Walkathons are a fantastic way to raise awareness (and money) for your cause — and quick! This fun, fitness-centered type of fundraising event involves people signing up to participate and then raising pledged donations from friends and family.
On the big event day, your participants will walk as long as possible, with per-mile or per-lap donation pledges stacking up the longer they walk.
Less intense and easier to join than a traditional race or 5K, walkathons encourage people of all fitness levels to get involved. Not to mention, people can even use distance-tracking technology (like free fitness apps) to participate in a remote walkathon, breaking down geographical barriers, eliminating health concerns, and allowing even more people to get involved.
However, even with all these great reasons why your supporters will want to get involved, it never hurts to brainstorm more ways to make your walkathon seem enticing! Especially with so many great causes out there, you have to make your events stand out if you want people to sign up. We’ll walk through three easy ways you can make your upcoming walkathon incredibly valuable to your cause and anyone who participates, including:
- Recruit standout volunteers for your walkathon team
- Offer t-shirts to encourage participation
- Choose a memorable walkathon theme
Walkathons are a powerful fundraising idea for any organization. You just need to put some thought into how you’ll make it seem valuable to your community of supporters. Let’s dive into our first tip.
1. Recruit standout volunteers for your walkathon team
It doesn’t matter how much planning your staff members do — you’ll need extra hands to make your vision for your walkathon become a reality. Reach out to new volunteers and tap into your network of current ones as you start planning your walkathon.
Between marketing the event and actually helping run it on event day, this group will ultimately help power every aspect of your walkathon if you plan your jobs out accordingly. Sit down with your team and determine what you’ll need help with both before and during the event. Here are just a few of the tasks you can market and assign to your volunteers:
- Put up flyers around the community and post about the event online
- Contact local businesses and line up sponsorships
- Set up the course, adding water stations along the way
- Set up booths, including the check-in station, merchandise table, and vendors’ booths
- Check guests in and hand out race bibs
- Update your online or in-person fundraising thermometer as people finish walking
An effective volunteer management strategy offers an array of opportunities to make sure there’s something for everyone! Before you publish your volunteer role descriptions, be sure you’ve already nailed down the basic details of your event, like the date and venue. That way, people can sign up for the jobs that match their skills and the shifts that suit their schedules.
Finalize your volunteer job descriptions and market the opportunity across different outlets like social media, email, and recruitment platforms like Mobilize. By publishing your walkathon to the Mobilize feed, you can tap into a network of people near you who are ready to serve worthwhile causes!
2. Offer t-shirts to encourage participation
Merchandise is a fantastic way to promote your walkathon and your cause as a whole. For one thing, it’s a great incentive to get people to sign up or donate during the lead-up to your event. Then once people receive their t-shirts, they’ll create a strong sense of community as everyone wearing theirs can bond over a common cause.
The benefits of t-shirts will even extend well after the final person finishes walking! Think about it: how often have you passed someone in public and noticed that they were wearing a race t-shirt? It probably had the organization or event’s name plastered on it. Even if you didn’t feel compelled to ask them about it, you definitely noticed it and maybe even Googled the cause on your phone!
To create an event t-shirt that stands out and drives these benefits for your organization, Bonfire’s guide to walkathons recommends that your t-shirt communicates three things:
- Your group’s identity: Make it clear that your organization is behind the cause. Infuse different elements of your brand, such as your name, logo, and colors.
- Your audience’s identity: If you want people to be interested in your t-shirt, make sure it fits their style. This means understanding the shirt styles, colors, and so on that your audience likes to wear. You can easily figure this out by looking at what’s sold in the past or by polling them on which designs they like best!
- The purpose of your event: While your design should exemplify your cause, it should clearly be attached to the walkathon to remind people of the event, too. Infuse elements of your event’s brand, like its name and any graphics associated with it.
The result will be a t-shirt that your supporters can’t wait to wear, even long after the event wraps up. If you’re worried about your graphic design skills (or lack thereof), there’s no shame in asking for help. Hold a contest where your community submits different designs in hopes of being crowned the winner. This will naturally pull people into your event and double as a promotional tactic.
As you’re finalizing your design, consider how you’ll incorporate t-shirts into your event. Will you offer it as part of the walkathon swag bag for participants? Maybe you’ll sell them alongside your campaign as an incentive to donate, too! Either way, it’s a simple fundraising strategy that will drive participation. Then, when your design is ready, pull your volunteers into the fun by having them market the t-shirts.
3. Choose a memorable walkathon theme
Walkathons don’t need a theme, but choosing one is a great way to make your event stand out and boost registration numbers. Sure, everyone will enjoy donating in support of their loved ones or showing up on the big day in support of a common cause, but a theme is a great way to create a stronger sense of community, remind everyone of the mission at hand, and simply make it more fun for everyone.
A few key elements to keep in mind are that your theme should align with your cause, potentially fit the time of year, and simply appeal to your audience. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Costume walk. This walkathon theme is perfect around Halloween and suits younger or family-oriented audiences well. Everyone can show up in costumes, dressed as their favorite characters. If you want to get a bit more specific, you might host a superhero walk, which works exceptionally well for organizations that are raising awareness or funds for a particular illness.
- Dog walk. This idea is perfect for animal rescue organizations. Just encourage your participants to bring their furry (and friendly) companions along — on leashes of course! Be sure to let everyone know that participation is open to animal lovers of all kinds, even if they don’t own pets.
- Breast cancer walk. As one of the most common types of walkathons, this is the ideal theme for any group that’s raising funds to fight breast cancer, whether that’s paying for people’s medical bills or investing in research. For this theme, everyone wears pink, and the event will typically perform best in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
- Jingle bell walk. Raise some money for your cause and get people in the holiday spirit all at once. Lean into the holiday theme with holiday music, decorations, and even concessions. After all, Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics page estimates that 30% of annual giving happens in December, making it the perfect time to bring your community together in support of your cause.
This is just a glimpse into the dozens of different themes you can choose for your upcoming walkathon. If you’re struggling to choose one that fits your cause and audience, your volunteers and other supporters might have a few ideas of their own. Ask them to share their ideas, then have your event team or audience vote for their favorite one. Just like with your t-shirt designs, asking for a bit of help is a great way to pull people into your event from the very start.
Getting started planning your next walkathon
Walkathons are a great way to generate support for any cause so long as you put some thought into how you’ll get people excited to participate! With these key steps guiding your event team, you’ll be able to plan an event that brings your community together, deepens everyone’s connections to your cause, and ultimately pushes your mission forward.
With your initial planning out of the way, you can start reaching out to volunteers to staff your event and provide input where it’s needed. Happy fundraising!