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If you’re a PTA member, an elementary school event organizer, or otherwise affiliated with K-12 education or fundraising, you’ve probably had a brush with read-a-thon fundraisers before. 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, nonprofit, or fundraising organization, but they’re also a great way to engage young readers and nurture their educational development.

To help you make the most of this powerful school fundraiser, we’ll explore the following top tips for an effective, engaging, and lucrative read-a-thon campaign:

Whether you’re an experienced read-a-thon fundraising organizer or a newcomer to the read-a-thon world, everyone should walk away from this piece with new and improved strategies to optimize their read-a-thon campaigns. Let’s jump in!

Nail down your read-a-thon’s logistics.

The planning process is critical for any fundraiser, as it sets up the framework for your entire campaign and allows you to proactively address complications that may arise. In particular, the MemberClicks masterlist of event planning tips urges event and campaign organizers to start their planning process well in advance, establish clear and quantifiable goals, and create a detailed agenda of activities and event milestones.

In the context of a read-a-thon fundraiser, this would mean pinning down the following key details: 

  1. The number and length of reading session and the duration of the entire campaign
  2. Your campaign budget and how these resources will be allocated
  3. What grades, classes, or groups of students will be asked to participate
  4. How progress will be measured (ex: by hours or pages read) and documented
  5. The major fundraising and reading milestones throughout the campaign
  6. How major milestones will be celebrated and what rewards will be given
  7. The theme of the read-a-thon, if any, and what books readers will be encouraged to read
  8. The projected goal for number of participants, hours or pages read, and dollars raised
  9. How the funds raised will be allocated after the campaign

If you give yourself the weeks or months to carefully address these details, you will ultimately kick off your read-a-thon in a far better position to effectively communicate with participants, engage your donors, and establish clear expectations with the various faculty and staff who will help run the campaign.

Inspire and educate participants in advance.

Like any other classic a-thon style campaign, read-a-thons are peer-to-peer fundraisers, which means that an essential element of your campaign will include participants sharing their donation pages with friends, family, and peers. 

The catch, of course, is that many of your participants will likely be students between kindergarten and eighth grade. This makes it especially important for faculty, staff, and others administering your read-a-thon to thoroughly motivate and educate their 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 it’s important, and how students and their families should log hours and 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.

Launch a multichannel marketing strategy.

One thing that keeps many read-a-thon fundraisers from reaching their fullest engagement and fundraising potential is a lack of effective digital marketing. While flyers, posters, and other physical marketing materials are a classic part of school fundraising, infusing more 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. Revive your social media accounts to reach out to and 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. Take a look at your student, parent, PTA, and school community email lists. These supporters are the most likely to be passionate and eager to not only donate to your campaign, but spread the word through their personal networks. Send pre-campaign email newsletters, online instructional resources, and campaign updates to keep these supporters engaged.
  • Text and SMS. As mobile usage increases and people gain access to their first mobile devices at a younger age, text and SMS become ever more important components 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.

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, with a handful of participants and a few hundred dollars in donations, 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.

For example, a dedicated fundraising platform will allow you to keep more orderly, accurate records of your campaign by eliminating manual data entry and centralizing your fundraiser’s information into one place. Furthermore, the right read-a-thon fundraising tool will make it far easier for young students and their parents to create effective donation pages and share those pages across multiple marketing channels.

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

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 the family and friends who pledge their support for your fundraisers’ participants, the only reward they need is the satisfaction of seeing their little ones developing a love of reading. However, your readers might need a little extra incentive to encourage them to meet their reading goals. 

This is where fundraising prizes can provide a big motivational boost to galvanize participants and make your a-thon fundraiser pop. For example, you might: 

  • Organize a grand finale event in the form of 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 pop in, pick their favorite knick-knacks and merchandise, and have these awards delivered right to them—all without burdening your fundraising team with extra logistics.

For more information on read-a-thons, fundraising best practices, and even more amazing elementary school fundraising ideas, check out Read-A-Thon’s 50+ inspirational elementary school fundraisers

With these tips and tools in hand, your fundraising team should be all set to confidently plan, launch, and manage your best read-a-thon fundraiser to date. Good luck, and happy fundraising!

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