It’s that time of year again … the time to start thinking about goals to accomplish in the new year: signing up for that bucket-list race, establishing a new PB, crossing a finish line for the first time, becoming a qualifier, or simply setting a mileage record for the year. But have you considered adding “running for a charity” to your list of goals?

If you haven’t run for a charity before, the experience can be very rewarding and surprisingly beneficial towards fulfilling all those personal goals listed above. It’s an active way to donate your time to a worthy cause. It can motivate you to train even harder for that goal race or time you swear you’ll nail down this year. Plus, it’s accessible to all levels and types of runners.

“Oftentimes, charity running programs offer their runners training plans, facilitate group runs and workout classes, and provide nutrition and recovery seminars,” says Grace Weaver, a donor relations manager for nonprofit Girls on the Run. “Not only will these opportunities help you be physically ready for your big race, but they will also allow you to connect with an amazing network of like-minded individuals as you support a cause you all have in common.”

Besides the personal merits of charity running, Weaver also emphasizes how charity runners are an important necessity to the success of any charity program. “They essentially act as ambassadors of the charity by generating awareness of the charity and growing its network of supporters and donors. For example, many times donors give to a charity runner’s fundraiser because they have a connection to the charity runner—not because they have a connection to the charity itself. However, after a fundraiser is over and the charity is able to steward the donor and educate them more on their mission and work, these donors come back to give again—showing they are now supporters of the charity itself!”

Getting Started

But choosing the right charity, knowing how to get involved, and hitting fundraising goals can seem overwhelming at first. Here are tips and advice from the experts on how to get started and what to expect when you run down the path of giving back.

1. Pick a charity you can really get behind.

These days there are hundreds of charities that organize running programs and/or races. And, it can be difficult to choose a single one to support. Weaver’s advice: Identify a cause you are passionate about or have a personal connection to, then find a charity that makes a true difference in that field. “People will be more compelled to donate and support your fundraiser when you can authentically speak from your heart about why you believe in and are invested in a particular cause.”

2. Find out ways to contribute.

Running a race for charity may be the most common way to support the organization you love. But many organizations also offer other options for contributing such as becoming a run coach, volunteering at races or related events and hosting community fundraisers. Find out what’s doable for your schedule and level of commitment. 

3. Recruit a buddy.

Who said you had to do this on your own? Getting a friend to go on training runs with you or help host a fundraising event can make the charity running journey more fun and less daunting. Bonus if you can get them to join the charity program with you and hold each other accountable for reaching fundraising goals!

4. Set small, achievable milestones.

Break down the total amount you want to raise into weekly or monthly goals rather than giving it a long-term deadline. For example, raise a tenth of the total amount in a week. This will ensure you’re on track or even exceeding the total fundraising amount you hope to raise. 

READ MORE: How to Make 2018 Your Best Running Year Yet

5. Get the word out.

Asking people for money can be awkward, but there are subtle and effective ways of rallying your friends, family and coworkers to make it rain. Weaver suggests starting with these three simple calls to action: 1. Send a personal email to your family and friends. “Include a personal story about why you are passionate about supporting the charity, what their donation will directly support, and a direct link to the fundraising page.” 2. Leverage the power of social media. “Post the fundraising link to a personal Facebook page or Instagram account is a great way to attract donations—and generate awareness.” 3. Add a link to the fundraising page to your email signature. “You might be surprised by the number of people who ask you more about it or decide to make a donation because of it.” 

6. Throw a party.

If you’re the social butterfly who enjoys getting people together, then invite friends and family to a donation dinner party. Take some time during the party to introduce the charity and the work it does. Make it fun by incorporating raffle prizes or games, or keep it simple by asking each guest to give a minimum donation amount. 

7. Don’t forget about your employer.

“Many companies have matching gift programs or have funds to support employee fundraising efforts for nonprofit organizations,” says Weaver. Time to ask your employer if they can turn $500 into $1,000!

8. It’s all about community and remembering to have fun.

“Fundraising for a cause you are passionate about should be rewarding, not stressful,” says Katy Sherratt, the chief executive officer at Back on My Feet. She suggests rather than repeating the same request for money with every email, tweet or Facebook post, get creative with your engagement. “Post a mix of training and fundraising updates, share images of volunteering with the organization or share stories of individuals that your funds raised will support.”

National Running Charity Programs

To get you started, here’s a list of some of the most popular running charity programs in the U.S. Find a local chapter or event in your area and begin FUNd-racing!

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Team Challenge

Sign up for a Team Challenge 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or triathlon event, in which proceeds go toward the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to help find a cure for the 1.6 million Americans living with IBD.

READ MORE: Running With Ulcerative Colitis

Every Mother Counts

This organization raises money through running in order to provide access to critical maternal healthcare for women around the world. Fundraising runners can run in an official charity partner race, an Every Mother Counts Ambassador Race or any other race of their choosing.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training

The funds raised by Team in Training help support cutting edge cancer research projects and medicine. Choose to race in one of TNT’s many endurance events, or join their Train 2 Cure program to prepare for a race with an experienced coach and have access to their exclusive training app.

Girls on the Run

This nonprofit works to empower young girls in third to eighth grades by using running and other physical activities to teach them life skills and promote holistic health outcomes. To get involved become a volunteer coach or fundraise as a SoleMate charity runner.

Back on My Feet

Combat homelessness in your community by supporting Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that helps the homeless find jobs and housing and become self-reliant through the power of running. Become a volunteer at weekly runs or race with BoMF members to raise funds for the organization.

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

The Race for the Cure 5K series is the world’s largest and most successful fundraising and education event for breast cancer. Show your support by running in one out of 140 races throughout the nation.

Challenged Athletes Foundation

Established in 1994, this foundation works to provide athletic opportunities and lifestyles for those with physical challenges. Participate in a CAF endurance event, race to raise funds, or help volunteer at one of CAF’s various sport clinics for challenged athletes of all ages and abilities.

 American Lung Association Fight For Air Climb

The Fight for Air Climb is one of the American Lung Association’s signature fundraising events hosted in prominent skyscrapers across the nation. The challenge requires participants to walk, run or race up hundreds of steps, and the funds raised go toward helping Americans impacted by asthma, COPD, lung cancer and other lung diseases.

St. Jude Hero

Become a St. Jude Hero, and raise funds for the St. Jude Children Research Hospital while training for a goal race. You’ll have access to an online training program, receive a St. Jude racing singlet, and even get access into the most exclusive races in the U.S. (think Boston or NYC Marathon!) depending on your level of fundraising commitment.

READ MORE: 10 Ways Running Will Change Your Life