How to Plan a Walkathon Fundraiser: A Complete Guide

Organizing a walkathon fundraiser is an exciting and rewarding method of fundraising for your organization or cause. Whether you’re planning a charity event, raising money for a school project, or just wanting to get the community involved in a good cause, hosting a successful walkathon requires careful planning and organization. If you’re looking for advice on how to get started, you’ve come to the right place!

Host a Successful Walkathon Fundraiser

What is a Walkathon?

A walkathon is a peer-to-peer fundraising event that involves participants collecting pledges and sponsorships from donors in exchange for walking a set distance. Participants collect money per every mile they walk or as a flat donation amount to raise funds for the charity or organization of their choice. The money they raise can go to support research, provide services, fund educational programs, and much more. 

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Why  Are Walkathon Fundraisers So Popular? 

Walkathon fundraisers are popular for a number of reasons: 

  • Walkathons are easy to organize (and fun to participate in)
  • Walkathons bring together many community segments
  • Walkathons help nonprofits save money with low setup costs
  • Walkathons require little to no specialized equipment or training
  • Walkathons are accessible for many age groups and ability levels
  • Walkathons are highly customizable and a cinch to tailor to your fundraising needs
  • Walkathons  provide an opportunity to get active while supporting a great cause

In short, walkathons provide a great combination of simplicity, fun, and effectiveness, making them a win-win-win for everyone involved. 

Now let’s take a look at how your organization can get started with creating its own walkathon fundraiser. 


5 Steps to Planning and Hosting a Walkathon

Although walkathons are easier and more fun to organize than many other types of fundraisers, there are still essential steps you need to take to ensure that yours is successful. To help you through the process, we’ve outlined five key steps for planning an effective walkathon event. 



Step 1: Set a Goal and a Budget

Before you can begin planning your fundraiser, it’s important to establish some goals. For example, what do you hope to achieve with your walkathon, and how much money do you want to raise? Answering these questions will help you set realistic expectations for the event and give you something to aim for as you plan.

It’s also important to develop a budget. Decide how much money you are willing to spend on the event, including any fees related to permits, supplies, food, and entertainment. Make sure that the budget reflects both income and expenses to ensure your organization meets its fundraising goals

Remember that setting achievable fundraising goals with a budget will help you stay organized and on track as you plan your fundraiser.


Step 2: Develop a Promotional Strategy

Once you have set your goals and budget, it is time to start promoting your event. Your promotional strategy should include a strong mix of both digital and offline elements, such as social media campaigns, flyers, posters, email blasts, radio advertisements, and event sponsors. 

Make sure that all promotional materials clearly state the details of the event: 

  • When and where is it taking place? 
  • Who is benefiting from the donations or proceeds raised at the event? 
  • What activities can guests expect there (if any)?
  • How can people participate? 

Additionally, provide incentives for early or large donations to encourage people to get involved. 

Finally, consider partnering with local businesses or organizations to help spread the word and recruit participants. This is a fun way for local companies to not only get great exposure to potential customers but it’s also a way to help ease the cost of the event for your organization. Think of it as free marketing for both you and your sponsors.

For example, in exchange for their financial support of your walkathon, you could give tents along (and at the end of) the walkathon route to local sponsors and have them bring giveaways like branded merchandise to spread the word about their business. In addition, you can encourage your sponsors to host activities like a prize wheel or a bouncy castle for kids in order to keep participants and their families engaged during the event. 


Step 3: Secure Venue and Supplies

Before you start planning the walkathon itself, you need to secure a venue for the event. Make sure that the venue suits the season and weather. For example, an indoor walk in the early months of the year is a viable option in colder climates. You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper legal coverage in place, such as a participant waiver that matches your venue. 

Your venue should be an area that is accessible to your target audience and large enough to accommodate the number of people you expect at the event. You’ll want all requirements, such as permits, insurance, road closures, waivers, and other logistical needs, in place before the day of the walkathon. 

Also, take into consideration the experience you want your participants to have. After all, you want this to be a fun experience they look forward to coming back to year after year! To add a  twist, why not hold your walk at a unique location such as a theme park, nature trail, or large museum like a butterfly preserve? This way, event registration could include a ticket to the theme park or attraction as an added incentive for participants. Plus, you’ll have an unforgettable setting that makes for great photos and memories. Just make sure to factor in the cost of adding an attraction ticket to every registrant’s fee!

It is also important that you purchase necessary supplies prior to the event.. Don’t overlook essential items like water bottles or water booths, snacks, first aid kits, portable toilets (if your venue or route won’t have them available), tents or tables for shade, and any other items that you need on the day of the event. 


Step 4: Recruit Volunteers and Participants 

Recruiting volunteers for a walkathon is essential to ensuring its success. Volunteers can help with everything from setting up the venue and supplies to providing first aid assistance during the event. 

While friends and family are often great sources, try to recruit volunteers who have a connection to your cause, too. Volunteers who are invested in helping you make your fundraiser a success are invaluable resources. Additionally, consider reaching out to local schools or organizations to see if anyone is available to volunteer their time for the event. 

When it comes to your participants, just as for your volunteers, communication is key. Notify participants of how they can sign up, get involved, help fundraise, and prepare for the event: the earlier and more often you get the message out, the better. 

Avoid the trap of complicating your registration process; you don’t want to this just turns potential participants away. Avoid asking too many questions or including a lot of steps for people to sign up. Instead, make it easy for everyone, from families to corporate and community groups, to register. A walkathon fundraiser is a particularly great way to bring lots of different community segments together, as it’s a simple activity most people can do, unlike more niche activities such as a golf tournament fundraiser. So, keep that spirit of ease and fun going with a simple registration process to match!


Step 5: Promote Before, During, and After the Event

Promoting your fundraiser before, during, and after the event is a great way to further engage with participants and let them know about any additional ways they can get involved. 

On the day of the event, make sure that you have volunteers on hand to take photos and videos that you can use in promotional materials afterward. Additionally, consider creating a hashtag or social media page where people can post their experiences from the walkathon. By doing so, you’ll not only interact with participants on a more personal level, but you’ll also potentially attract new donors to your cause. 

Finally, make sure you acknowledge all donations that come in. For example, sending out thank-you letters or emails to show donors that you appreciate their contributions. When you show your appreciation, participants are encouraged to continue donating in the future. 


7 Secrets to Making Your Walkathon Fundraiser  a Success

Organizing a successful walkathon is a relatively simple process, but there are still some tips and tricks that can make the process even easier and more rewarding. By following these tips, you can ensure that your event meets its goals and raises as much as possible for your cause: 

  • 1. Start Promoting Your Walkathon Early: Give yourself plenty of time to spread the word about your fundraiser and build up excitement. Opening registration and starting promotion efforts a minimum of 2-3 months ahead of the event gives participants plenty of time to fundraise and get more registrants on board. It also helps create "buzz" online and within the community around your event, which makes it even more attractive to potential sponsors. 

  • 2. Prioritize Communication:  Keep your registrants and sponsors in the loop by sending out fundraising update emails as the event draws closer, so they can see how they're contributing to your fundraising goals.  Make sure to build strong relationships and encourage supporters to fundraise themselves, too, to create the maximum fundraising impact. There's not a lot  of work needed for logistics for this type of event, so you can spend more time helping supporters and registrants fundraise. Don't forget to send out last-call emails for both sponsors and participants right before the event to get anyone still sitting on the fence involved. 

  • 3. Offer Incentives for Donations or Participation: People are more likely to participate if there's something in it for them, such as swag bags, branded clothes, prizes, gift cards, or discounts on products or services. 

  • 4. Leverage Social Media: Social media is an invaluable tool for reaching out to potential donors and keeping everyone engaged with the event. 

  • 5. Make a Day of It: Have food, games, and activities for participants and their families after the walk, give out fundraiser tickets to your unique location, like a theme park, and create a full experience around your event. This makes it easy for participants to not only fundraise for a great cause but also want to invite their friends and family to fundraise: who doesn't perk up at the promise of a day filled with games and snacks? 

  • 6. Have Fun: Remember that the goal of a walkathon is not only to raise funds but also to build community interest and involvement in your cause. Make sure you create an enjoyable and positive atmosphere during the event so that participants walk away feeling good about their contribution and eager to come back  and do it all again next year. Make your event unique by holding it at a zoo, theme park, or other novel location. This can offer a great boost to the "fun factor," making it even more enticing to current and future participants. 

  • 7. Don't Forget to Follow Up: After the event, make sure you thank all of your donors and participants for their support. This will help foster relationships and encourage them to keep supporting your cause in the future. 


What Pitfalls Should Organizations Avoid When Hosting a Walkathon Fundraiser? 

Even though a walkathon is a pretty low-maintenance way to host a fundraiser for many organizations, there are still a few pitfalls nonprofits should avoid when setting up and holding this type of event. 

  • Don't Shortchange Yourself With a Short Registration  Window: Open registration with plenty of time! Give registrants time to fundraise and enough tools to help them show others they're part of the event so they can help raise more funds. Opening registration 2-3 months in advance is the sweet spot for optimal fundraising impact. 
  • Stay Grounded When Setting Fundraising Goals: Set realistic fundraising goals to make sure you're both effective for your cause and don't disappoint participants. Creating a pie-in-the-sky fundraising goal might seem inspiring at first, but participants can feel discouraged if it seems like they'll never raise enough money to make an impact. Instead, try aiming pragmatically high but not into the stratosphere!
  • Focus on Logistics: Make sure you have everything you need. Walking in a park is great, but do you have bathrooms,  water stations, and other necessities? If you have a venue that provides essential amenities, you'll have hit the proverbial "bulls-eye" with your walkathon venue and reap rewards in terms of funds raised and participant satisfaction. 

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


How FrontStream Can Help

At FrontStream, we make fundraising easy with our Panorama fundraising platform and peer-to-peer fundraising software. With our suite of tools and services, you streamline the fundraising process from start to finish. From setting up donation pages and collecting payments to tracking donations and sending thank-you letters, we have everything you need to make your event or campaign a success. Organizations easily customize their donation page with their own brand logos, colors, and fonts; they can even take advantage of built-in coaching tips on the platform to help walk them through the entire process quickly and easily. No designers or special knowledge needed!

Last but not least, to ensure organizations meet their fundraising goals, our peer-to-peer fundraising setup tools  have a “donor covers the fee” option, so every nonprofit can fundraise in a custom way that fits their unique needs. Set up a time to chat with one of our fundraising experts and learn more about how FrontStream can help with your next walkathon event.

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