How do you raise $180 per person and inspire participants?

Racery brings together virtual communities in one-month virtual races so supporters can fundraise and raise awareness for causes. This article highlights the importance of virtual communities and explores how Culinary Angels, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on providing meals to cancer patients, uses Racery to fundraise through a yearly Fun Run. The best way to fundraise with a virtual event is to create a meaningful virtual experience for your community and encourage people to share their fundraising links.

To fundraise or to engage? Virtual communities are older than virtual fundraisers.

Originating in the 1970s through bulletin board systems that facilitated digital message exchange and interest sharing among users, virtual communities’ early forms of online interaction gained momentum in the late ’80s to mid-’90s with forums, newsgroups, and eventually leading to modern-day social media platforms. The term ‘virtual community’ is often attributed to Gene Youngblood, who used it in 1984 to describe a live-streaming experience for restaurant-goers, wherein virtual participants could experience an art museum and interact with one another. Today, we participate daily in virtual communities and trust our virtual community—whether in our friend group chat, on a video streaming platform, on Facebook/Whatsapp groups, or in the [dying] Twitosphere.

The virtual community predates the online fundraiser—online sources point to a crowd-funding project by the rock band Marillion in 1997 as one of the earliest examples of an online fundraiser. If need predates necessity, then virtual communities are more impactful than virtual fundraisers when it comes to organizing a group around a cause, having emerged a decade before virtual fundraisers.

Since 2014, Racery has harnessed the power of virtual communities and virtual fundraisers by creating shared virtual exercise spaces for charities and companies with Street Views, activity likes/comments, and inclusive activities. Because virtual races are engaging, motivational, and social, this strategy amplifies organizations’ impact by uniting supporters across borders and within teams of family units or companies, creating a communal space for sharing.

You can start a GoFundMe right now or put a PayPal button on your website. But if you want to create an experience for your supporters (and have fun while doing so), a virtual race can upgrade the fundraising experience for your charity and its supporters.

A virtual community serves as a hub for charitable fundraising, idea-sharing, and social bonding.

When Natasha Bercy, a volunteer at Culinary Angels, came across Racery (a virtual race/fundraiser platform) in 2022, she wanted to connect the charity’s supporters. The idea of hosting a virtual fitness event that can cross borders became a reality after the click of a few buttons on Since success in 2022, the event has grown into a yearly fundraising event for Culinary Angels.

The Culinary Angels Fun Run is a challenge that brings together families and organizations in a community to encourage movement while raising money for Culinary Angels to better serve those facing cancer.

“Culinary Angels is a non-profit organization serving Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Danville California that provides healing, nutrient-rich meals to people going through a cancer challenge.”

I spoke with Alexandra Arsenlis, the associate director of Culinary Angels to learn more about what makes the Fun Run special and how the event has grown. She noted, “We love this event because it allows us to have a broader audience.” Sharing the event, she said, “was driven by people sharing with friends and family.” Sharing fundraising links, life updates, exercise experiences, photos, and connections with the cause, and supporting those who battle cancer, brought cancer supporters together inside and outside the tri-state area.

Donations sponsored racers in the event with messages like “Way to go, Karen!”, “Walk on 🥰,” and “Thanks for all you do, Chuck!” Since racers shared their fundraising messages with their community all over the world, the event was able to reach a broader community of supporters via each racer’s social network.

By branching out of the tri-state area and depending on small groups of committed supporters, the Fun Run has grown donations each year: by 290% from 2022 to 2023, and again by 120% in 2023 to $180 per participant, raising $8,539.

Why not host an in-person event?

“The Fun Run setup is super quick. Marketing started about a month before. The majority of our marketing and success was achieved in the week prior and the week of the event. We supported and promoted people during the week of the event by ‘liking’ and adding comments to each participant and donor.”

Alexandra, Culinary Angels

The Fun Run is the largest virtual-only fundraising event that the Culinary Angels run, allowing the charity, which operates in the tri-state area to engage a larger audience. Although they host other events, the Fun Run is a potent tool in their arsenal of events, allowing them to harness the power of their virtual community without a big investment.

Culinary Angels receives grants that help cover meal costs for cancer patients, but that doesn’t cover overhead. Additionally, investing in a real 5k can be risky due to liability, town ordinances, and geographical constraints. Alexandra noted that “While we have a small team, the proceeds from the Fun Run are a chunk of our annual budget.”

She talked about how the event transcended geographical constraints: “We love this event because it allows us to have a broader audience.” Instead of advertising to a local audience, sharing the race was “driven by people sharing with friends and family.” This made marketing easy, as Alexandra told me, “Marketing started about a month before. The majority of our marketing and success was achieved in the week prior to the event.”

To engage supporters during the event, Culinary Angels volunteers actively thanked donors via Racery for donations as donations came in supporting the cause. Community engagement played a significant role in the logging experience, with community members posting life and activity updates with their logs, and team members sharing tidbits in team chats.

How do you raise more money on Racery?

65% of donations in the Fun Run came from non-racer donations, via P2P share links on sites like Facebook (Racery takes zero percent on donations, so 100% of that money goes to the charity). Although donating on entry raises money, growing an event depends on the power of a network. Low entry fees allowed racers to invite people to donate via links shared on Facebook or group chats. People who participated in the event formed a social community centered around Culinary Angels, and through this community, brought on new supporters.

Why is asking the first step to raising more money for a charitable cause?

Vanessa Bohns and John List are two experts in psychology and charitable giving. Bohns has done extensive research on egocentric bias—how we focus on ourselves when we ask from others. List has done extensive research on charitable giving. According to their research: if you ask, people will give.

Charities have done the hard work: determining where they can change the world, providing value to people in a meaningful way, and building a network of giving that can sustain positive change. For example, Culinary Angels has helped cancer patients by delivering good, healthy food to patients since 2016, with over 15,000 meals delivered. When it comes to fundraising, Racery not only provides a platform for the community but also a way to ask. Here’s a takeaway from a discussion on charitable giving and psychology from the Hidden Brain podcast:

What you find is that roughly three-quarters of the dollars given are due to social pressure, and a quarter of the dollars given is actually due to altruism. So a very small component of what we observe in our door-to-door fundraising drive is actually driven by altruism.

John List, The Hideen Brain Podcast

Interestingly, Bohns notes that people will say yes, no matter what the cause is. Perversely, when Bohns’s group asked people to vandalize library books, the answer was yes: 64% of the time. Of course, you shouldn’t ask people to vandalize library books! But at the end of the day, it might not matter what people share, as long as they are able to click a button and share the cause they’re supporting!

So our participants – before they went out and started asking people, they thought about 28% of people would agree to do this, right? So they thought the vast majority of people would say no. But when they actually went out and made this request of people, 64% – a majority of the people they asked – actually agreed to vandalize this library book.

Vanessa Bohns, The Hidden Brain Podcast

What’s the takeaway?

Organizing the event around a project in focus, like providing meals, helps keep messaging clear and inspire participants to give.

  1. If people share fundraising links, their broader community will donate.
  2. Tell participants where their money is going.
  3. Race organizers can send emails to racers with individualized fundraising links.
  4. Keep messaging clear and simple. Identify the problem you’re solving and how you’re solving it.

What’s the ask? Keeping messaging simple helps supporters share the right message.

  • Problem: People are experiencing a cancer challenge.
  • Solution: Allow us to help feed more people in need.
  • Ask: Register for this fun event, create a team, and get people involved in our cause.

Why is sharing a fundraising link important?

Virtual communities have evolved since the 1970s, and we can harness their power to drive fundraising. The data shows that people are giving more; in 2023, donor activity increased by 1.9%—15.4% to foundations (in current dollars). Culinary Angels has tapped into this trend by creating a yearly fundraising event. At Racery, we frequently receive emails asking when the next yearly event will occur, as supporters eagerly anticipate participating again. Organizers often tell us that their supporters are asking when the next Fun Run, Virtual 5k, 1,000 Miles for Charity, or Virtual Challenge will happen.

Virtual races break down geographical barriers, allowing participants from all over the world to join in and support a cause. Street Views and teams make the race engaging and fun for participants as they pursue a mileage goal and progress along the route with family/friends/coworkers. They combine the physical challenge of a traditional race with the connectivity of the digital age, creating an experience that is both personal and communal. In an era where digital connectivity is at its peak, virtual races offer a unique and effective way to unite supporters, raise funds, and make a significant impact.

Interested in hosting a virtual race for your charity?

Since 2014, orphan diseases, FAANG companies, and large charities have all used Racery as a community engagement tool. Racery works with small and large charities, and is proud to help connect community members and raise money to support those who struggle with cancer, battle orphan diseases, are affected by hunger, and promote equity. Start a virtual race trial here or reach out to our team at to learn more.