If you’re a PTA member, an elementary school event organizer, or otherwise affiliated with K-12 education or fundraising, you’ve probably already heard of read-a-thon fundraisers. After all, read-a-thons are one of the world’s fastest-growing school fundraisers—and for good reason.
Read-a-thons not only have the potential to raise thousands of dollars for your school, but they also engage young readers and nurture educational development.
To help you make the most of this powerful school fundraiser, we’ll explore the following tips for an engaging and lucrative read-a-thon campaign:
- Plan the logistics of your read-a-thon.
- Inspire and educate participants.
- Launch a multichannel marketing strategy.
- Invest in the right fundraising platform.
- Incentivize readers with prizes.
Whether you’re an experienced read-a-thon organizer or a newcomer to the fundraiser, these strategies will optimize any read-a-thon campaign. Let’s jump in!
Plan the logistics of your read-a-thon.
The planning process is critical for any fundraiser, as it establishes the framework for your entire campaign and allows you to proactively address complications that may arise.
That’s why it’s best for event and campaign organizers to start their planning process well in advance. The MemberClicks masterlist of event planning tips suggest establishing clear goals and creating a detailed agenda of activities to effectively plan your event’s logistics.
In the context of a read-a-thon fundraiser, this would mean considering the following key details:
- The duration of the campaign: Consider the number of reading sessions and length of each.
- Your campaign budget: Determine your resources and how they will be allocated.
- Participants: What grades, classes, or groups of students will be asked to participate?
- Progress: Decide how progress will be measured and documented. For example, will you measure progress toward a goal by hours of reading or by the number of pages read?
- Milestones: Plan which major fundraising and reading milestones you will celebrate throughout the campaign.
- Celebrations: How will these major milestones be celebrated? What rewards will be given for these achievements?
- Theme: Decide if you want to give your read-a-thon a theme. If so, you may choose thematic books for participants to read.
- Projected goal: Decide the number of participants, hours or pages read, and dollars raised you’re aiming to achieve.
- Fund allocation: Plan how you’ll budget the funds raised after the campaign ends. For example, Read-a-Thon’s guide to elementary school fundraising ideas suggests using raised money to purchase educational resources or invest in after-school programs.
It may take weeks or months to carefully address these details, but the benefits are well worth it. You will ultimately be in a far better position to effectively communicate with participants, engage your donors, and establish clear expectations with the people who will help run the campaign.
Inspire and educate participants.
Like any other classic a-thon style campaign, read-a-thons are peer-to-peer fundraisers. This means that an essential element of your campaign will include participants sharing their donation pages with friends, family, and peers in order to collect pledges.
Since many of your participants will likely be students between kindergarten and eighth grade, it’s especially important to thoroughly motivate and educate students (and students’ parents!) about the fundraiser. Encourage teachers to set aside a bit of time before class in the weeks or days before your campaign to explain:
- How the fundraiser works
- Why the fundraiser is important
- How participants should log hours
- How students and their families can create and share their fundraising pages
Some read-a-thon fundraising platforms will even offer free instructional pamphlets, videos, and other materials for participants to get up to speed in a matter of minutes. When participants are equipped with this knowledge, they can use tools like peer-to-peer platforms to effectively spread the word about your fundraiser.
Launch a multichannel marketing strategy.
Effective digital marketing can help read-a-thon fundraisers reach their fullest engagement and fundraising potential. While flyers, posters, and other physical marketing materials are a classic part of school fundraising, infusing modern channels into your read-a-thon marketing strategy will go a long way to boost participation and donations.
In particular, pay attention to these mediums as you build out your read-a-thon marketing campaign:
- Social media. Engage your audience where they already spend much of their free time. In particular, Facebook groups are a great place to start engaging parents, community members, and other potential donors and advocates.
- Email. Look at your student, parent, PTA, and school community email lists. These supporters are likely eager to donate to your campaign and spread the word through their personal networks. Send pre-campaign email newsletters, online instructional resources, and campaign updates to keep these supporters engaged.
- Text messaging. As mobile usage increases and people gain access to their first mobile devices at a younger age, texting can become an ever more important component of your marketing strategy. In addition to sending campaign promotions and updates to your list of approved mobile contacts, choose a read-a-thon fundraising tool that optimizes student donation pages for mobile devices.
- Website. Your school’s website is the go-to resource for all information about your school. Students’ parents are likely already active visitors of your site, so use it to host information about your read-a-thon, too. As an added bonus, any friends or supporters of your fundraiser from outside your immediate school community will learn more about your website when they visit it for information about your read-a-thon.
By embracing the digital age and effectively integrating these mediums into your traditional marketing strategy, you should notice a significant increase in the number of donors that engage with your read-a-thon.
Invest in the right fundraising platform.
For smaller read-a-thons, a spreadsheet and physical hour logging may be an option. However, for fundraising organizers with greater ambitions, your best bet for an organized and successful read-a-thon is to invest in an online fundraising platform.
A dedicated fundraising platform will allow you to keep orderly, accurate records of your campaign by eliminating manual data entry and centralizing your fundraiser’s information into one place. The right read-a-thon fundraising tool will also make it easier for students and their parents to create and share effective donation pages.
If you’re shopping for an effective online school fundraising platform to host your read-a-thon, be on the lookout for a tool that has:
- An affordable registration and usage fee
- Easy set-up for donation page creation
- Simplified hour logging
- Data tracking and reporting
- Integrated marketing tools
Read-a-thons are the ultimate school fundraising program because they utilize digital tools to manage a fundraiser inside and outside of the classroom. This will ensure that students, parents, and teachers have everything they need to host a simple yet effective read-a-thon campaign.
Incentivize readers with prizes.
For teachers and donors, the only reward needed is the satisfaction of seeing students develop a love of reading. However, readers might need a little extra incentive to be encouraged to meet their reading goals.
Fundraising prizes can provide a big motivational boost to galvanize participants and make your fundraiser pop. For example, you might:
- Organize a grand finale event, such as a read-a-thon wrap-up party.
- Award special treats or trophies to top-performing classes and students.
- Offer small prizes throughout the campaign, redeemable based on hours or pages read.
Some read-a-thon services even offer online prize stores for participants to pick their favorite awards. These prizes can be delivered right to them—all without burdening your fundraising team with extra logistics.
The key to managing a successful read-a-thon fundraiser is using the right tips and tools. As you plan your next read-a-thon, consider optimizing it with up-to-date tactics that will engage your students and community while making the fundraising process easier for event planners.