Raise Money and Have Fun with a Walkathon!
By Lee Garverick
Walkathons can be a great way to raise money for a good cause, get some exercise, and foster friendships and community spirit within your organization. They're excellent for publicity, and can be successful with everyone from toddlers to seniors. If you have decided to plan a walkathon, follow these tips for success.
1. Focus on getting volunteers, and everything else goes more smoothly
As chair of the event, your first inclination may be to jump in and start taking care of the details. But remember, your role is to keep an eye on the big picture and support the many others who help make the event a success. Be relentless about recruiting volunteers, starting on day one and continuing throughout the walkathon planning cycle. Put a lot of thought into clearly defining walkathon volunteer roles. Unencumbered by details, you can be available as a sounding board and cheering section for your team while they tackle their respective areas of responsibility.
2. Pinpoint a specific cause within your overall goals
Most walkathons already have a larger cause like the school, animal shelter, or another charity. However if you have the option, be more specific by pinpointing tangible and visible items to be purchased such as interactive white boards, new playground equipment, a mobile vet unit or mobile library, or
new concessions stands & bleachers for the ball field. That way your community can see the result s of their efforts.
3. Plan your work
Meet with your committee chairs to create a walkathon planning timeline and create a chart and checklist of all the activities that need to be done for the walkathon. Once the list is developed, identify areas where one committee needs something from another in order to do their job. For example, a theme and logo must be completed before t-shirts can be printed. Approximate head count and sizes need to be identified before t-shirts can be ordered. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak up and is aware of these important steps, sequence and timing needs.
4. Leverage technology
Take advantage of software tools like VolunteerSpot to speed recruiting volunteers and allowing them to select their roles and time slots. In addition, if you have a few helpers who are tech-comfortable, consider using an online walkathon management tool like Pride Fundraising to keep organized. It offers everything needed to launch a webpage, generate participant pledge codes and collect donations. Fundraising sites like Fundly and First Giving allow your walkathon participants to setup their own fundraising pages and solicit donation from their friends via email and social media sites like facebook.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel
You will need to hand out walkathon registration forms, sponsor letters, publicity flyers and instruction sheets. There are plenty of well done examples on the web. Use those and document your work for next year's team! (hint: search 'walkathon letters')
6. Have a pinch hitter team
Even with the best of planning, you’ll find a few things falling through the cracks in the last few days before your event and on the walkathon day itself. Have a few trusty volunteers ready to catch them, so that you can remain sane during the most hectic part of your planning process.
7. Celebrate success at every step
During the planning process, walkathon day, and when the final funds have been counted, how and what will you celebrate? Be sure to point out great jobs done by your planning team all along the way. Then decide ahead of time what milestones you’ll recognize for your walkers, whether it’s number of laps or miles walked or amount of funds raised. During the event, consider having special prizes at each distance milestone, such as jelly bracelets or showy beads on a necklace. After the event, a slide show may be in order. Don’t let the opportunity to revel in success slip by. For one, you’ll add enthusiasm for next year’s walkathon. But more importantly, everyone deserves the fun of recognizing a job well done.