The winter holiday season, and the increased generosity surrounding it, presents the single biggest opportunity of the year for nonprofits to raise needed donations. However, donors are met with gift asks like never before during this season. Your nonprofit needs to stand out from the crowd, and one way to do so is by planning a walk-a-thon event.
Walk-a-thons are an easy, effective, and sustainable event. Plus, they’re fun for everyone involved! We’re going to explore why you should incorporate a walk-a-thon into your year-end fundraising through the following points:
- What is a walk-a-thon?
- Why is this event good for year-end-fundraising?
- How do you incorporate walk-a-thons into year-end fundraising?
- Year-End Walk-A-Thons: 5 Ideas
Whether you’re looking for an addition to your community-wide year-end fundraising, or simply looking for a good PTA fundraising idea to make the most of year-end generosity for your school, a walk-a-thon is a great opportunity.
A walk-a-thon is a pledge-based fundraiser through which you empower donors to raise gifts on behalf of your organization.
While they require some planning, the walk-a-thon fundraiser generally requires little resources from your nonprofit. Check out the steps to holding a walk-a-thon:
Create a giving page using a dedicated walk-a-thon fundraising page. Participants will create personal fundraising pages in connection with your page.
Plan the event. All you need is a date and time, a space for participants to exercise in, and maybe even a fun theme embracing the holiday season.
Invite donors to collect pledged donations from their personal networks. Pledges correspond to the number of laps participants walk/run on the day of the event (such as $5 per lap walked.)
Host the event. Encourage participants to exercise and watch the total donations rise!
This type of fundraiser is great for many reasons: it brings your community together, it encourages healthy physical fitness practices, and it’s easy to plan. However, it’s incredibly effective at raising funds.
Learn more about this type of event through 99Pledges’ guide to walk-a-thon fundraisers, and continue reading to explore how you can incorporate these events into your year-end fundraising efforts.
Walk-a-thon fundraisers are an easy, effective fundraiser to supplement any campaign you take throughout the year. However, they can be particularly helpful in the year-end fundraising season.
Family Friendly, Community Building
The end of the year is such a major giving season due to the generosity inspired by the holidays. It’s a season of gathering with loved ones and reflecting on the year that’s passed while giving toward a positive future.
A walk-a-thon addresses that narrative perfectly. It’s both inclusive to families due to the low-key nature of the event and community-uniting due to how easily you can address large crowds of attendees.
Whether you’re hosting a county-wide walk-a-thon or simply a single school fundraiser with parent volunteers, a walk-a-thon can unite your organization’s greater community in the holiday season for a good cause.
Low-Maintenance, High Reward
The year-end fundraising season is not only the biggest opportunity for your nonprofit, it’s also the busiest time of the year in general. From executing your year-end initiative to simply enjoying the holidays, it’s a busy season!
Beyond the initial set-up— creating a pledge giving page, inviting participants, and organizing the generally simple single-day event— this fundraiser is hands-off for your organization. After that point, the actual task of fundraising is delegated to your participants, who go on to gather pledges from their personal networks before the event.
Further, there’s potential to raise a huge amount of donations. Even if you only have a few participants, if those participants gather a decent amount of pledges you can still raise a ton of donations!
The walk-a-thon model is easy to adapt to any type of fundraiser you’re interested in hosting.
As long as you’re hosting a physical fitness-based event and empowering participants to gather pledged donations leading up to the event, you can customize the event to pretty much any theme or fundraising need your organization desires.
Whether that’s branding it to your organization’s mission or adding a holiday theme to match the year-end season, the walk-a-thon is well-equipped for the change.
Further, there are a lot of opportunities for add-on fundraisers to supplement your event. For example, you can sell event t-shirts (find the best t-shirt fundraising platforms here) or snacks to bring in extra revenue day-of.
While a walk-a-thon is a great event year-round, you need to adapt it a bit to make it suitable for the winter season. There are a few considerations to make your walk-a-thon suited for the year-end fundraising season in particular:
Plan for the weather. Traditionally, a walk-a-thon is an outdoor event. From dropping temperatures to increased, frozen precipitation, you want to plan accordingly to address the winter season. This could mean holding the event inside or simply passing out hand-warmers and hot chocolate, depending on the circumstances.
Pay attention to the holidays. Stay cognizant of the holiday season surrounding year-end fundraising. This could mean incorporating a holiday theme into your event or just making sure you don’t schedule the event to take place during an important family or religious holiday.
Make it an addition to your year-end efforts. Use a walk-a-thon as an addition to your overarching year-end fundraising, not necessarily as the main event. Consider using the event as a kickoff to your year-end efforts, or maybe as your final campaign of the season to celebrate your donors’ generosity and raise the last gifts you need.
That being said, there are a ton of ways you can align the walk-a-thon with your year-end fundraising. Follow along for five ideas to get your planning started below.
Fundraising Challenge Event
A fundraising challenge event simply entails challenging your participants to reach a certain amount of donations. This works best when you have a clearly definable goal (“Raise X donations to fund X initiative to completion” rather than “Raise as many donations as possible.”)
Inform participants of this fundraising goal, and how much of it your organization intends to raise through your year-end walk-a-thon. Then, provide them with a method for tracking overall progress— perhaps on your main pledge page, such as by using a donation thermometer— and play up the challenge aspect of the fundraiser.
Holiday Fun Run
A fun run takes the walk-a-thon model and adds obstacles at set intervals, such as between every X number of laps. Pledged donors give either corresponding to distance, as in the traditional model, or corresponding to the number of obstacles completed.
The year-end aspect of this idea is carried through the holiday theme that can be easily applied through obstacle challenges. For example, if holding this event during fall, you can include obstacles such as bobbing for apples or running a lap wearing a turkey costume. Or, if you’re holding a wintertime holiday run, incorporate a snowman building contest or an eggnog drinking challenge.
By including both holiday-themed, silly obstacles and sporting event challenges, you’ll create an enjoyable event for a variety of attendees.
A turkey trot is a walk-a-thon variation playing on the Thanksgiving holiday.
The end of November/start of December holds the biggest fundraising day of the year, by far: Giving Tuesday. This day occurs on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, a day traditionally associated with the consumption of massive amounts of food.
The few days surrounding Thanksgiving carry particularly inspired giving and gleeful overeating. Use a walk-a-thon (or perhaps a run-a-thon) to address both of these factors. Hold the event on either the morning of Thanksgiving, framed as preparation for a day of eating, or hold it after the event as a recovery exercise.
Bonus! To draw on the thankfulness and heightened generosity of the season, invite participants to search their closets for new and gently used athletic shoes to donate through a shoe drive fundraiser. Learn about shoe drive fundraisers through Sneakers4Funds’ comprehensive listing of walk-a-thon fundraiser ideas.
Holiday Dress Walk-A-Thon
A holiday dress walk-a-thon is one of the easiest ways to incorporate a walk-a-thon into your year-end fundraising.
Use the regular walk-a-thon model, but invite participants to dress up following a holiday theme. For example, invite every participant to dress up as Santa Claus or in their favorite elf costume for the winter holidays. Or, for a less holiday-specific event, invite participants to wear their cheesiest, chunkiest festive sweaters.
Add an engagement element by allowing pledge donors to vote on the best looks in advance, and award that participant with the title of crowd favorite at the end of the event.
Winter Solstice Walk-A-Thon
The winter solstice is a non-religious holiday celebrated towards the end of December. It’s a holiday celebrating the start of winter and is the single day of the year with most darkness.
A wide variety of cultures celebrate this day, so it’s the perfect way to tie in holidays during year-end fundraising without alienating any religious/nonreligious groups.
Hold a night-time, candlelit Winter Solstice walk-a-thon in light of the season. Draw on the restorative, renewing themes associated with the holiday to encourage participants to raise pledges toward a brighter future.
The walk-a-thon is a great fundraising event to supplement your year-end fundraising efforts, whether you’re a larger nonprofit holding a community-wide event or a school searching for parent-teacher organization fundraising ideas to raise money for the second half of the academic year.
Start with the tried-and-true walk-a-thon model, adjust it for the season, and add a holiday twist to successfully incorporate a walk-a-thon in your year-end fundraising.
Author: Brad Dowhaniuk
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.