How to Set Up a Successful Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser


Bowl-a-thon fundraisers are a great way to engage people in the community and raise funds for your nonprofit organization at the same time. By tapping into natural human competitiveness, bowling fundraisers have the potential to bring out good-natured sportsmanship and create a lasting impression. Even better, they're not too complicated to organize. 

This blog covers the ins and outs of everything you need to put together a great bowl-a-thon, including how to properly set a goal, create an appealing event, and rally the community to attend, along with some other steps you can consider to organize a successful bowl-a-thon fundraiser.

Happy people holding bowling balls


Setting Your Bowl-a-thon Goal

Start by setting your fundraising goal. This will help guide your bowl-a-thon fundraiser planning and preparation and help you determine registration fees and a budget. A good guideline for goal setting is the SMART framework, which is:

  • Specific: Setting a clear and specific goal helps drive the entire project. When determining your goal, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish, why it’s important, who will be involved, and what resources you can access. A specific bowl-a-thon goal might be, “We plan to raise $3,000 by attracting at least 20 participants at a registration fee of $75 and encouraging additional donations and sponsorship.”
  • Measurable: This means using quantitative values as benchmarks to determine if a goal has been met. In the example goal above, it’s easy to see how it would be measurable—you can decide if the goal is met by tallying up funds raised and the number of participants. If, instead, your goal was, “We hope to raise money with a bowl-a-thon,” then hypothetically, even if you only raise $1, that goal will be met. It simply isn’t specific enough about what you hope to accomplish.
  • Attainable: Make sure your goal is realistic. Suppose you’ve never held a bowl-a-thon before; it might be challenging to determine what is and isn't a realistic goal. But certainly, if you expect only 20 participants, you probably shouldn’t plan on raising tens of thousands of dollars. You can ask other organizations who have held similar events what their numbers were or examine other fundraising efforts you’ve spearheaded to determine the range of what might be attainable for your bowl-a-thon fundraiser.
  • Relevant: It’s essential that any fundraising effort ties into your nonprofit’s overall mission. Otherwise, generating interest and getting people involved will take more work. One idea is to set a theme for the bowl-a-thon fundraiser that ties into what you plan to do with the funds, such as “bowl for the owls” if you are trying to save owl habitats.
  • Time-based: Set a specific date and time for your fundraiser that is far enough out to provide enough planning time. Failing to set a target date early can lead to endless planning that ends up wasted as no one has a clear direction or an end date in mind.

Grab this free peer-to-peer event-planning template!

Creating an Exciting Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser

Next, you want to ensure the event is exciting enough to garner interest. Ask yourself, what would make someone want to attend such an event? For bowl-a-thons, the competitive nature may be a draw for some. Others will be more inspired by the potential impact of the fundraiser – the causes they would be supporting by participating. Still, others enjoy the social aspect of it and would like to have fun while raising money for a good cause at the same time.

Consider all potential motivations for participation as you plan. Let participating groups form teams and choose team names to elevate excitement. You can include compelling stories in your messaging about your cause. And last but certainly not least, spice up the event with some fun add-on ideas. 

Consider the following event features to include to raise interest and excitement:

  • Encourage team costumes or have a costume competition.
  • Invite vendors to sell food, snacks, or merchandise.
  • Give out swag such as water bottles or t-shirts with the event logo to participants–or have such items for sale. 
  • Hold a simultaneous raffle or silent auction.
  • Consider laser bowling or a disco theme.
  • Award prizes for silly things, such as the best-dressed team or the gutter ball champions. 
  • Live stream the event so people can watch and donate from home.

Rallying the Community to Attend Your Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser

Part of convincing people to attend your bowl-a-thon fundraiser is making it an exciting and impactful event. But you have to get the message out that this is what it will be and inspire community members to want to attend. It can be helpful to strategically use a fundraising platform, like FrontStream, to create event pages, social media strategies, and email campaigns. 

You can even use a  fundraising platform to allow participants to make personalized pages to encourage their friends and family to donate and/or participate–thus extending your reach even further by activating peer-to-peer interactions. The right platform makes it easier to hold hybrid events where those not physically present can still participate, cheer on the bowlers, and donate funds.



Other Steps to Help You Plan a Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser

1. Starting Early

A bowl-a-thon fundraiser isn’t organized in a few days or weeks - instead, it takes months to plan one. So, to ensure a successful event, we recommend that you start planning at least six months in advance.

2. Soliciting Prizes

Write a letter encouraging local businesses to contribute to your bowl-a-thon by providing prizes. Make sure your letter states the purpose of your fundraising event, estimates the number of people in attendance, and how much money you intend to raise.

3. Creating and Distributing Materials

Once your plans are set, create a flyer, brochure, or infographic that can be printed, emailed, or shared on social media and other online avenues. Include details about your event and how to get involved. Be sure to also include your sponsors, your supporters to date, and the prizes you plan to give away.

4. Being Active on Social Media

Create a Facebook event to share and promote your event. Create a unique hashtag for your event and share a pre-written tweet with your supporters to share and promote on Twitter. During the event, share live posts and photos to build excitement with supporters and those who couldn’t attend the event. Also, remember to ask for donations on social media!

5. Contacting the Local Press

Reporters always seek a feel-good human interest story. Once your event details are finalized, write and distribute a press release with details on the event. Reach out to reporters and personally invite them to the event. Find them on Twitter and ask them to help support your cause. Sporting and athletic events typically receive a high level of interest from the general audience.

After the event concludes, make sure you follow up with everyone involved, such as the attendees, donors, sponsors, and the bowling alley. Thank them for their participation and support. Then, write a personalized letter highlighting the event’s successes, explain the plan with the money raised, and build momentum for your next event by letting them know the latest developments on future events.


How FrontStream Can Help Make Your Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser a Success

FrontStream is the fundraising platform of choice for over 20,000 socially-minded companies and nonprofits just like yours. We have the tools to power auctions, events, peer-to-peer, online fundraising, and more to create the perfect combination of fundraising tools for your event. We also offer payment processing to streamline fundraising from start to finish. 

The platform is easy to use and intuitive, so you can create your event and start promoting it today. Request a demo now to learn how FrontStream can help you raise more money for your cause and do more good in your community.

Schedule a demo with an expert today!


Share this article