A Sport Philanthropist is Raising $1M by Running

Sarah Jamieson has raised nearly $800,000 for charity— mostly by running.  But that’s not enough:  her vision is to raise one million dollars before her 35thbirthday.  She’s got two years to go.

How did it start?  Once she woke up at 2:30 am and thought, “I’ve raised some money.. what if I raised a million dollars by running?"  Big checks weren’t in that midnight vision, but small $10 and $20 donations.  

So this movement and performance coach from Vancouver came up with Run for a Cause, Jamieson explains, “it’s a not a non-profit, or a for profit, it’s just an idea.”  And she doesn’t just run, “I build awareness about the importance of health and wellness and how to combine your passion to do good and be good”.  Indeed, she chooses running events for the causes attached and does speaking engagements around them.

In a move that could be described as efficient, she didn’t spend time or money setting up an entirely new corporation, but assists a variety of other causes.

As a self-described middle-of-the pack runner who does about four-hour marathons, she says, “if I can do it, so can everybody else”.  She can’t quit because, “when I run marathons. I run for all those people all over the world who do not have a voice, who do not have a choice, and I carry them with me.”

Using running as a vehicle for philanthropy is as a great model, she says and wants to inspire others to take up “sport philanthropy”. Usually, that term is used with elite athletes, but she explains, “my idea is getting kids and youth to use health and wellness and sport as a philanthropic model.”   

Every year, Jamieson does several events, in 2011 she ran The Scotiabank Half Marathon Run 2 End Poverty for Engineers Without Borders; The San Fran Marathon, supporting Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), The Victoria Marathon, for Power To Be, --among others.   And that’s just running, add on YogaTHONs and the multiple National Fitness Challenges.

In 2012, Jamieson plans on seven sporting events—3-4 marathons and two adventure races. She’s planning to run 101km in less than 15 hours for CARE’s Canada’s Walk in Her Shoes National Campaign, to generate $20,000 for projects empowering women and girls and to bring to light the importance of girl’s education and women’s economic empowerment.

In addition, Jamieson does a RUN4ACAUSE Superhero Speaking Series to inspire kids to do sport and do good—locally or internationally. It’s important to get kids active in British Columbia, which has the highest child poverty rate in Canada, especially among First Nations and inner city youth.


This runner is the only person to do a TEDtalk on a treadmill. While powerwalking, she challenged her audience to become Superheroes and “superhumanitarians”—without getting breathless.

And Jamieson told a story of her own personal Superhero “Asha” who inspires her. “Down the line, my goal is to make comic books about philanthropic superheroes, or super-humanitarians.”

A super-humanitarian herself, Jamieson also started organizing a salon series to talk about mental health issues. Like so many others, she has been personally affected by mental health struggles—her mother had bi-polar depression, and passed of suicide.  And every Christmas, she organizes a bunch of people—and their friends-- in something called “Operation Elf” to raise awareness of programs that assist the at-risk and vulnerable. The elfs give baked goods and in-kind contributions of gifts and donations.

As with the elf recruits, she wants to rope more people in. She’s convinced a few yoga teachers to do a karma classes. For the 100k CARE race last year, she got dozens of people to do 6k and collect pledges—as well as discuss international development. Participants had to walk 8000 paces each day for a week, Jamieson explains “it’s a great way for anyone to incorporate health and wellness.”  

In her lifelong quest to do good, Jamieson took an unusual kind of sabbatical into empathy in the slums of Vancouver, where she spent three months after she changed careers and her mother passed from suicide. She says, “It was a great opportunity to understand the complexities of the Downtown East Side”.  She adds, “I grew up in poverty, so it was very close to my heart.  It’s unbelievable the disconnects we have; a lot of western cities have urban slums, it’s not just in third world countries, but we don’t think about it.”

How has she managed to raise $800k while working? By setting goals: she seems to have a number for everything.  She wants 100 people up from 45 in the 101K Walk in Her Shoes for CARE. She calculates how much you’d earn at a penny per step per day. Indeed, her work as a movement and performance coach is all about progression and periodisation.  It’s about small steps.

Jamieson wants more people to join in her sport philanthropy,  “Just getting a group of people together and donating to a cause and giving your time is a great way to connect people. Whatever your talent is, you can use that as a talent for philanthropy…it’s a better way to connect people.  You can do a lot of good in a small period of time.”

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Her Powerwalking TEDtalk is below: