My name is Derrick Shallcross and I am on the Steering Committee of EPIP Boston. In April, I ran the Boston Marathon as a member of the charity team for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). As someone who came in with a background in philanthropy, I found it to be a great learning experience to see fundraising from the other side of the equation.
The first question I faced was deciding which organization to run for. In the end, I chose an organization that I had a personal connection to rather one that I work with in my current position at Highland Street Foundation. When it came to fundraising, many of my fellow runners used social media to spread the word about their run and to attract donors. I took a more personal approach and I ended up raising a majority of my donations from a smaller groups of people. I sent personal letters which both explained why I was running and also tried to connect my run with something I knew would be personal to them as well.
Rather than focusing on the work of the MDA as a whole and as a national organization, I spoke directly about its program to provide free summer camp to children with muscular disease in the New England area. I think this focus helped donors to connect to where their donation would be going. Although I didn’t promise any outcomes-based reports at the end of my run, I did keep my larger donors up-to-date with my training and with how the race went afterwards.
I found the whole experience to be incredibly rewarding and also feel that it has brought new insight into my everyday work with nonprofits and fundraisers. I would suggest to any other funders considering participating in a charity team to approach this as both a personal and professional goal. It is not often we get an opportunity to do something that helps a great cause, is a great personal accomplishment, and informs our work as well.
Associate Director of Programs, Highland Street Foundation
EPIP Steering Committee member 2015-present