Plan the Perfect Walkathon (With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, Of Course!)
A walkathon fundraiser might not be as physically strenuous as a marathon or 5K, but that doesn’t make it any easier to plan!
Fortunately, we have the steps and tips you need to plan and execute an amazing walkathon!
Take a look at the following eight steps and get ready to stroll into a successful walkathon event:
- Form a Committee
- Set a Date & Location
- Choose a Peer-to-Peer Platform
- Choose Your Fundraisers
- Prepare Your Fundraisers
- Keep Track of Acquisition, Retention, & Registration
- Start Walking!
- Send out Follow-Ups & Acknowledgements
Keep reading to learn more!
1. Form a Committee
Before you start walking and fundraising, you need to find people who will be willing to sit on your walkathon planning committee.
Your committee members can come from within your organization, or they can be some of your most loyal supporters.
An ideal walkathon planning committee might include:
- A board member or two.
- A fundraising professional from your staff.
- A member of your development team.
- A communications or marketing strategist.
- A donor who has regularly given to your nonprofit.
- A prominent volunteer with a background in events.
Your walkathon committee should meet regularly, and each member should update the group regarding the progress in their particular area.
For instance, a board member might discuss how he or she plans on recruiting donors or participants for the event. A communications strategist might let the group know the status of a particular digital marketing effort for the event.
Your committee shouldn’t be overwhelmingly large, but it shouldn’t be comprised of just a few people, either. Walkathons aren’t the easiest fundraising events to plan, and your committee is the backbone of the entire process.
Make sure that your committee can aptly handle all of the facets of planning and executing a walkathon.
2. Set a Date & Location
Your ideal date and location will largely depend on where your nonprofit is. If you live and work in Maine, you probably shouldn’t plan your walkathon for January 15th.
Get input from your committee and lay out some viable dates. Weekends work best for walkathons, but don’t feel tied to an afternoon walkathon. You could host a glow-in-the-dark walkathon that starts at midnight!
You can also ask your existing donors when they would like to walk for your cause. Send out surveys via email and post some date options on social media. This not only helps your nonprofit determine the best possible date for your walkathon, but it also gives your donors the opportunity to have a say in one of your nonprofit’s fundraising events.
Make sure that you set a date at least a few months out. Ideally, you should give yourself a year to plan a walkathon. Since the rest of your nonprofit’s daily operations won’t stop just because you’re planning an event, you should give yourself (and your committee!) plenty of time to make arrangements.
Once you have a few dates set aside, start looking at locations. Most walkathons take place at local public parks, but if you can get access, you could always plot out a route around your town or city (just make sure you check with your local government first!).
You’ll need to prepare for inclement weather, as well. Have a couple of backup locations like a gym or recreation center just in case the weather decides not to cooperate.
You could also host a “remote walkathon” that allows your donors to walk their own distances in their own hometowns. That way, one supporter can walk around her local park in Boise while another takes a stroll through his neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale.
Setting an appropriate date and location for your walkathon is crucial for its success. Make sure that both are well-established before you move forward.
Bonus: Take a look at what you can do to help your campaign succeed.
3. Choose a Peer-to-Peer Platform
The days of asking friends and family for pledges and noting their commitments on a sheet of paper are gone, but walkathon participants still want to raise money for their event. Since walkathons often have a peer-to-peer fundraising component attached to them, it’s vital that your nonprofit chooses a peer-to-peer platform that can handle all of your fundraising needs for your walkathon and other events that you’ll host in the future.
Ideally, a peer-to-peer platform will contain the following features:
- Separate fundraising pages: Your donors will want to share their personal fundraising pages with their family members and friends. A great peer-to-peer platform will give them the ability to do so.
- Sharing options: Your fundraisers will need to get the word out about your walkathon somehow. Your peer-to-peer platform should have appropriate sharing mechanisms for social media and email communications.
- Customizable layouts: You don’t want your peer-to-peer fundraising page to look like everyone else’s. A truly great peer-to-peer platform will allow for easy customization with regard to layout, colors, fonts, and images.
- Room to grow: If you plan on hosting walkathons (or any other kind of event that’s tied to peer-to-peer fundraising) in the future, you’ll need a platform that can be scaled with your organization’s fundraising needs.
- Merchandise storefront: You’ll likely have some kind of merchandise tied to your walkathon (themed t-shirts, anyone?). Some peer-to-peer platforms have a storefront built into them, meaning that your donors can support your cause and score an awesome t-shirt at the same place, at the same time!
When looking at peer-to-peer platforms, make sure you pay attention to how the costs and fees are calculated. Some providers will charge a percentage per donation made while others will charge a flat rate per donation.
Depending on the size and scope of your walkathon, one option might work better than the other.
Put several options in front of your committee and think about which platform would work best for your donors. There is no shortage of great peer-to-peer platforms out there. Find the one that fits your fundraising needs!
Bonus: Learn how you can give your peer-to-peer campaign a boost with t-shirts!
4. Choose Your Fundraisers
The next most important step behind picking a great peer-to-peer platform is choosing your peer-to-peer fundraisers. Even the most amazing peer-to-peer platform will fall flat if people aren’t actively using it!
When thinking about who to approach about fundraising on your behalf, consider the following points:
- The type of relationship the donor has with your organization: Volunteers and donors alike can help your organization raise money for your walkathon, but donors might be better suited for the fundraising front lines. Your volunteers might prefer working during the event itself!
- How long you’ve known the donor: A supporter who gave for the first time last week might not be the ideal candidate to approach with the notion of becoming a peer-to-peer fundraiser. However, someone who’s been giving to your nonprofit regularly for five years might be more open to the idea. Don’t rule anybody out, but use common sense when determining who to approach.
- The supporter’s interest level: You’ll want to rely on your most enthusiastic supporters to spearhead the peer-to-peer campaign. Someone who doesn’t seem interested or has too much on their plate to take on a fundraising role is probably not the best fit.
- The supporter’s network: Successful peer-to-peer fundraising depends on your supporters effectively reaching a wide network of friends and family. ! Someone with a lot of connections (family members, friends, coworkers, etc.) will be a more effective fundraiser than someone with little social influence.
Obviously, some of your most passionate supporters will come from inside your organization. Ask your committee members to reach out to their networks to raise money on your nonprofit’s behalf.
You’ll need to turn to your donor database or CRM to look for donors who might be good fundraisers for your campaign and walkathon.
You should look to your CRM to give you insights into your donors’:
- Giving habits – This will show how often a donor contributes to your cause. A donor with more contributions may be looking for other ways to support your cause.
- Past participation in events and other campaigns – Donors who have participated in other events will be more inclined to participate in your peer-to-peer campaign.
- Social presence – While this is not a large determining factor, the supporters that are more active on social media or in the community can reach more people and potentially raise more funds.
This type of information will help you find supporters that are not only interested in joining your peer-to-peer campaign, but also will be effective fundraisers.
Reach out to them personally and ask them if they’d be interested!
Select the right kind of supporters to fundraise on your behalf. A peer-to-peer campaign is only as good as the individuals raising the funds.
Bonus: Check out Salsa’s tips for using social media to get the word out about your peer-to-peer campaign.
5. Prepare Your Fundraisers
Once you’ve assembled your team of fundraisers, it’s time to train and prepare them to go out and start asking for donations or sponsorships. Remember, your supporters aren’t professional fundraisers, and they may never have raised money before. Giving them a great selection of tools to use will help make them (and you!) more successful.
When preparing your supporters for fundraising activities, you’ll want to provide the following resources and support:
- Templates for emails and social media posts: It’s immensely helpful to have a standard email or social media post that donors can just copy, paste, and send off to their social networks. Make sure fundraisers know that they can deviate from the template, but that the general message and call-to-action need to remain the same.
- Training and instructions: Most donors will have never been in a fundraising position before. You can’t expect them to know how to use or customize a peer-to-peer fundraising page without any direction or training. Whether you create an instructional video that explains how the campaign will work or host a workshop for local donors, make sure that they have sufficient training and support before they start fundraising.
- Leaderboards and tracking: If you want to introduce a healthy dose of competition to your peer-to-peer campaign, you can use leaderboards and tracking mechanisms (like fundraising thermometers) to keep your fundraisers on their toes. Leaderboards will show who has raised the most money, and a fundraising thermometer will track overall progress. Both are good ways to encourage fundraisers to raise more money for your cause.
You have a greater chance of peer-to-peer fundraising and walkathon success if you properly prepare your fundraisers.
Give them the tools they need to effectively raise money on behalf of your organization.
Bonus: See more info about getting the word out about your campaign.
6. Keep Track of Acquisition, Retention, & Registration
Once your fundraisers start reaching out to their networks, you’ll start seeing the donations roll in.
While this may seem like a tempting moment to relax until the day of the walkathon, it’s no time to rest on your laurels.
Instead, keep track of the new donor data that is pouring into your CRM (see more info here: https://www.neoncrm.com/nonprofit-donor-database/). You’ll also need to update your existing donor data and track your acquisition and retention rates.
Additionally, you’ll need to be constantly updating your registration list. Your fundraisers are raising money for your cause, but they’re also raising awareness.
That awareness can translate into new walkathon participants as well as new donors.
Make sure that your database is able to keep up with all of these new changes and adjustments. Failure to do so could result in missed opportunities and blunders on the day of your walkathon.
7. Start Walking!
Congratulations! You successfully reached (or maybe even surpassed!) your fundraising goal!
It’s time for the walkathon itself.
As participants show up, make sure that they check-in and receive a name tag or sticker. You can even create welcome packets, but they shouldn’t be too cumbersome (you don’t want people throwing them on the side of the road as they walk).
You can include information on further giving in these packets. For example, you can introduce mobile giving in these materials if your organization offers this features. Setting up mobile giving can allow to collect quick, convenient donations during your walkatlhon! For more information, check out Qgiv’s mobile giving guide!
If you sold t-shirts or other merchandise that walkers will need on the day of the walkathon, you can either send them out ahead of time or distribute them on the day of the event.
Have refreshments and water along the way for people who get thirsty and make sure there is a well-defined finish line.
Hopefully, your fundraisers and participants will have a great time walking alongside each other and supporting a noble cause.
8. Send out Follow-Ups & Acknowledgements
I bet you thought the last point was my final tip.
Some nonprofits might call their walkathon quits after the last participant has crossed the finish line, but it’s good practice to send out follow-up communications and acknowledgements promptly.
First, you’ll need to send your front-line fundraisers and event volunteers a sincere letter of gratitude. You can even give them a call to personally thank them for the hard work they put into making your walkathon a success.
Then, you’ll want to send out a welcome letter or packet to those donors or participants who have never donated until your walkathon. Let them know that they’re part of your nonprofit’s “family” and genuinely thank them for participating at and giving to your walkathon fundraiser.
You’ll also need to thank your committee members and others who helped organize and orchestrate your walkathon from day one.
The sooner you engage with your donors, the better off your nonprofit will be in the long run.
You can acknowledge and follow up with donors by:
- Sending out emails.
- Writing letters and cards.
- Giving them a phone call.
- Having a special lunch or meeting with your top supporters.
- Giving them a shoutout on social media.
- And more!
As part of your follow up strategy, you should:
- Ask for standard donations.
- Encourage donors to volunteer with your nonprofit.
- Invite participants to other events throughout the year.
- Ask donors to tour your facilities and meet with staff members.
- And more!
If you want to have future walkathon and general event success, make sure you follow up and acknowledge your donors and participants.
Planning a walkathon is a time-intensive and complex process, but with these eight steps and tips by your side, you’ll cross the finish line with flying colors.
What about your organization? What strategies would you use for a walkathon? Let us know in the comments, or start your own Booster!
- Fundraising Event Checklist. When preparing your peer-to-peer fundraising event, it’s important to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Use our comprehensive checklist to keep every fundraiser detail accounted for.
- Walkathon Guide. For more comprehensive information on executing a walkathon, check out our ultimate guide!
- BidPal’s Top Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tips. Learn more about reaping the benefits of a peer-to-peer fundraiser by reading these incredible tips from BidPal!