As the weather warms up this spring, people will be heading outdoors to participate in events. Hosting a spring walkathon is a great way to bring your community together and raise money for your organization. At a walkathon, participants collect pledges for walking a predetermined distance to raise money for a cause.
Hosting an event in your community can require a lot of money and time to plan, especially during the COVID era. However, if you have the right steps and tools, walkathons can be surprisingly inexpensive and straightforward to plan. Plus, they don’t require you to directly ask for donations yourself—your walkers will handle that part!
Whether your event is virtual or socially distanced, there are a few easy steps to consider when planning a successful walkathon for your organization.
At 99Pledges, we specialize in all types of pledge-based fundraising events, like walkathons, bikeathons, readathons, and more. After helping countless organizations and schools plan walkathons of their own, we have a few key tips to share for those just getting started.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Safety precautions for your event.
- How to determine your goal.
- Choosing a walkathon software.
- Spreading the word about your walkathon event.
- Effectively empowering walkers.
After a pandemic-era winter, a springtime walkathon might be the perfect way to tap into your community’s buzzing energy while also raising much-needed support for your operations! With these steps, you’ll be planning your event in no time. Let’s dive in.
Consider Safety Precautions
Due to COVID-19 limitations, it is essential to address the safety precautions you will be putting in place for your walkathon. This is crucial in maintaining the health of your community, as well as making participants feel comfortable to participate.
Two options for keeping people safe and healthy during your walkathon include hosting it virtually or implementing social distancing guidelines for your event. Many nonprofits and schools have already experimented (and succeeded) with COVID-friendly fundraising ideas. Whichever route your take, hosting your event safely during COVID is definitely possible.
Virtual walkathons are a foolproof way to keep participants safe and are personalized to each participant. In a traditional walkathon, participants would collect donations to complete a predetermined walk as a group along with other volunteers. When hosted virtually, participants can map a course of their choosing in their own area. To complete the walkathon, they can track their miles and route through an app or website. Virtual walkathons are a safe and self-customizable option for your participants. It also presents an opportunity to attract walkers from a wider range of locations—they can participate wherever is most convenient.
On the other hand, in-person walkathons involve your participants walking the course together. This option can allow for a variety of methods to maintain social distancing. Some examples include providing time slots or days to complete the course and providing masks.
Both options offer a multitude of easy ways to ensure your participants’ safety, all while hosting an exciting event!
Determine Your Goal
Simply put: why are you raising money? Beyond your organization’s mission, determine your cause behind hosting your walkathon. Be sure to think in specifics. A clear-cut idea of the project or goal you’re aiming to fund makes it easier to promote your walkathon to participants and donors. They’ll be able to visualize your goals and get behind exactly what you’re raising money for.
For example, are you raising money to send students on a field trip, or for new sports equipment? Where are their dollars going? Defining the purpose of your walkathon will help your supporters visualize where they are putting their money.
Next, set a goal for how much you want to raise through your walkathon. How much money will help you achieve your project? What will your specific goal require to make it successful? Once you have your number, figure out an estimate of how many walkers and pledges it will take to reach your goal in order to measure the progression of your campaign.
Choose the Right Walkathon Software
Planning a walkathon should be simple, and it can be with the right software. Partner with a vendor that can organize and streamline the process of registering participants and raising funds. You’ll want a software solution that can take the guesswork out of each step of the process for your organization and your walkathon participants, who’ll be set up with their own easy-to-share, individual fundraising pages.
However you choose to facilitate your walkathon, make sure that your process and donation software makes it easy for participants to promote their pages and for your donors to contribute. After all, nothing frustrates participants more than a complicated virtual experience.
At this stage in the planning process, it’s also worthwhile to consider any additional ways that you’ll raise money with your event. Here are two easy ways you might build additional revenue into your walkathon:
- T-shirt sales. Offering branded t-shirts for your event is a creative way to raise awareness and money during your walkathon. Participants will have a tangible memento of your event, and they’ll help visibly promote your organization or school in the community in various communities beyond your own.
- Volunteer grants. If you’ll be relying on volunteer power to plan and host your walkathon, brush up on corporate volunteer grants. These programs allow volunteers to have their time financially matched by their employers. You’ll just need to actively let them know to check for their eligibility.
Overall, ensuring a simple process for participants and donors to engage with your walkathon is a crucial step towards its overall success as well as reaching your goals as an organization. Software and additional revenue strategies should play active roles in making your walkathon a successful and (most importantly) enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Spread the word to your community and secure registrants.
Now that you have a plan of action for your walkathon and are set up for success with user-friendly software, it’s essential to raise awareness for your event. Walkathons are community-based events that have the potential to create a lot of excitement and buzz. Your volunteer and donor base can grow exponentially with the right promotional strategy.
Your best bet will be to promote your walkathon across a range of communication outlets, including newsletters, email blasts, and social media posts.
Regardless of exactly which marketing platforms you use, your content must be easy-to-understand and stir excitement. Your organization can begin with an enticing email and social media announcements regarding your event to raise awareness and call viewers to action to find out more.
Be sure to include a link to the walkathon site or a page on your website where readers can learn more about the event. In your announcements and promotional content, explain your organization’s current state and why support is needed for your particular project. Highlight a past walkathon or similar event with photos and testimonials to show readers that your fundraising efforts are worth their attention.
Once you’ve announced your walkathon, you’ll also need to provide clear instructions for participation. These should consist of how-tos for signing up to participate, using your walkathon’s pledge site, and how to best promote their pledge pages to friends and family online.
Next, consider whether your walkathon is a standalone event or part of a broader fundraising push. For instance, consider if it is leading up to another significant fundraising event like a spring fling or a school auction. If your walkathon will be leading up to a larger event, plan ahead to promote them together. This 99 Pledges guide recommends multiple creative events that can be hosted in addition to your walkathon, in order to supplement your broader marketing strategy.
Even for standalone walkathons, there are plenty of ways to give your promotional efforts a strategic and creative edge. It can be hard to raise money throughout the year consistently, but fresh ideas can keep your events exciting and well-attended. Mix and match your walkathon with other low-intensity fundraising and marketing ideas to make sure everyone’s excited to get involved.
Empower your walkers to secure pledges.
Now that you have registrants and donors, work with your software provider to set up their fundraising pages. These pages will organize and secure the donations that they receive throughout the event.
They’ll also be used to promote your event and your organization’s overall efforts to friends and family, making this a powerful tactic for growing your organization’s donor list. After contributing to your cause, these donors make up a ready-made list of contacts for outreach during future campaigns and projects.
Be sure to provide your registrants with plenty of materials to use when promoting your walkathon. For example, you can build out a page on your website that helps explain the event and its purpose. This information hub will be advantageous for walkers to explain to their family and friends why they need pledges.
Go a step further and provide easy templates for thank-you emails, too! Donors will respond positively to recognition and are likely to contribute in the future. This directory of thank-you templates from Fundraising Letters is a handy resource to get started.
In 5 straightforward steps, you can efficiently and effectively plan a walkathon to help support your nonprofit organization. Offering a fun, interactive, and community-building event will benefit your organization and help it reach its goals.
Even though we exist in a pandemic, events can be held with necessary safety precautions in place or entirely online. Find creative ways to keep your walkers healthy while participating in your event. Then, narrow the scope of your goal to help others visualize and support your cause. Choose walkathon software that will expedite the process for walkers and supporters alike. The right software will provide major benefits for your event in terms of participant experience and (therefore) donor acquisition and retention.
Then, develop a strategy for marketing your event to the community. Determine which platform is most useful for your audience. Spread the word about your event and cause through other aspects of your campaign, as well as tangible rewards such as t-shirts. Finally, empower your walkers and show appreciation for them and your donors.