Find a cause important to you.
Without a doubt, the most important factor in picking a charity running team is your passion for that charity’s cause. If you obtain your entry to the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon through a charity, you are required to raise $1,000 for that charity. Most (probably all) charities will not give you your bib if you don’t meet the minimum fundraising requirement, and $1,000 is a significant amount of money. You’re going to be, literally or metaphorically, knocking on the doors of nearly everyone you know, asking them to contribute to your cause. If your cause is something you aren’t passionate about, creating your plea for donations is going to be a much greater challenge.

Note that the cause does not have to be something connected to you. You don’t have to know someone with a chronic or terminal illness, or have adopted an animal from a shelter, or whatever, to care about a charity’s cause. If the work those organizations do is important to you, for whatever reason, then by all means: join the team!

If, however, you can’t find a cause that lights the fire of passion in your heart of hearts…

2. Find a cause important to people you know.
While I doubt many people actively campaign against the work most charities do, not everyone necessarily gets on board with every charity’s cause to the point where they’re willing to donate money to that charity. This, of course, is also where your own passion for your cause comes in. If you care about and truly believe in something, chances are, if nothing else, you’ll be able to create a convincing argument for why your charity is important. That being said, though, if your social circle is primarily made up of puppy punchers and kitten kickers, maybe an animal-related charity isn’t your best bet (also, you should probably start looking for a new social circle, because those people sound terrible). HOWEVER, your own passion should always trump the passion of those you know. Don’t pick a charity just because it has a good, universal emotional appeal if that emotional appeal doesn’t speak to you as well.

If you aren’t incredibly passionate about a cause and neither are those you know, then it’s wise to…

3. Consider what the charity offers its team members.
If there isn’t one particular charity that speaks to your passions, nor is there a particular charity that speaks to the passions of those you know, then it’s worth looking at the perks of being a member of a particular team. Just about every team will offer you a shirt, but what do you want beyond that? Do you want free training? Discounted training? Training at all? Do you want to train with CARA or CES, or do you not have a preference? Do you want a charity that organizes social events for its runners? If these things are important to you, it’s absolutely worth keeping in mind when deciding who you’ll run for.

Running for a charity is a great way to put meaning into your marathon miles, but if you’re going to commit to raising $1,000 for an organization, it makes the most sense to put some thought into why that charity is the best match for you. I haven’t officially decided which charity I plan to run the 2014 Chicago Marathon for yet, but these are all things I’ll be keeping in mind as I make narrow down my options!

Have you run for charity before?
If you’re running the Chicago Marathon for charity this year, which team are you on?

10 thoughts on “Picking a Charity for the 2014 Chicago Marathon

  1. I’ve never run for a charity but I think I might like to one day! i could not agree more that it’s important to find one that speaks to you. Otherwise, how are you going to sound enthusiastic about it when you’re essentially asking people to pay you to run?

    • Exactly. It’s a nice way to get a guaranteed entry into a race, but I, at least, feel a lot more comfortable asking people for donations when I care about a cause than saying, “So, um, I really wanted to run this race and it’s the only way I could get in. Can I have a lot of your money plz?” Haha.

  2. i have actually never run a race for a charity, it is something I think I have wanted to do but the fundraising aspect totally intimidates me . i do agree though, finding a cause that you are passionate about can make all the difference.

    • Fundraising can certainly be intimidating (not gonna lie, I’m definitely intimidated to try to raise $1,000 for the marathon this year. That’s way more than I raised last year!), but in general, I think if you care about something (and people care about you!), you can make it happen. People are a lot more generous than you might expect!

  3. I did not realize there were so many charities! In the past I’ve ran for the Y-Me Organization because my sister had breast cancer. Boo, and look what happened to that organization. I’ve also ran for the American Cancer Society. This year I will enter my name in the lottery and hopefully get lucky and get selected.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s