5 things I learned by organizing a charity run (and why you should do it too)

Silvia Andreoletti, ESF

There is an unavoidable conundrum that befalls anyone who wishes to do something for charity during these pandemic times. As the news makes us painfully aware, people are struggling now more than ever thanks to covid-19 and its related economic recession, so any volunteering or fundraising effort is invaluable – volunteering and fundraising that are, of course, extremely limited and in some cases impossible because of said pandemic, which makes the strain on charities even worse.

This was precisely the trouble the Charity Committee was facing in September. We were a new committee, only having been established this year, and were at a loss for things to organize to benefit our community or people in need, without putting our members and other people at risk. This problem was of course one faced by all other committees, who have now found a variety of creative ways to solve this problem – but this didn’t make the situation any easier for us. A search for online volunteering opportunities had proved fruitless, and traditional fundraising ideas like parties or concerts were also out of the question. This is when we had the idea of organizing a sponsored run, where money would be pledged by donors that students would have to find for each round of a football pitch the student ran, and during one of the sports lessons the run would be held, and the money later collected based on how many rounds the student had run.

We took the idea from a similar event that had happened years before, picked a charity we wanted the money to go to together with the committee– and then we got to work organizing it. A charity run is the perfect idea for a fundraiser in pandemic times: it can be done outdoors and while maintaining social distancing, doesn’t need large gatherings of people, and is still a fun and engaging way for students to learn about important issues and charity organization, while also collecting money for a good cause. Now that the Charity Run at our school has been a success, here are 5 things I learned from it, and that anyone thinking of planning something like it should know.

1.The plan doesn’t need to be perfect at first

The idea for the Charity Run came from a conversation between me (Charity Committee vice-director), the committee’s director and some other members of the Pupils’ Committee while complaining that there was nothing we could organize because of the pandemic. From the moment we had the idea, it only took a couple of emails and approval from the administration, and the run was in motion. We didn’t have much figured out at the beginning, and made up much of it as we went along, but it worked very well nonetheless. If we had waited for every tiny detail to be figured out before we started doing things, we might never had held the run. The only thing I wish we had thought about more is perhaps the financial side of things – more on that later.

2. Speaking in public is scary – but not as much as you would think

There is a special kind of terror you have never felt until you are speaking in front of 30 wide-eyed 11-year-olds you are sure will mercilessly tease you as soon as you turn your back – but for the most part, and probably for most people not as awkward as me, the publicity side of the whole thing is really much simpler and – dare I say it – more fun, than you would expect. We publicized the run through Instagram posts and by going from class to class to explain how it worked, and also took the opportunity to raise awareness about the charity we had picked and its cause.

3. Use all the help you can get

If you are planning an event in benefit of a particular charity, you usually have to write to an organization representative to ask for permission and alert them of the donation that they will be receiving. We were lucky enough to find a charity representative who was incredibly helpful and supported our idea immediately – somehow even understanding my emails in painfully atrocious German – and without that support, we would have had a much harder time with the whole thing. The Sports Committee also contacted the sports teachers, whose help was also invaluable, and the administration’s support was also crucial. In short, don’t be afraid to ask for help: you’ll need it, and most people are incredibly kind and helpful, so it’s not so scary anyway.

4. Be very careful with financials

We had at last gotten the run approved, advertised it, held it, and collected and the counted the money: we thought we were near the finish line, but little did we know that the most difficult stretch still lay before us. We collected much more money than we had expected from the run, which was great in almost all aspects, but brought to us the unavoidable issue: how do we donate the money to the charity, or even get it into a bank account, without seeming like we were running an underage drug ring (as most people would rightfully suspect when a group of teenagers walks into a bank looking to deposit several thousands of euros in small bills in a newly created account)? Our Pupils’ Committee does not have its own bank account, and creating one is much harder than we expected. We asked for help from the Parents’ Association, whose support was invaluable, but even through them, we had to provide proof to send to the bank, the school, and the Parents’ Association itself, as well as giving students who had donated directly to the charity a certificate, and much more. We were entirely unprepared for this complexity, and it is safe to say without the help of the PA and the administration we would not have managed at all. If I could tell myself, or anyone organizing a charity run, one thing, it would really be to consider the financial side much more carefully than we did, and have a good plan in place for where to keep the money and how to donate it before you collect it – or you’ll regret it later!

5. Teamwork is key

Lastly, organizing the charity run made me appreciate not only the helpfulness of adults around me, but also how crucial – and rewarding – it is to work together as a team with my co-director of the Charity Committee and the heads and members of the other committees to make the event happen. The work is simply too much to be done by a single person, and working together to organize and put in motion the event was one of the best parts of the experience.

So, now you know how we at the ESF Charity Committee organized a sponsored Charity Run, relatively problem-free, and have fun doing it. If you also want to organize something similar in your school, or even just with your friend group, don’t be afraid to get started – it’s a valuable experience and helps people in need while educating students at the same time.

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