CASA Superhero Run Fundraising via Sheer Enthusiasm

Jun 27 2012

By Steven Olender (also formerly known as Underdog)

Having recently graduated from college, I don’t have a bounty of large donors looking to throw three- and four-digit donations my way. What I do have is unbridled enthusiasm and a swath of friends who are willing to scrounge up five, ten or twenty dollars if I can convince them it’s worthwhile. It was by unleashing this enthusiasm that I raised more than $1700 in student-sized donation in three weeks last year.

I’d moved to Austin about a week before I registered and most of my friends lived in New York, so getting them to care enough about Austin children was hard. I had to draw on the three greatest tools in my arsenal: enthusiasm, creativity and dogged persistence. I’ve run charity races before, and it’s always a struggle to get people to donate. The CASA Superhero Run is unique for one important reason. You run it as a superhero.

Steven Olender running in his Underdog costume for the 2011 CASA Superhero Run
Steven Olender running in his Underdog costume for the 2011 CASA Superhero Run  

Here are my steps for effective superhero fundraising.

1. Know your target audience.

I came to one important realization as I fundraised.

“My friends kind of hate me.”

  • Tell my friends that I’m running a charity race: they ignore me.
  • Tell them I’m running in a costume most people would find humiliating: they’re interested.
  • Tell them the papier-mâché head I’m running in will cut off 100% of my peripheral vision, make it difficult to breathe and simultaneously cut and bruise my face as I run in Texas heat in September: they’re pulling out their wallets.

Perhaps your friends appreciate that you’re involved in charity. Show them how committed you are to the incredible work CASA does. If your friends are impressed that you’ll be running five kilometers, keep them updated on your training progress. Whatever it is that your target audience is enthusiastic about, be enthusiastic with them.

2. Build a costume.

I cannot stress this enough. The more elaborate, the better. Costumes are the thing that sets the CASA Superhero Run apart. People think about them and remember them and, most importantly, they’re fun. Fun for your donors means more donations. It also makes it absolutely acceptable for you to bring up your fundraising in every single conversation you have for the next two months.

3. Don’t let anyone go more than 48 hours without thinking of your race.

Steven Olender building his Underdog costume for the 2011 CASA Superhero Run

Facebook is an amazing tool for this. Friends I wouldn’t have specifically targeted donated to my race after reading about it on Facebook.  I got the majority of my donations from documenting my costume building. People love stories and pictures, so every other day I had a picture of myself wearing the wire frame for my mask or a story of my roommate sawing the brim off a helmet for me in our living room. And if people share your stories, that’s even better. You might end up with a donation from a stranger on a different continent (true story!).

4. The Three E’s: Enthusiasm, Enthusiasm and Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm was my key to fundraising. If you’re having fun and are excited and passionate, people will join you. There are people who will be annoyed by your constant excitement and posting, but they probably wouldn’t have donated anyway and, besides, why are you friends with someone who gets annoyed by the niftiest charity event in the universe?

That’s my very simple advice. Make a costume, have fun and wield your crazed enthusiasm as a weapon of mass fundraising.

I look forward to seeing you at the race. That is, of course, unless you are standing in my periphery.


Register for the 2012 CASA Superhero Run and get your own fundraising page to support CASA, or just become a Super-Fundraiser, your choice. You can also check out Steven's 2012 fundraising page where he's set an impressive goal of raising $2,500 for CASA this year. Thank you for your support!