How to Run a Successful Bike-a-Thon Fundraiser

A bike-a-thon fundraiser is a rewarding experience that brings the community together for your cause. However, the planning and execution of the event requires a solid understanding of how to boost participant and donor engagement, the utilization of the right fundraising tools, and the incorporation of creative elements to make the event memorable.

To hold a successful bike-a-thon fundraiser, your organization must ensure every pedal forward aligns with your fundraising goals and positively impacts your participants and the community. If you're planning a bike-a-thon, here are some tips and strategies to engage participants and make it a success, whether you're a seasoned pro or new to fundraising.




What is a Bike-a-Thon Fundraiser?

At a bike-a-thon event, participants cycle a predetermined course and distance to raise funds for a cause. Like walk-a-thons or jog-a-thons, bike-a-thons involve a peer-to-peer fundraising format in which participants gather donations from friends, family, and coworkers. 

Participants often create personal fundraising pages to share over social media and with their friends to garner support and donations directly through the fundraising platform. Some participants opt for donations based on each mile they bike, motivating donors to support them as they commit to greater distances and increased fundraising amounts.

Bike-a-thon fundraisers are a great opportunity to promote physical activity, generate funds for a good cause, and have fun. They’re also relatively low-cost, which makes them a popular choice for schools, churches, and other community organizations.


How to Successfully Plan a Bike-a-Thon Fundraiser

An effective bike-a-thon begins with careful planning and goal-setting. But crossing the finish requires much more than just completing the route—it's about recruiting participants and creating a joyful event for everyone involved. 

 Grab this free event-planning template!


Setting Goals: Going Beyond the Dollar Amount

Though it’s important to establish an overarching revenue goal for your event, you’ll also need campaign-level goals for each tactic you’ll use to get the word out and drive engagement.

For example, spreading awareness through targeted outreach campaigns attracts the attention of new supporters and ultimately leads to increased revenue for your cause. You can measure the effectiveness of your outreach plan by setting objectives for the number of media placements or mentions you want to secure. 

Set goals for the number of riders you'll need to reach your fundraising target, as well as the total donations and sponsors needed to make a big impact.


Planning and Logistics: Ensuring a Smooth Ride

While logistics aren’t always the most fun part of planning, they’re key to ensuring the event goes off smoothly. Pick a course that's not too long, maybe around 1-10 miles, where riders can loop multiple times. You may also want to prioritize a paved route to make the course more accessible to all participants.

After you pick a route, the next thing to do is choose a date for the event and get any permits needed for using the roads. Weekend dates maximize turnout and minimize conflicts with weekday commuter traffic. Consider timing as well: You’ll need to provide participants with a map and give them a few hours to complete the ride. Plan the start time with lunch in mind to keep everyone fueled and happy.


Creating Unique Themes: Thinking Outside the Box

Differentiate your bike-a-thon by creating unique themes like “Retro Ride” or “Superhero Spirit” to encourage participation. To amp up the excitement, get local businesses in on the fun. For example, if your theme is "Around the World," pair up with a local international cuisine restaurant to offer discounts for participants or even set up a mini food festival at the finish line.


Engaging Participants: Making the Ride Memorable

To achieve a successful event, you need to have participants on board. A donor management system is essential for engaging riders and sponsors before and after the event while streamlining administrative tasks for your team.

For example, if your digital fundraising platform includes donor engagement and volunteer management tools, it's easy to segment specialized lists of supporters based on their fundraising and volunteer interests. Another thing is that a digital all-in-one fundraising and donor management system helps you target the right supporters. If you run an ongoing "crochet for a cause" campaign, you can easily exclude them from getting too many email blasts and instead segment a specialized email list to folks who may have more interest, like last year's participants in an annual 5K fundraiser.

A centralized platform simplifies rider registration and engagement so you can keep everyone informed and excited. And if your bike-a-thon becomes an annual event, you’ll be set up to reengage past participants so you’re not starting from scratch every year or managing outdated spreadsheets.


Check out: Key Features That Engage Supporters


Maximizing Donations: Fundraising Beyond Registration Fees

In a typical bike-a-thon, each rider pays a registration fee to secure their spot, but you must do more to achieve your revenue goals. A peer-to-peer fundraising platform makes it easy for riders to solicit donations for each mile biked and/or a specific donation amount from friends and family through a secure portal. You can encourage riders to share the link to the fundraising event page on social media, which engages community members and contributes to raising more funds for your cause.

Create incentives for top fundraisers with rewards or acknowledgments like shoutouts on social media and exclusive merchandise. Event sponsorships from local businesses and organizations provide another way to boost event revenue while fostering community engagement. 


Use this Ultimate Toolkit to Gain Sponsorships!


How to Run a Unique Bike-a-Thon Fundraiser: 7 Ideas to Make Your Next Bike-a-thon Stand Out

From costume parties to scavenger hunts on two wheels, we’ve got you covered with several adrenaline-fueled ideas to elevate your bike-a-thon fundraiser:


Hold a Themed Costume Party

Encourage participants to dress up in themed costumes to add a fun and festive spirit to your event. Whether participants don capes to become their favorite superheroes or pedal in poodle skirts to channel 1950s styles, there are endless ways to get creative. Besides costumes, you can also carry your theme through to other aspects of your event. For example, a superhero-themed bike-a-thon could title its sponsorship package tiers "Sidekicks," "Heroes," and "Galactic Guardians" to add a dash of fun.


Add a Bike Parade

Organize a bike parade to turn your bike-a-thon into a community celebration. Encourage participants to showcase their decorated bikes. This adds a festive atmosphere to the event and attracts broader community participation. The parade is an effective and engaging way to share your fundraising goals and values with everyone involved. 


💡During the parade, encourage local spectators to join the fun by voting for their favorite bike. This is also a great time to ask them to donate $5 toward your cause when they cast their vote.


Host a Bike-Themed Film Night

Extend the bike-a-thon experience beyond the ride by hosting a bike-themed film night. Choose movies celebrating cycling, providing participants and supporters with a cheerful post-event activity. For instance, screen inspiring films like "Breaking Away" or family-friendly classics such as "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" to create an entertaining atmosphere that keeps the biking spirit alive even after the pedals have stopped turning. 


💡 As an additional way to raise funds, you can charge admissions for those who didn't race and have tap-to-give around the viewing area to get additional donations. This is also a great opportunity for a sponsor to gain more exposure.


Plan a Bike Relay Race

Inject an element of friendly competition into your fundraiser with a bike relay race. Participants can form teams to add an exciting twist to the traditional bike-a-thon format. Consider incorporating relay checkpoints to engage participants and spectators, creating a dynamic fundraiser event with competition and collaborative teamwork. This addition heightens the competitive spirit and elevates the overall excitement of the bike-a-thon experience. 


💡 Consider adding buy-up opportunities for the team, such as 30-second head starts, taking a shortcut or skipping the obstacle, riding with a local celebrity (e.g., mayor, TV news anchor, or author), or access to a VIP pit stop with additional drink and snack options


Arrange a Bike Maintenance Workshop

Consider arranging a bike maintenance workshop prior to the event to engage and educate participants. Partner with local bike shops or experts to provide valuable insights for riders, such as what to do if they encounter a flat tire or experience chain issues. A bike maintenance workshop ensures participants feel more confident and ready to hit the road.


💡 Remember to ask for a sponsorship. As Dan McGuane recently shared: Don't be afraid to ask. Check out these other sponsorship tips here.


Organize a Bike-Themed Scavenger Hunt

Combine adventure and fundraising by organizing a bike-themed scavenger hunt. Create clues about biking or your chosen theme, leading participants on a challenging route.


💡 Start the scavenger hunt during the sign-up period to add fundraising milestones to your scavenger hunt. You can bump up the incentive by giving those who achieve the milestone a special bib or T-shirt on race day.


Hold a Bike Art Exhibition

Tap into your community's creative side by holding a bike art exhibition that runs in tandem with the bike-a-thon. Encourage participants to showcase their artistic talents by decorating bikes or creating bike-themed artwork. You can also open the event to local artists. A bike art exhibition serves as a platform for participants to express themselves and transforms the event into a vibrant and artistic celebration of community creativity.


💡 Ask your artists if they are willing to donate their art so you can turn the exhibition into a silent auction. With mobile bidding, you can wrap up bidding the day of the bike-a-thon or extend it for a few days as an additional way to engage supporters who didn't attend the event. You can do this for the entire lot or a small selection of artwork.


Rev Up Your Bike-a-Thon Fundraiser with FrontStream

Running a successful bike-a-thon fundraiser requires creative nonprofit fundraising strategies, purposeful goal setting, and community involvement. By incorporating these tips and ideas into your event, you put on a bike-a-thon that is both memorable and effective in reaching your revenue goals.

FrontStream’s all-in-one fundraising and donor engagement platform makes it easy to plan an unlimited number of events—large or small—throughout the year, with leaderboards and coaching tips to help keep participants on track to meet their goals and more.  

To learn more about how FrontStream can optimize your fundraising efforts and enhance donor management, request a demo today.


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