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Ever considered hosting a 5K, “Fun Run” or Walk for charity?

If you’ve relied on the same black-tie galas and golf tournaments year after year, putting on a race can be an effective way to raise awareness of your organization, loop in new members of the community, gain event sponsors and more.

Read on for 7 short- and long-term benefits of holding a race. Then, check out our FREE webinar all about maximizing your Fun Run fundraising results.

1. Stand out from the crowd

You already know your supporters are busy people who are involved in the community. But did you know an estimated 76 percent of winning bidders attend four or more fundraising events each year?

That’s a lot of competition among many worthy causes!

Donors can become disinterested when offered the same event, auction items and entertainment year after year. That’s not to say the annual fundraising auction needs to be tossed out the window – but a charity race can be an exciting way to mix up the routine, and ultimately increase momentum for your bigger events.

2. Engage supporters year-round

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Fall and spring are notorious “peak seasons” of fundraising events – the time periods when the most galas and golf tournaments are held, and often on the same weekends.

Races, on the other hand, typically take place in the slower summer months. With fewer competing events and giving campaigns, a summer race keeps donors engaged and thinking about your cause all year. This strategy can pay huge dividends when the annual gala and year-end giving campaign do come around.


3. Surprise and delight donors

Races attract serious runners and philanthropists alike, but in recent years, the amount of registrants for traditional races has regressed. In fact, according to the 2015 Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Benchmark Study, 5K revenue fell 13 percent; participation by 12 percent; and online fundraising by 19 percent.

It’s hard to pin down one cause, and some charities are still finding success with traditional longer races.

However, especially if this is your first time hosting a race, consider subverting the trend by trying a “fun run.” These are races with a special twist, such as costumed participants, extreme survival races, obstacle courses and more. Fun Runs attract people who don’t consider themselves “runners” but are interested in having fun and supporting a cause.

Check out just a few Fun Run examples from our webinar co-host, race management team Brighter Tomorrow

Color Themed 5K

In a color themed run, participants are doused from head to toe in vibrant powder. This race, typically untimed, is one of the most popular types of fun runs today. Why? People love getting messy! It’s an exhilarating experience that allows people of all ages and physical abilities to have a blast while raising money for a charitable cause.

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Superhero Run

Put a unique twist on the traditional 5K by adopting a superhero theme. This is great for charities that work with children, since people will come dressed as beloved heroes like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Captain America and more.

One way to amp up the fun: Skip the dri-fit shirt and give participants a cape instead.

Holiday Theme

Imagine hundreds of Santas barreling down the street in support of your cause.

Families are together for the holidays, and what better way to spark the holiday spirit in the whole family than a themed run for charity? Plus, time around the big holidays us typically considered “dead weeks” of event fundraising. The result: People unlikely to attend a gala on Thanksgiving Day just might break out the shoes for a Turkey Trot.

Fallen Heroes Memorial Run

This event is perfect for nonprofits and causes with a mission to support and assist heroes injured or killed in the line of duty. This might be a race held on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, in honor of fallen firefighters and law enforcement officers, and more.

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How can you customize the race to your cause, geographic location, time of year and more?

A first-time charity Fun Run, customized to your cause, can be the perfect opportunity to surprise donors and show you’re willing to try something new.

4. Reach new people

New donor acquisition is one of the most commonly cited problems reported by Winspire News readers. Charity races and Fun Runs alike are a great way to draw in a whole host of newcomers that have never heard of your nonprofit.

Races tend to have a lower price point than a gala, where tickets can easily cost $200 or more. The lower cost of entry means your race may very well be the first time lifelong donors are introduced to your cause.

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A fun run is also a much more family-friendly endeavor than a black-tie gala. With kids out of school, parents are looking for affordable ways to keep children entertained (and off the iPads). Consider including a kids’ play zone, crafts, entertainment and/or a 100-meter Dash for children, so families can make a day of it – plus demonstrate to children the importance of giving back.

5. Have Fun with Friends

As a fun outdoors experience, races are inherently social. Few people will want to attend by themselves, so you’re very likely to sell bundled tickets. Consider offering tickets in packs of two, and group discounts for employers buying, say, 10 or more registrations for their employees.

Importantly, the vibrant nature of a race extends to social media. Take the Color Run, for example. Imagine hundreds of cheering, exuberant people covered in powder for your cause. Think that would make a compelling social media post?

These kinds of “experiential fundraisers” are visual candy tailor-made for Facebook and Instagram.

You might think this is limited to the younger generations, but studies show Baby Boomers 50 and up are actually the most likely to use Facebook on a daily basis. Indeed, FoMO, or the “Fear of Missing Out,” is one of the most powerful motivators for fundraising today.

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Consider leveraging FoMO by firmly limiting registrations to, say, 200 runners – and sticking to it.

6. Snag Event Sponsorships

How do races make money? Besides registration fees, the other main revenue generators are event sponsorships and peer-to-peer fundraising.

First, let’s look at event sponsorships. Who might be a good fit to sponsor your Fun Run?

Consider companies that are also targeting the people most likely to come out to a run: active people. This includes gyms and fitness clubs; running clubs; athletic apparel retailers; personal trainers; official marathons and more.

Another good strategy is targeting smaller and/or newer local companies. These are people who may not have been able to sponsor a big event like the gala, but can help underwrite one of the smaller expenses of a race like the signage, start and finish lines, bib printing and more.

For more help finding event sponsors, check out:


7. Leverage Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Races allow you to give out plenty of prizes; the trick is to offer prizes that acknowledge both speed (engraved trophies) and fundraising acheivements (certificates and plaques).

Here’s a few examples.

  1. Fastest in each age category. If this is a traditional race, timed prizes are a must.
  2. Largest team. This is the team that enlists the most runners.
  3. Top fundraising team(s). This is the team that raises the most money.
  4. Top individual fundraiser(s). This is the individuals that raised the most money.

In order to utilize peer-to-peer fundraising, enlist the help of a race software provider to set up individual and team fundraising pages for both participants and non-runners.

Finally, whether you’re hosting a charity auction or a fun run, it’s important to keep the focus on fundraising. One way to do this is to utilize a mandatory fundraising commitment. For example, in addition to the $30 registration fee, participants may be required to raise at least $100.

Won’t this deter people from registering? Perhaps. But in our experience, participants will almost always understand that this fun and unique event is being put on not solely for entertainment, but to support an urgent cause. To minimize the deterrence, amp up the purposeful messaging in your promotional materials and registration pages.


Host a Successful Fun-Run Fundraiser: Watch Full Webinar

If you enjoyed today’s post, please view the free Winspire webinar, “How to Host a Successful Fun-Run Fundraiser.” We teamed up with charity-run specialists Brighter Tomorrow to share the basics of hosting a charity run, including operations, logistics, event sponsorships, promotion, registration and more.


Your Turn – Have you tried hosting a charity run/walk? What do you wish you’d known then that you know now? Let us know in the comments below.