Start reaping the benefits of walk-a-thon fundraiser this spring by following these five steps.

Planning a Spring Walkathon In 5 Simple Steps

As the weather warms up this spring, people in your area will be looking for fun outdoor activities to participate in. There are so many exciting, quick fundraising ideas your organization can choose from to take advantage of the warm weather. Hosting a spring walk-a-thon is a fun (and easy) way to bring your community together and raise money for your school or team. 

At a walk-a-thon, participants gather pledged donations from supporters based on units of distance. For example, if a supporter pledges $10 for each mile the participant walks, the participant will raise $30 for walking three miles.

While hosting an event can require significant time and resources to plan, organizing a walk-a-thon can be surprisingly inexpensive and straightforward if you have the right tools. Plus, they don’t require your organization to directly ask for donations—your participants, whether they are students or athletes, will handle that part!

To make sure everything at your walk-a-thon runs smoothly, you’ll need to start planning early and consider all of the logistical details at play. Here are the five steps your organization should follow to set up a successful walk-a-thon:

  1. Consider safety precautions.
  2. Determine your goal.
  3. Choose software and maximize revenue.
  4. Spread the word to your community and secure registrants.
  5. Empower your walkers to secure pledges.

Walk-a-thons are one of the most versatile, accessible fundraisers. Because they don’t involve many upfront costs or resources, organizations of almost any size can host them. These fundraisers can also be adapted to fit the needs of most age groups—if your cheerleading team is for younger children, for example, you might shorten the walking distance.

Let’s kick off by walking through how you can prioritize event safety.

1. Consider safety precautions.

Any time an event or activity involves physical activity, it’s crucial to ensure proper safety measures are in place. 

While there is always a chance that someone could get hurt during a walk-a-thon, there are a few things your organization can do to limit potential harm:

  • Require a signed waiver to participate. Having a waiver can help protect your school or program from legal liability if participants get injured. Waivers also ensure that participants know all of the possible risks of participating in the event, allowing them (or their parents) to make an informed decision before joining in. Make sure to work with a legal professional to create the document and help you understand local waiver laws.

  • Choose a safe walking route. For outdoor walk-a-thons, make sure to choose a location that is flat and level. Avoid hilly areas with tripping hazards like loose gravel or tree roots. To protect your walkers, the area should also be pedestrian-friendly and away from busy streets and traffic.

  • Make sure walkers are prepared. Because participants will be engaging in physical activities, make sure they come dressed in athletic clothing and shoes. Depending on your participants’ ages, you may need to send home a reminder with a list of supplies they should bring (like food and water). Make sure your organization is ready with backups in case anyone needs a drink or snack.

Planning a safe event should be a conscious effort on your organization’s part. Because these measures are so important to your participants’ experiences in the walk-a-thon, it’s essential to think about them first. Continue to keep safety at the forefront of your mind as you plan the rest of the fundraiser.

2. Determine your goal.

Next, you need to nail down why you are raising money. Be sure to think in specifics. A clear-cut idea of the project or goal you want to fund makes it easier to promote your walk-a-thon to participants and donors.

Let’s say you are the head coach of a youth soccer team. Are you raising money to send students to compete in a game in a neighboring state? Or, do you desperately need new uniforms and equipment? Once you have a specific goal in mind for the fundraiser, you can communicate where supporters’ dollars will be going. Defining the purpose of your walk-a-thon will help your supporters visualize where they are putting their money.

Next, set a goal for how much you want to raise through your walk-a-thon. How much money will help you achieve your project? What will your specific goal require to make it successful? Once you have your number, estimate how many walkers and pledges it will take to reach your goal. To empower participants to help you reach your goal, track fundraising progress in real-time and offer prizes or incentives to those who push the campaign forward.

3. Choose software and maximize revenue.

With the right software, planning a walk-a-thon is simple. Look for a tool that can organize registration, streamline fundraising, and limit confusion for participants. However you choose to facilitate your walk-a-thon, make sure that your donation software makes it easy for participants to promote their pages (and for your donors to contribute). 

At this stage in the planning process, consider any additional ways that you’ll raise money during your event. Here are two easy ways to generate additional revenue for your walk-a-thon:

  • T-shirt sales. Offering branded t-shirts for your event is a creative way to raise awareness and money during your walk-a-thon. Participants will have a tangible memento from your event, and they’ll help promote your team or school any time they wear it.
  • Volunteer grants. If you’ll be relying on volunteers to plan and host your walk-a-thon, brush up on the basics of corporate volunteer grants. According to Double the Donation’s guide to volunteer grants, through these programs “companies provide monetary grants to organizations where employees regularly volunteer.” All you need to do is spread awareness of these opportunities to your supporters.

Creating a simple process for participants and donors to engage with your walk-a-thon is the key to garnering enough support to meet (or even surpass) your goals. Software and additional revenue strategies should play active roles in making your walk-a-thon a successful, enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

4. Spread the word to your community and secure registrants.

Now that you have a plan of action for your walk-a-thon and are set up with user-friendly software, it’s essential to raise awareness for your event. Walk-a-thons are community-based events that have the potential to create a lot of excitement and buzz. With the right promotional strategy, you can drive traffic to your donation page and website to grow your volunteer and donor bases exponentially.

To build an effective, integrated marketing campaign, promote your walk-a-thon across a range of communication outlets like newsletters, email blasts, and social media posts. To generate engagement on these platforms, your content must be easy-to-understand and stir excitement. Here are a few tips and best practices to consider:

  • Raise awareness with enticing email and social media announcements about your event. 
  • Call viewers to action to find out more. Make sure to include just one call-to-action in each message, and make the action you want supporters to take clear.
  • Include links to your walk-a-thon page or website. Make sure to include information about why you need support, your fundraising goal, and logistical details.
  • Provide clear participation instructions. Create how-tos for signing up to participate, using your pledge site, and promoting pledge pages online.

Last, consider whether your walk-a-thon is a standalone event or part of a broader fundraising push. For instance, if your walk-a-thon will be leading up to a larger event, plan ahead to promote them together. This 99Pledges guide to school fundraising recommends selecting multiple creative events that can be hosted at the same time as your walk-a-thon to supplement your broader fundraising strategy.

5. 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 walk-a-thon. 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 their family and friends why they need pledges and how the process works.

Go a step further and provide easy templates for thank-you emails, too! Supporters will respond positively to recognition, and they’ll be more likely to contribute in the future. In your template, leave spaces to fill in personal details like the recipient’s name, how they supported your cause (making a donation versus volunteering), and a specific way their support benefitted your team or school.

Offering a fun, interactive event like a walk-a-thon will help your organization make strong community connections and reach its goals. Remember to choose walk-a-thon software that will simplify the process for walkers and supporters alike, improving participant experience and therefore donor acquisition and retention. To get the most mileage out of your fundraising solution, look for one that can be used for a variety of fundraisers for your organization, whether it’s a fun run, dance-a-thon, or basketball tournament.