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Bill Starr, in grieving over his mother’s death due to melanoma in 1977, started to raise funds for cancer while cycling with friends. Today, 2015, Starr and his team are into the Pan Mass Challenge to raise funds of $45 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund’s lifesaving mission to conquer cancer. The author offers five tips for a successful event.



by Mark W. Guay


Back in 1977, Billy Starr hopped on his bicycle and went for a ride. His mother had just died from melanoma and pushing the limits of the physical body helped Starr grieve the loss of his mother.

On one rather strenuous ride, Starr had an idea. He and his friends would make a weekend of cycling, but instead of just pushing their physical and mental limits, their pedaling efforts would go to raise money for cancer.

Starr had found a deeper purpose in life. It was now time for him to live intentionally and embrace it.

“I was an athlete. I wanted to merge some of the things that I had embraced as an athlete: the commitment, the sweat , the teamwork, the camaraderie (all of the things I had enjoyed about sport) and commit it to a higher purpose,” said Starr on a  recent interview.

This year, Starr and his team over at the Pan Mass Challenge have set the bold fundraising goal of $45 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund’s lifesaving mission to conquer cancer.

Starr and his friends are inevitably responsible for the “a-thon” fundraising strategy popular in endurance sports like running, cycling, triathlon, or obstacle course racing.

What makes the Pan-Mass Challenge different from the many other “a-thons” out there is that fundraising is the core purpose of the event. And, of course, Starr created this fundraising model well before computers were in our living rooms (or in our pockets for that matter).

“But, most importantly, this ride, while being an inspirational physical, spiritual and emotional weekend, put fundraising at the center of the event. This was not about awareness. You carried a commitment,” says Starr.

Perhaps you have a cause that you too wish to fundraise for. In that case, here are five tips that Starr shared with me to have a successful fundraising event.

Successful Race Day Fundraising Event  (Credit to

Successful Race Day Fundraising Event
(Credit to


Five Tips to Have a Successful Fundraising Event


1. Be Patient (Really Patient)

Sounds simple, but this tip is often overlooked says Starr. He says that you have to be patient when raising money through an event. It took over ten years before Starr and his team were able to raise more than $1 million dollars. Starr says, “I wonder how many start-ups who want to raise that kind of money would last that long.”

Last year, in 2014, his team pulled in a cool $41 million in fundraising.


2. You Have to Love it. I Mean Really Love it.

Starr didn’t take a salary for a year and half. Yet, every day when he went to work he was driven by something more than what money can provide.

“You have to love your work. That should matter more than compensation,” says Starr.



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