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Fun Run Fundraisers & Walk-a-thons

Make your Fun Run Fundraisers & Walk-a-thons a walk in the Park!

Each year we are told the population is getting heavier, less exercise and becoming generally more unhealthy. So if the opportunity to help your community get in shape and increase your non-profit's visibility and funds is attractive, a fun run fundraiser may just be the right event for you. With careful planning, great volunteers, some punchy advertising, and good weather, you'll be able to raise great sums for your non-profit cause.

Physical events require precise preparation from both organisers' and participants, so you need to begin your organising role several months in advance of your planned date. And like all non-profit fundraising events, they work best when you have done proper planning. So here is some useful advice from NetprintNFP together with a choice of Fun Run fundraising kit or Walk-a-thon fundraising kit to kick you off..

“Run” or “Thons" - what's your real objective?

No matter what kind of "thon" you choose to hold, what you're really setting up is a pledge drive. Your volunteers or participants pre-register and gather pledges for donations, based upon the number of laps or miles they aim to complete on the day of your running or walking event.

You'll need a location or a course for your competitors, plus sponsorship forms and volunteers to help staff your event. After the event, your volunteers return to their supporters and collect the funds they've been promised. Most people begin planning their "thons" about eight months in advance, allowing plenty of time to choose a course, find participants, and gather pledges.

FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHICH WAY? (Choosing a Suitable Event Course)

Carefully plan your route. There are plenty of pre-planned walking and running routes you can use. Check out

Where you would like to host your event is closely followed by where are you allowed to hold your event? This will mostly be determined by what sort of "thon" you're going to be holding. A half marathon will run for thirteen miles, a family-type fun run usually between 2 and 6 miles. Ideally the distance is made up from a single loop or multiples of the same loop. A closed course also helps attract crowds of family supporters and thus, an opportunity to boost fundraising with food and drink sales.

Volunteers can be used to help with registrations, drink stations or even acts as car park stewards and marshalls. Be sure to set up a medical site also.

If the course is not a closed loop, you'll need volunteers to place signs at the appropriate intersections along the route. You'll also possibly need them in attendance at any particularly confusing junctions or path choices during the event itself.

Other twists on the walk/run event can include a continuous relay and extreme time challenges e.g. 6 or 12 hours with teams working together to cover maximum distance. These are best achieved around a venue like an athletics track or leisure park. Alternatively, this type of team challenge can work just as well on treadmills in a gym environment. The competitive element comes out and perhaps the local running club might be willing to offer a sprint challenge over 1, 2 or 5km distances. Challengers pay a fee to compete with small prizes available to the winners.


Mini fun runs can work equally well for a younger age-group. By holding the event in school grounds or on tennis courts at off-peak times a good part of the school could take part. Kids love to take part in relays and this will help them maintain interest without getting overtired too quickly. They are a lot of fun for both parents and children. Setting up cones or flags to mark the loop for your toddlers will add a realistic feel to your event.

Piggyback a major city event

Many major cities now hold half and full marathons. Whilst none of these should be tackled without a proper training regimen it is harder to cater for both families as well as hardened athletes. Major charities like The British Heart Foundation, Leukaemia Research and Action Medical Research are very active in supporting some of these events, exclusively or in part. But the majority of events are open to all comers whether they are raising money for charity or not.

By piggybacking a professionally organized marathon all the event organization is taken away from you. There will, of course, be an entrance fee to pay which covers the organisers' costs and expenses. But you are relieved of several major headaches like route planning and safety. You will also lose the opportunity to raise money by refreshment sales but you eliminate the risk of poor turnout or weather cancellation ruining your fundraising efforts entirely. Your main task will be to recruit athletic people willing to take the challenge and then helping them mobilize as much sponsored as possible.

You will need to download sponsor forms and perhaps arrange some posters for widening your search for supporters, donors and willing participants. You might be surprised at the interest you get and it may be an opportunity to engage bright and new local people with your cause.

When "Thons" Work Best

Late spring and early autumn are often the best times of year for "thon" events. Try to choose a date when good weather is likely and people will enjoy outdoor exercise. Sunny, not too hot, and not too cold are the ways to go. It also pays to check your event does not clash with a major sporting event nationally or locally if you are to maximize your numbers. In addition to your primary date, you ought to choose a rain date, in case the weather decides not to cooperate.

Rally up those runners and walkers

Publicise your event as soon as possible to rally up participants and start close to home. There are likely several people in your non-profit group who are willing to take part. They will surely spread the word amongst their own friends and immediate community. Also, talk to local running and walking clubs, some of whom might be happy to get involved. Create posters to build interest and have people register with you to help keep track of attendee numbers. Offer participants' sponsorship forms and an online route to help them keep track of sponsor donations.

It's also a good idea to post some flyers advertising your event in likely spots. Sporting goods stores, libraries, local universities and community centres should be relevant to this type of fundraising event. It's a good idea to post flyers twice - once when looking for participants, and again two weeks or so before the day to attract volunteers and donating supporters. Make sure your event flyer has the appropriate contact information: name, place and time of the event, the positive-impact benefits the money raised will bring, and why they should get involved.

Contact your local media Why not contact your local paper or radio station to promote your story? Search for any unusual angle offered by your running or walking event and its participants. Perhaps an over 80 year old for example! Supply pictures of participants when relevant.

Set a goal for how many participants you'd like to have and a date by which you'd like to reach that goal. Your planning must also leave plenty of time for your volunteers to gather pledges on their sponsor forms or online.

Event Sponsorship

Consider obtaining sponsors for your Fun Run fundraiser. This money might be crucial in providing advance monies for deposits and promotional outlays. Offer advertising space for names and logo on the programmes, tickets, displays on the day, food bags, number bibs etc. By recruiting sponsors wisely you may also benefit in the long term from a significant supporter for your cause in the local community.

Ask everyone you know to sponsor you.

Make sure everyone knows your target and the positive impact their donation will allow your non-profit to achieve.

Request a generous amount first but offer different sponsorship ‘packages'.

Run your Run safely!

Don't forget to review Event Organisation - The Important Stuff ,

NetprintNFP's generic guide to running a venue based fundraising event for helpful tips and items you MUST consider.

It is vital that you speak to the council or landowners in order to obtain permission to use the route on the event day.

Be sure to inform the local emergency services of your intentions in plenty of time before the event. They may provide assistance in the form of on-site medics or even assistance with road traffic.

Maximize your fun run/walk-a-thon fundraiser:

Keep in mind that children and teens often gather the most pledges, but that adults can do quite well with a good story to tell. In addition to your sponsor sheets consider handing out a ‘positive impact leaflet', where you detail specific things that donated money will help your charity achieve. This gives volunteers of all ages reasons to convince their friends, family, and coworkers to contribute to the drive. It's a good tip to target your most generous supporters first! People tend to match the amounts that others have already pledged on the forms.

In addition, you can:

  • Ask participants if their employers will match what they raise;
  • Get company logo's printed on your kit in return for sponsorship donations;
  • Ask colleagues to walk or run some or all of the way to work and donate what they save on travel costs;
  • Organise a sponsored ‘lycra day' or ‘shorts day' at work (ask your boss first!).

Remember to get people to Gift Aid their donation. It means an extra 25p for every pound donated for you registered charity.

Online donations

To run in parallel to your offline efforts it makes sense to let people donate money online too.

You can set up your own fundraising webpage through a website like Justgiving.

It's free, easy to do and allows you to nominate your charity of choice.

25p for every pound donated is automatically added to your online account when donations are Gift Aided (UK taxpayers only).