Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, a company that specializes in nonprofit event planning. She’s got a ton of great insight into the nonprofit event planning process, and she wrote this article on how nonprofits can plan, execute, and follow up on the perfect fundraising event. Check out what Kerri has to say about nonprofit event planning!
As with any fundraising event that you’re planning, hosting a walkathon or bikeathon will take some planning, preparation, and yes— some perspiration!
Putting together a walkathon or bikeathon requires a lot of planning, creativity, and effort. But, with the help of this step-by-step guide, it should be as intuitive as hopping on a bike.
Curious about the steps to planning and pulling off a bikeathon or walkathon? Take a quick peek here:
Step 1: Assemble a Leadership Team for Your Fundraising Event.
Step 2: Select a Date, Time, and Location.
Step 3: Secure Sponsorships for Your Bikeathon or Walkathon.
Step 4: File Necessary Event Paperwork.
Step 5: Create Registration and Donation Forms.
Step 6: Design T-Shirts for Your Walkathon or Bikeathon Participants.
Step 7: Spread the Word About Your Fundraiser.
Step 8: Have Volunteers Show Up Early.
Step 9: Walk, Bike, Have a Great Time!
Step 10: Thank Your Participants.
On your marks, get set, plan a fundraiser!
Among the first things you’ll need to do when you’re planning any type of fundraising event— whether it’s a walkathon, bikeathon, charity auction, benefit concert, or what-have-you— is assemble a leadership team.
What exactly is a leadership team?
To put it simply, a leadership team will comprise of the people that do the bulk of the behind-the-scenes work. They’re the movers and the shakers who get the majority of the dirty work and planning done (with the gracious help of volunteers, of course).
At the head of every leadership team is the development director. Not only will this person play a vital role in planning your walkathon or bikeathon, but they will also play a significant role in recruiting and training the rest of your event team (including staff and volunteers).
Additionally, this person is the head fundraiser, who will speak to major donors to obtain sponsorships and other funding for the event.
Your nonprofit should consider hiring a development director if you don’t already have one as they can lead your fundraising events in the right direction and communicate with potential donors.
Your development director should be prepared to take on the large picture planning and challenges while organizing the other vital roles for your event.
For most events, there will be three levels of leadership:
- The Planning Committee.
- The Host Committee.
- Volunteers and Other Staff.
The Planning Committee.
At the top of the pyramid will be your planning committee. These are the folks that are in charge of getting everything off the ground.
They’ll decide and organize aspects of the walkathon or bikeathon, such as:
- When and where you’ll host it,
- Who will be sponsoring it,
- What the budget will be, and
- Who to invite.
When the initial details are all in place, the planning committee will pass their baton on to the host committee (also known as the “Event Committee”).
The Host Committee.
Once the host committee has been passed the torch, they’ll hit the ground running.
In essence, these dedicated volunteers, board members, and staff members are the ones that handle the actual fundraising for the event.
They’ll be charged with seeking donors, talking with participants, and encouraging their personal and professional networks to get involved.
On the day of the walkathon or bikeathon, they’ll gladly hand the mic over to the emcees and coordinators of the actual event: the volunteers and staff.
Volunteers and Staff.
Throughout the event planning process, your entire leadership will rely on the know-how and hard work of volunteers and staff.
That being said, your volunteers and any remaining staff members (who weren’t the major players in either of the first two committees) are going to shine on the day of the event.
They will be the key figures:
- Manning the registration table,
- Passing out water to participants,
- Making last-minute name tags,
- Cleaning up afterward,
- And so much more!
However large or small your walkathon or bikeathon may be, it’s important to have a solid base of several volunteers and staff members who are willing to put in that extra effort for your cause.
The point is: To see a walkathon or bikeathon through to the end, you’re going to need the help of a planning committee, an event committee, and a number of dedicated staff members and volunteers.
Now that you have your leadership teams lined up, it’s crucial to solidify the major details of the walkathon or bikeathon.
First things first, you’ll want to take a look at your organization’s calendar.
Most walkathons and bikeathons take roughly 6-8 months to plan and execute.
If you’re wanting to host a Turkey Trot in November, you may want to start planning between March and May. Or, you could look at it the other way: if you start planning now, you’ll want to pick your date about 6 months out.
In either case, give yourself enough time to arrange all of the details, market your fundraiser, and work out any last-minute kinks.
Once you’ve settled on a date, you can work on finalizing a time.
Obviously, since walkathons are typically daytime events, your window of possibility is narrowed down to the morning or afternoon.
Also, depending on the season, you may want to adjust your timing. In the winter months, the days will be considerably shorter.
To be safe, plan the event for mid-morning—preferably on a Saturday or Sunday so those who work during the week can attend.
Of course, the timing of your walkathon or bikeathon is entirely up to your organization.
With tentative dates and times in mind, it’s time to start exploring locations.
For events like walkathons and bikeathons specifically, it’s important to find a venue that can support registration, a route, and celebration.
Many organizations choose to make their walkathons and bikeathons complete loops.
In that case, participants start out at the registration table, take off walking in one direction, and end up walking in a complete circle around town, only to end up right back at the registration table.
By that point, your volunteers and staff will have transformed the registration area into a celebration station!
If, however, you choose not to create a closed circuit, it’s entirely possible to pull off a successful walkathon or bikeathon where participants travel from one point to another. You’ll need to prepare participants ahead of time so that they can make the proper arrangements for transportation.
In addition to picking a route for the event, you will also want to take into consideration the cost of certain venues.
You can find quite a few fundraising event venues that will host a walkathon or bikeathon free of charge. That being said, many places may charge more for certain:
- Times of day,
- Months of the year,
- And even days of the week.
The goal of any fundraiser, obviously, is to make as much money and raise as much awareness as possible. Make sure you remember these two fundamental goals while seeking out a place to host your walkathon or bikeathon.
The point is: There are several factors to consider when choosing a time, date, and place to host a walkathon or bikeathon. Before you commit to any of those three, be sure you’ve thought each through!
As soon as you’ve finalized a date, time, and place, your organization should begin to look for sponsorships.
First of all, let’s take a step back and examine precisely what sponsorships are and why they’re so crucial for hosting a successful walkathon or bikeathon.
Sponsorships involve a business or individual with means supporting an event— through monetary contributions or by donating major goods and services.
In exchange, sponsors get prime real estate for advertising on T-shirts, posters, and other promotional materials.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties involved.
Because they’re so critical for fundraising events like walkathons and bikeathons, we’re going to go step-by-step through the process of securing a sponsor right here:
Step 1: Decide on the kinds of businesses that fit your needs.
Deciding on the kinds of businesses that fit your needs is arguably the hardest step of the process.
It helps to start by looking into local businesses in your area. Try to find places that have a history of philanthropy.
That being said, you don’t want to waste any efforts on companies that are spreading themselves too thin.
Find the sweet spot where the business wants to help a good cause but isn’t committed to too many charities already.
Step 2: Figure out their marketing and promotion goals.
Sponsorships aren’t totally free. They come at a cost to your organization.
Luckily that cost is usually just promotion-related.
In order to gauge the sort of exchange you’ll need to make, it’s important to figure out prospective sponsors’ marketing and promotion objectives.
When you’re contacting potential sponsors, be sure to ask your points of contact about their marketing goals.
What audience are they looking to reach? What kind of message are they trying to send about their company?
These types of questions will help you assess the goals and objectives that your prospective sponsors have and are instrumental in working out a sponsorship plan that meets everyone’s needs.
Step 3: Know what else you can offer a potential sponsor.
As soon as you know what your prospective sponsors’ marketing and promotion goals are, you can begin to figure out what it is that you can offer them.
Do you have members that are a part of their key audience?
Are you going to have a wide reach when it comes to social media?
Do they want to reach your participants in a certain way? Can you accommodate that?
Once you’ve landed on what you have to offer a sponsor, you can take a look at your calendar and pick a time to pitch.
Step 4: Pick a time to pitch your sponsors.
Scheduling can be a sticky business. You’re planning an event, running an organization, and balancing what feels like a thousand plates at a time.
Your potential sponsors are also incredibly busy— they’re running a business!
You also want to give your organization time to get all of your ducks in a row.
That’s why it’s crucial to schedule your pitch at least a couple of months in advance of when you’d actually need funding.
Step 5: Investigate who the key players at the business.
At the same time that you’re dabbling with schedules and trying to figure out the best time to have a meeting, it’s also important to assess who the key players at the business are.
For this, it helps to have someone on the inside, someone who can tell you who has the most authority to sign off on a sponsorship— and who would be the most likely to do so.
Step 6: Craft your offer and practice your pitch.
After you’ve picked a time and date and figured out with whom you’ll be speaking, it’s finally time to start crafting your offer and practicing your pitch.
Make sure you keep your pitch short, sweet, and to the point. Emphasize what your sponsor will be getting out of this deal, and don’t be shy about expressing the needs of your organization.
Let your potential sponsors get a sense of the good that their sponsorship could help achieve.
Of course, don’t forget to practice. A smooth presentation comes only with persistent preparation.
Step 7: Make the pitch!
All of your research and hard work has led up to this point: making the pitch!
On the day of the pitch, check to make sure that you have everything you need to make a pitch.
Have copies on hand of any documents you’d like to share with your prospective sponsors.
Run through your PowerPoint or note cards one last time to work out any final glitches or stumbling points.
Most importantly, be confident!
The point is: There are several steps involved with securing a sponsorship. Make sure you find businesses that suit your needs. Offer them something in exchange, and craft a well-thought-out pitch.
Any good fundraising event checklist will encourage you to fill out any necessary paperwork that might pertain to your event.
For some events, that means looking into health code regulations, making sure that you have the proper permits, and following all of the guidelines in order to sell or serve food.
As far as events like bikeathons and walkathons go, it’s important to research not only the kind of paperwork your organization will need to fill out and file, but also the types of waivers and forms that participants may need to sign.
Since walkathons and bikeathons are physical activities (and as such, inherently somewhat dangerous), you will almost certainly need to have all of your participants fill out and sign liability waivers.
You can never be too careful when it comes to hosting an event, and it’s better to err on the safe side by drawing up waivers releasing your organization of any liability in the event of injury or accident.
Most waivers are:
- Less than a page,
- Easy to find online,
- And simple to copy.
In addition to waivers, your organization may also need to look into what local authorities, like the police and fire department, require of an event like a bikeathon or walkathon.
If you’re hosting your event on public property, you might have to fill out some liability paperwork or keep your event under a certain size.
It’s really up to the local authorities, so make sure you give them a call to sort everything out. You can even acquire their help in directing traffic around the event.
The point is: In order to keep everyone safe and happy at your walkathon or bikeathon, your organization will need to distribute waivers to every participant and file any requisite forms with local authorities.
Before you can get your walkathon or bikeathon off the ground, so to speak, you’ll have to create registration and donation forms.
Luckily, Qgiv provides everything your organization could possibly need when it comes to online and mobile registration and donation forms.
A great registration or donation form, as you may or may not know, is typically:
- Fully customizable and personalized,
- Mobile-responsive and mobile-friendly,
- Shareable via email and social media,
- Easy-to-use and uncluttered,
- And consistently branded.
When it comes to your walkathon or bikeathon, your organization will definitely want to have a unique registration and donation page— one that’s easily recognizable and easy-to-use.
Having an unbranded, cluttered, unresponsive registration or donation form could mean the difference between 20 people signing up and 2,000 people pledging.
In the latter situation (where thousands signed up), the registration form was likely incredibly intuitive.
There were no unnecessary “required” fields. The page matched the theme and colors of your nonprofit’s main website.
Not only that, but it was also probably quick to load and simple to click through on a phone.
Furthermore, that registration page was shareable across all sorts of social media sites and email and more.
The donation page was also all that (and more!). It most likely gave the user multiple options for ways to give or pledge and accepted several major payment types to boot.
Your organization’s registration page and donation form can be that awesome, too!
To learn more about how your organization can register more participants on the move, check out this complete guide to mobile fundraising: https://www.qgiv.com/blog/mobile-giving/
The point is: Registration forms and donation pages are vital to any walkathon or bikeathon fundraiser. Ensure that anyone can sign up and donate from anywhere and at any time by creating online and mobile registration and donation pages.
Remember that fundraiser you participated in back in 2010? You probably still have the T-shirt you got for participating.
Sure, it probably has a few holes in it now. It’s almost definitely faded and shrunken a bit.
All of those signs of wear are really just signs of love, though, if you think about it.
You loved being a part of that event; you loved making a difference. And you really loved having a badge of honor to show for it, proof that you were there and contributed to making the world a better place.
That shirt is so much more than something to wash the car in, fall asleep on the couch wearing, or throw on for a quick run to the store.
It serves as a memento, a symbol of a good time and a good cause.
As you’re planning your own bikeathon or walkathon, it’s important to keep all of this in mind.
More likely than not, you’ll want to provide your event participants with the same experience you’ve had with T-shirts (or other commemorative merchandise).
Where do you get started?
First things first, find an apparel company or website that fits your budget and needs.
Once you’ve found a site or shop that works for you, decide on the types of apparel you want to offer participants.
If you’re hosting a bikeathon or walkathon in the winter, you might consider choosing a long-sleeved option.
Conversely, if you’re throwing a fundraiser in the middle of July, you’ll most definitely want to go for a cooler option, like light-weight tee.
With the type of clothing decided upon, the next step is designing the front and back.
Your organization will likely want to highlight key sponsors on the back of the shirt, according to any agreements you may have made with your partners.
The front of the shirt is entirely up to you. Make sure that it communicates what your fundraiser is all about, while still being attractive!
The point is: Designing shirts for your walkathon or bikeathon is an excellent way to help commemorate your fundraiser and give participants something to show off for years to come!
All of the planning is now under your belt.
Now it’s time to start promoting your event!
One of the best ways to get the word out about your upcoming fundraiser is through peer-to-peer fundraising.
Peer-to-peer fundraising usually involves an organization enlisting the help of its members to spread the news about a fundraiser to their personal and professional networks.
Those members will typically reach out to:
- Social media connections,
- And more!
In turn, those friends and family members may extend invites to their own social network connections. Before you know it, you’ve set off a domino effect.
In case you’re interested in reading more about peer-to-peer fundraising and what it can do for your nonprofit, be sure to take a look at Qgiv’s comprehensive guide.
Of course, in addition to (or instead of) employing peer-to-peer fundraising, your organization may also want to try your hand at other methods of raising awareness.
Methods such as:
- Taking out an ad in the local paper,
- Creating an event page on Facebook,
- Sending out an email blast to your contacts,
- Tweeting, Instagramming, and Snapchatting,
- Calling up local media to make a press release,
- And any other methods that have worked in the past!
Don’t limit yourself to just one tactic. Run the gamut from traditional to all-the-way-out-there to see the best and broadest results.
The point is: Marketing a walkathon or bikeathon is crucial for its ultimate success. Be sure that you’re diversifying your approach and exploring new options for promoting your event.
It’s finally the day of the event.
Everything you’ve been working toward the past few months culminates in this one day.
In order to ensure that it’s as successful as can be, have your volunteers show up to the event location as early as you think is necessary.
You might want to have certain types of volunteers show up at different times, depending on their duties.
Those who are manning the registration table should show up at least 30 minutes to an hour early.
Volunteers who are setting up the route with markers (like balloons or ribbons or even just cones) should ideally show up a couple of hours in advance to lay everything out.
As for your other volunteers, they should still show up early to help out. How far in advance of the walkathon or bikeathon they should arrive is up to your organization.
That being said, you may also have volunteers whose sole job it is to help clean up or help with the celebration at the end.
In that case, they do not necessarily have to show up early. They just need to be in their places before the participants arrive at the end of the route.
A final note about your volunteers: They’re passionate and dedicated to your cause. Be sure to express your gratitude for them appropriately (more on thanking your participants later!).
The point is: It’s best to have your volunteers who are in charge of setting up and helping run the event show up a couple of hours before the kick-off time.
As we mentioned in the previous step, you’ve worked long and hard to get to this point.
It’s 100% okay to celebrate.
In fact, it’s highly encouraged! When your walkathon or bikeathon participants see you enjoying yourselves and getting into the event, they’re bound to feel more enthusiastic themselves.
Imagine this scenario. Dozens of walkers (or bicyclists) show up. They’re ready to go with their walking shoes, T-shirts, and bikes.
It’s early in the morning, but you’ve provided hot coffee to help get everyone energized.
But because you’ve been planning and arranging (and let’s be honest, rearranging) everything for so long, you’re no longer excited about the event.
You don’t even partake in the coffee because you’re worried you won’t have enough for everyone.
Some of your staffers are falling asleep standing up (which is understandable— like we said, it’s early).
The problem arises when that energy— or lack thereof, rather— becomes contagious.
Suddenly, those eager beavers who showed up right at 7:30 AM are feeling the weight of all of the stress that your event planning team has had on their backs for weeks.
This situation is entirely avoidable!
All it really takes is stepping back from the event for a moment and assessing the reasons you’re there to begin with.
It was your passion for the cause that brought you to plan a fundraiser in the first place. Tap into that sentiment on the day of the walkathon or bikeathon.
Be sure to express your gratitude and excitement around your participants. Joy is contagious, after all.
The point is: The best way to ensure that your participants have a great time is to have a great time yourselves.
Speaking of gratitude and excitement, let’s take a moment to talk about thanking your walkathon or bikeathon participants.
The #1 rule when it comes to thanking event fundraiser participants: Send your sincere gratitude within the first 48 hours following the walkathon or bikeathon.
If you wait any longer than that to send out thank you letters, emails, and phone calls, people will start to suspect that you’ve dropped the ball.
52% of people who have left a nonprofit (quit donating, unsubscribed from emails, stopped attending meetings, etc.) cited their reasoning as a lack of communication and gratitude.
Essentially, they weren’t being thanked.
What an easy mistake to avoid!
Your nonprofit needs to stay on top of your acknowledgements. As soon as the walkathon or bikeathon is over, start crafting your thank you letters.
If you’re worried that snail mail may be as slow as its name suggests, you can also always shoot out a quick “Thank you” email blast.
Some fundraising software platforms even allow you to send out automatic acknowledgements after participants have:
- Or completed pledge.
Phone calls are another great way to reach out personally to your awesome walkers and bicyclists.
However you choose to follow up, just make sure you do so in a timely manner.
For more info on following up with your participants, take a look at this helpful article about donation receipts: https://www.qgiv.com/blog/donation-receipts/
The point is: Not only is it crucial to follow up and thank your event participants, it’s also extremely important to do so within the first 48 hours after the walkathon or bikeathon.
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how to host a walkathon or bikeathon. Take it all one step at a time, and you’ll get to the finish line in no time at all.
For more proven fundraising best practices, read the following additional resources:
- Top Peer-to-Peer Platforms. Hosting a peer-to-peer campaign along with your walkathon or bikeathon is a great way to rally your supporters and raise additional funds for your organization. Find the perfect platform for your campaign with this list of websites.
- Text-Giving Guide. Promoting text-to-give during live events is a great way to encourage donors to support your cause. During your walkathon or bikeathon, have a speaker ask attendees to donate with their phones. Learn more about accepting donations via text message.
- The Ultimate Guide to Donor Stewardship. After your event, make sure to send your participants and sponsors thank-you letters to show your appreciation. If you want to learn more about acknowledging donors and jump-starting the cultivation process, check out this guide.
What are you waiting for? Your boots were made for fundraising!