How to Plan a Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser (Steps + Ideas)

How to Plan a Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser (Steps + Ideas)

bowl a thon

Bowling events are a fun way to have some family fun while raising a few hundred dollars for your organization. With the creation of Bowl-a-thons and peer-to-peer fundraising, nonprofits can now make thousands of dollars and spread the word about their organization to people across the country.

This article gives a step-by-step breakdown of how to run one of these events and a few ideas on making your next bowl-a-thon a success. With a well-thought-out plan and some creativity, your next bowling fundraiser can be an exciting evening for all involved.

  1. What is a Bowl-a-Thon?
  2. How to Run a Bowl-a-Thon?
  3. 4 Bowl-a-Thon Ideas

What is a Bowl-a-Thon?

bowl a thon

Bowl-a-thons are the perfect combination of traditional bowling events with new online fundraising campaigns. Bowling events have always been a way to bring all ages together. Now, with peer-to-peer and crowdfunding campaigns, people from across the country can get in on the fun.

There are bowling alleys everywhere, and your supporters can encourage their community to participate in the bowl-a-thon to help your organization.

The possibilities for fundraising are endless with these events. Nonprofits can raise funds with event tickets, donations from people’s families and friends, and any games they can add to the evening. Creativity is the name of the game for this type of event.


How to Run a Bowl-a-Thon (7 Steps)

bowling alley fundraiser

Deciding to hold a bowl-a-thon is only the first step, but this event like so many others can quickly become a failure without the right steps. The following steps should help your nonprofit decide if a bowl-a-thon is the right choice for you and make it a successful event to hold year after year.

Here’s how to plan a Bowl-a-thon Fundraiser in 7 Steps:

  1. Form an event committee
  2. Set your fundraising goals
  3. Decide on an event location and date
  4. Find event sponsors and vendors
  5. Choose the right tools
  6. Market your event
  7. Say thank you

Step 1 – Form an event committee

Volunteers are a vital part of any nonprofit. Your organization has likely used volunteers during past events, but have you included volunteers in your event planning? Creating a committee of volunteers to help find sponsors, in-kind donations, and event attendees not only makes your job easier but also increases your chance of holding a successful event.

Pro tip: Schedule the first committee meeting 6 to 9 months before your bowl-a-thon. Volunteers will know business owners and individuals interested in participating in your bowl-a-thon and it will take time to have them on board.


Step 2 – Set your fundraising goals

bowling tournament fundraiser

The first step you need to take is to decide how much you want to raise from this event. When creating your budget, it is important to look at similar events your organization has done in the past.

  • Do you have enough people who would be interested in attending this event live?
  • Are your followers comfortable enough online to raise funds with a peer-to-peer campaign?

Once you have a base number, you can determine the cost of event tickets, sponsorship levels, and other fundraising ways you should add to this event. You will also need to determine the cost for the event and how many necessary items you can get for free.

While financial goals are obviously the primary concern, your organization must also create a list of other goals you hope to achieve.

  • How many new donors do you expect to bring to this event?
  • What are you going to do after the event to keep these donors interested?
  • Do you already have sponsors you can depend on for this type of event?
  • If not, how will you develop long-term community partnerships with any new sponsors you can find?

Step 3 – Decide on an event location and date

When figuring out the cost of your bowl-a-thon, you begin by researching and contacting potential locations. Ask your event committee to discuss your event with several different bowling options to see which will be best for your group.

  • Is the site large enough for your event?
  • Is there space to hold other fundraising activities during the games?
  • Will you be the only ones using the location during your event, or is the alley open to the public as well?

Once you find a place, a date for your event should be easy, right? The answer to that depends on your community. When deciding on a date, you must ensure you aren’t competing with too many other fundraising events. Fundraisers can be held any time of the year, but summer and Christmas Season events are extremely popular.


Step 4 – Find event sponsors and vendors

Once you’ve finalized your location and date, it is time to find sponsors and vendors that can help cut down on the cost of your bowl-a-thon.

4.1 Event sponsors

Ideally, you can find one or two major sponsors to cover most of the cost. Before contacting local businesses, you must create sponsorship levels and amounts along with the benefits these companies can expect in return. Businesses support nonprofit events because of the potential they see in marketing to your supporters. When creating your sponsorship levels, you’ll want to include the recognition sponsors receive on social media, your website, and print media.

Check this page below for example. It creates sponsorship benefit levels and explains it very well. The donation form on the page is pretty simple and allows donors/sponsors to designate their donations to a specific fund. That truly takes your transparency to the next level.

bowling tournament fundraiser

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4.2 Vendors

Sponsors are not the only way to cut down on costs. Finding the right vendors for your event is essential. As you decide on the food and drinks, look for vendors willing to give you good deals on their products. Some vendors will even offer their goods as in-kind donations, especially if they’re new to your community. Remember to offer your vendors publicity in exchange for their in-kind donations.

4.3 In-kind donations

In-kind donations are more important than you know. Your nonprofit can raise funds with more than event tickets and donations. The more games and fundraising events your bowl-a-thon includes, the better. You will need products and prizes for fundraising activities like silent and live auctions, raffles, and t-shirt sales. When creating your sponsorship form, be sure to include a reminder that you are also looking for in-kind donations from companies for these activities.


Step 5 – Choose the right tools

Choosing the right fundraising tool for your bowl-a-thon is equally important to any decision you’ve made so far. A bowl-a-thon combines an in-person event with online fundraising campaigns, so your nonprofit must use a processor that offers both event registration and peer-to-peer or crowdfunding fundraising campaigns.

Check this fundraising page below. It is quite straightforward and lets donors choose what they want to do – pay for a single player’s entry or sponsor teams. With the custom amount field, one can even make a donation of their desired amount. A form like this can really cut down on efforts for event registration and accepting donations.

Plus with Donorbox, you get to manage your donors, track their donation plans, send receipts, create crowdfunding campaigns, have social media buttons added to your page, and much more.

bowl a thon fundraiser

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Step 6 – Market your event

Like any event, marketing is essential for the success of your bowl-a-thon. This is another vital role of the event committee. Each volunteer has their own community who they can encourage to attend your bowl-a-thon.

Pro tip: Send invitation emails to everyone on your donor database. Since most of your event attendees will be local, you can also use old marketing standbys like flyers and local media advertising. These marketing tools are easy ways to catch people’s attention and bring in a local crowd.

A bowl-a-thon is partly an online event. The best way to help your volunteers reach a larger community is through social media accounts. As the bowl-a-thon gets closer, your office can send event reminders about the upcoming event, updates on new sponsors and vendors, and recognition of volunteers running their own peer-to-peer campaigns.


Step 7 – Say thank you!

bowling tournament fundraiser

There are many people that helped you hold your bowl-a-thon, including volunteers, sponsors, and donors. At your event and after, you should find ways to recognize and thank each group for their help. You can do this by sharing each online fundraiser’s names and amounts and acknowledging your event committee with a presentation during the event and thank you gifts.


4 Bowl-a-Thon Ideas to Make Your Fundraiser a Success

As you plan for your upcoming bowl-a-thon, there are a few ways you can make your event stand out in the crowd.

bowl a thon ideas


1. Find additional ways to raise funds

As we’ve discussed, events like bowl-a-thons can include more than just event tickets and donations. As people wait around for their turn to bowl, you can give them more options to give to your nonprofit.

1.1 Silent auction

A silent auction can engage your crowd and get you a good amount of funds. Auction items can consist of tickets to local sporting events, spa certificates, and wine bottles or food. Raffles are another excellent option.

1.2 Raffle games

If you have received some high-end in-kind donations, you can use them as raffle gifts. If you can’t find the right raffle item, a 50/50 or reverse raffle can help your organization raise a few hundred dollars with a large enough crowd.

1.3 T-shirt sales

Another fun and creative idea to help raise funds are t-shirt sales. When finding bowling teams to participate in your event, you can ask them to design their own team t-shirts and sell them at the event to support their team. To cover the cost of the shirts, you can include logos and the names of your event sponsors on each team’s shirt.


2. Go live

bowl a thon ideas

Since your bowl-a-thon is also an online campaign, you can share the fun of this event with the online crowd by live-streaming the event on social media accounts like Facebook or YouTube.

Pro tip: Add some entertainment for the local and online crowd. If you have connections with a local band or entertainer, this may be a great time to ask them to join your fundraising efforts in exchange for some publicity. Making your bowl-a-thon a live event for those who attend in-person and those who support through donations allows everyone to celebrate together.


3. Set a theme

Your mission is the reason you were formed and the only reason your organization exists in the first place. Fundraising events are the perfect opportunity to share your mission and impact on the community with a new audience.

An excellent way to achieve this is with a theme. Creating a theme that combines the event and your nonprofit’s key goal entices more people to learn about your organization and join the event because they care. Attendees who are there for the cause will buy tickets, make a donation, maybe even volunteer, and spread the word about your nonprofit after the event.

Bowl For Kids’ Sake is one such campaign that’s based around the theme of helping community kids aged between 6 and 18. It aligns with the mission of the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s a good inspiration if you’d want to create something similar.

bowl a thon fundraiser

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4. Recruit players with strong online connections

Peer-to-Peer fundraisers do best when nonprofits use passionate and socially involved individuals. Do you know of any volunteers comfortable using social media? Do you know any influencers with a large following? There are over 3 million influencers in the world right now. They have an engaged audience of at least 1,000 followers.

After signing on a few players, it’s time to show your support and give them the tools needed to find success. Share regular updates on the event and send them pictures and images from your nonprofit’s programs. These posts can keep them active, involved, and able to raise more money for your event.


Final Thoughts

bowl a thon fundraiser

Following the steps listed above will help you hold a successful event. Bowl-a-thons can bring in thousands of dollars to your nonprofit, but the financial gains are not the only reason to have this fundraiser. You can gain more attention and raise more money by keeping your mission first and adding different fundraising activities to it.

Modern nonprofits need quality tools to reach their fundraising goals. With online donation processors like Donorbox, your organization can spread your mission, raise funds, and collect necessary donor information. Visit our website for a list of features like matching gifts, text-to-give, and crowdfunding campaigns. Check out our blog if you’re looking for more tips and ideas on holding more online fundraisers.

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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