If you’ve spent any significant amount of time fundraising, there’s a high chance you’ve encountered the walk-a-thon fundraiser. A staple for nonprofit and educational organizations alike, these fundraisers are easy, fun, and effective.
Walk-a-thons are a subset of a larger fundraising type, the event-a-thon. These fundraisers pair a physical event with digital fundraising methods to empower participants to raise donations on your behalf.
Walk-a-thons are a surefire way to raise funds for your organization. However, there can be benefits to switching up the tried-and-true methods for a fresh experience!
Check out these event-a-thon variations you can use to diversify your next fundraiser:
- Increase the physical challenge.
- Make it a skills competition.
- Add a creative, colorful twist.
- Exercise participants’ brainpower.
- Include event merchandise.
- Draw inspiration from the holidays.
1. Increase The Physical Challenge
A walk-a-thon fundraiser generally involves minimal physical challenge on behalf of the participants. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but, if you’re looking to attract a different population for your next fundraiser, increasing the physical challenge is a good place to start.
This could mean something as simple as increasing the pace of the physical event, like changing it from a walk-a-thon to a jog-a-thon or a run-a-thon. In these instances, the same principles of the original fundraiser would apply: the distance a participant jogs/runs would correlate to the amount of donations they bring in.
You can increase the challenge in a more structured manner by creating an obstacle course or challenge run, such as the famous Spartan Runs. These runs are dotted with obstacles that a runner has to overcome, such as mud pits, climbing walls, and even jumping distances.
Though the challenge isn’t to run an undefined amount, such as with the walk-a-thon, participants can still collect pledge-style donations corresponding to the number of obstacles they complete.
One consideration when increasing the physical challenge of your fundraiser is the health of the participants involved. You’ll want to make sure there is plenty of water and snacks available for participating fundraisers, and that no one pushes themselves past a healthy limit.
Also read: 9 Tips for Running a Walk-A-Thon Fundraiser
2. Make it a Skills Competition
Instead of an endurance-based physical event, you can make your next event-a-thon fundraiser a skills-based challenge.
For these events, you’ll challenge participants to showcase a particular athletic skill, such as hitting a baseball (hit-a-thon), shooting a basketball (shoot-a-thon), or knocking down bowling pins (bowl-a-thon).
Using the pledge model once again, participants can collect pledges corresponding to the number of baseballs they hit, baskets they make, or pins they knock over in a certain specified time period.
Consider adding another layer to your fundraising with an athletic shoe drive fundraiser. Through this, participants bring their new and gently worn athletic shoes to your event for donation. These shoes then translate into money for your cause! Learn all about donating running shoes here.
3. Add a Creative, Colorful Twist
While the previous two categories appeal first-and-foremost to those interested in physical fitness, this twist can attract those interested in fitness and creative endeavors alike.
There are quite a few ways you can appeal to the creative, right-brain leaning participants. Check out the following stand-out ideas:
- Color Run: As participants run the distance, spectators throw colorful chalk dust their way. At the end of the run, participants are covered in a chalk rainbow!
- Foam Run: A similar concept to the color run, except observers spray foam at participants with foam machines or spray cans.
- Dance Marathon: Participants are challenged to dance for as long as they can.
For the two “run” type fundraisers, participants can collect pledges corresponding to the distance they run, or for completing the race in general (such as if it was a 5K color run). With the dance marathon, participants collect pledged donations corresponding to the number of hours they dance.
Each fundraiser is reminiscent of the walk-a-thon except with a bit more excitement added!
4. Exercise Participants’ Brainpower
Understandably, not all participants will be interested in a physical fitness fundraiser. Luckily, there are plenty of fun and effective event-a-thon fundraisers that draw on brainpower instead!
Check out a few of our favorite brain-bending fundraisers:
- Read-a-thon: Participants collect pledged donations corresponding to the number of books they read in a certain specified time period.
- Spell-a-thon: Specifically in a school setting, students gather pledges corresponding to how many words they can correctly spell in a given time period.
- Math Challenge: Similar to the spell-a-thon concept, except instead of spelling words students collect pledges for how many math equations that they can correctly solve in a time period.
These fundraisers are particularly well-suited to schools and youth groups, as you encourage student’s development while fundraising for your school or cause. (Read more about pledge campaigns at 99pledges.com)
5. Include Event Merchandise
An easy addition to any of these fundraisers is event merchandise commemorating the event.
This could mean branded sweatbands, towels, and (most popular) t-shirts. You start by creating a unique design celebrating the event and pair with a manufacturer specializing in nonprofit fundraising. Then, you simply sell the merchandise to participants!
Pairing with a manufacturer that has experience in the nonprofit sector ensures your organization gets the most out of the fundraiser as possible. In addition to reduced processing fees, these companies sometimes offer digital inventory and sales— so there’s no risk of your organization purchasing more shirts than you’re able to sell.
6. Draw Inspiration from the Holidays
The holidays inspire an increased sense of gratitude and generosity, and you should draw on that for your fundraising if you can! Luckily, there are plenty of holiday-themed fundraisers that pair well with pledge-based practices.
Check out a few of our favorite holiday-themed pledge campaigns:
- Jingle Bell Fun Run: As a fundraiser, this operates just as the jog-a-thon mentioned in the first section. However, you encourage participants to dress up in their favorite winter holiday-themed outfits, such as a Santa Claus or elf costume.
- Zombie Run: Similar to the jingle bell fun run, except participants dress up in their favorite spooky zombie gear.
- Turkey Trot: A 5K fundraiser held on the morning of Thanksgiving, preparing participants for the full day of eating ahead.
Each of the above ideas adds a festive twist to the event-a-thon model, raising money while providing participants with an outlet for their holiday generosity.
Consider trying a new variation of the event-a-thon model for your next fundraising event. Though the walk-a-thon is tried-and-true, switching things up can provide a fresh new perspective to excite your participants.
Whether you’re simply increasing the physical challenge or planning a full-on costume day, your participants (and your organization’s funding) are sure to appreciate the extra effort!
About the Author:
Brad Dowhaniuk is the co-founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success in Fun Runs, jog-a-thons, baseball hit-a-thons, and much more.