How to Organize a 5k Fundraiser for Charity Run: Step-By-Step

How to Organize a 5k Fundraiser for Charity Run: Step-By-Step

organize a charity run - title

Is your nonprofit organization thinking of organizing a 5k fundraiser to raise funds? A charity run can be very successful in attracting donations and raising the profile of your nonprofit, but it can be a challenge to plan.

Maybe you’ve organized a charity run in the past but it wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped.

Or maybe you’re organizing a charity run for the very first time.

Either way, you want to make sure that you set your plans and don’t leave anything out.


8-Step Guide to Organize a 5k Fundraiser For Charity Run

Organizing a charity run can feel incredibly daunting. It’s much easier if you break it down into smaller steps that feel achievable to tick off.

  1. Choosing a location for the Charity Run
  2. Determining the Resources Needed
  3. Setting SMART Goals For Charity Run
  4. Promoting Your Charity Run & Finding Participants
  5. Taking Registrations for Your Charity Run
  6. Accepting Online Donations
  7. Communicating With Your Participants
  8. What to Do Afterwards


1. Choosing a Location for the Charity Run

Start off by pinning down your location. Your route choice can have a big impact on the rest of your charity run plan. You may need more resources for using a certain route, for example. And it may affect the range of participants who take part in the run.

What distance will runners cover? It’s pretty common to choose 5K, 10K or half marathon distances for charity runs. These distances can attract serious runners while not being too daunting for others.

Look at whether you can choose a location that will be suitable for a range of ages and running abilities. This gives you a much bigger scope for getting people involved. The more participants you have, the more funds you’ll raise!

Many runners will prefer a gentle course with no big hills to tackle, for example. If you’re not targeting serious runners, you may decide on a course like this.

A looped course can work well too if you want the start and finish to be in the same place. This avoids having to transport runners back from the finish line.

Ideally, you also want the route to be accessible for crowd support. If possible, try to mobilize the local community to support the runners on the day. Vocal support can make a huge difference when participants are feeling the burn!

The positioning of water stations can also affect the route. Place these at regular intervals so that runners stay hydrated. You may also want to choose a route that allows water stations on both sides of the road.

Don’t forget about safety concerns. Is there usually much traffic on your chosen route? Are there plenty of sidewalks that runners can use to avoid traffic? Can you easily place things like water stations, portable toilets, and trash cans on the route?

There is also the legal side of things to consider:

  • Will you need to get permission to use a specific route?
  • How long can you close the route for if you get free reign to use it? This can affect the ability of your participants and who will feel able to sign up.
  • Is anything happening in the area on the day you want to hold your charity run? This might affect how feasible it is to go ahead with the run.
  • What about liability insurance?

Pro tip:  Before you confirm a potential location, get a volunteer or staff member to walk around the route. This will highlight any details that you can’t see when choosing which path to take. Is there anything that might deter some people from signing up, for example?


2. Determining the Resources Needed

Now that you’ve got your route sorted, think about the resources you’ll need.

This can include:

  • The number of staff and volunteers needed for roles before, during, and after the run
  • The level of security needed
  • Signage for the start and finish lines
  • Signage along the route to guide runners and for water stations
  • Tables and water bottles at water stations
  • Trash cans for empty water bottles
  • Concession stands for spectators
  • Post-race refreshments
  • Two-way radios to stay in contact with staff, volunteers, and security around the course
  • First aid kits and trained first-aiders on hand
  • Donations boxes at locations around the course
  • A stage for an awards ceremony
  • An online events platform to handle registrations and entry fees
  • A fundraising platform to handle donations

Pro tip: See if you can partner with a local sponsor to provide refreshments. Do you have participants coming from out of town? You could even partner with a local hotel to provide accommodation.


3. Setting SMART Goals For Charity Run

Setting goals for your charity run helps with planning and organizing. Look to create SMART fundraising goals if you can.

Not already familiar with these? SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

Some of the metrics you may decide to include are:

  • The number of participants you want to recruit
  • Number of new contacts you want to make through registrations and donations
  • How much do you aim to raise through registration fees for taking part in the run
  • The amount you want to raise through peer-to-peer fundraising
  • What you hope to raise through donations collected on the day
  • The total amount you aim to raise through sponsorships

An example of a SMART goal you might set?

  • Wanting to raise $10,000 through registration fees before the race day
  • Aiming to raise $5,000 through sponsorship by the end of race day
  • Making 100 new contacts by the end of race day and getting their name and email so you can follow up at a later date

Pro-tip #1: Make sure that your financial goals are realistic, especially if you’ve done a charity run before. If you didn’t raise a lot last time and don’t have many more resources at your disposal, you can still push that goal up. Just not to the point that you’re likely to fail!

Pro-tip #2: Gather information on your participants to use for future goals. First and last names and email addresses are the bare minimum you’ll want to collect. With these details, you can engage with them as needed. Invite them to your next charity run or see if they’ll become donors, for example. They’ve already taken part in a charity run on your behalf so there’s a good chance that they will continue to support you.


4. Promoting Your Charity Run & Finding Participants

Time to start spreading the word about your charity run!

What if your organization doesn’t have much to spend on marketing? There’s still a lot that you can do to promote your charity run.

Make sure that local radio and media are aware of your event. They may even want to interview a staff member or volunteer to talk about the run, which is great coverage!

Social media can be a very effective way to get the word out. This can include:

  • Setting up a Facebook fan page for your charity run so that people can get their friends involved
  • Posting to this fan page regularly with updates
  • Posting at least once a week on your organization’s social media pages
  • Encouraging sponsors to post about the charity run on their social media platforms
  • Encouraging your staff, volunteers, and donors to post on their social media channels
  • If your organization has the budget for it, use paid advertising on social media

Get involved in online communities linked to your cause. And hop on running communities too. Facebook groups can be great for this.

Add your charity run to online events calendars. Try meetup.com or Eventbrite, for example. This lets more people know that your charity run is happening.

Setting up a Facebook event can be very successful too. Participants can easily invite their friends to get involved. And when a participant hits the button to say that they’re going, it’s highlighted to their Facebook friends too. This is an easy way for more people to know about your charity run, especially if you’re on a limited marketing budget.

Don’t forget to email your supporters with details about the run. They’re already backing your cause and there’s a good chance they’ll want to get involved. They might also know people who do.

Try offline promotion too, such as posters and banners in areas with heavy footfall. This can reach people who don’t see your online promotion.

See if your organization can partner with small communities. Football or badminton clubs can be good examples. Their members are already active and may want to support your cause.

Partnering with corporates can be a good move too. Their employees may want to take part in the run or sponsor colleagues who get involved. The company may offer a corporate donation or sponsor your run.

Pro tip: Promoting your event as a run/walk can open it up to a wider range of abilities. Not everyone will feel confident enough to get involved in a run but they may participate if they can walk too.


5. Taking Registrations for Your Charity Run

Making it easy for people to register is a must when you’re organizing a charity run.

Think about how your organization will register runners for the event. Paper registration can be tedious and requires more time and effort from your staff. Using technology can free up more resources for admin and promotion.

Using an integrated online event management system lets you create a customized form. You can use this form on your organization’s website and collect details. It can also make it easy to send out automated emails to participants. You can confirm their entry without having to do it manually, for example.

Pro tip: Consider an event management system that is mobile responsive. This lets your organization take advantage of registrations on mobile devices.


6. Accepting Online Donations

An effective fundraising platform also makes it easy to secure donations.

Make sure that your website is set up to accept donations. Using a system that lets you accept recurring donations (like Donorbox!) is key for this.

Some of these also include online fundraising integration. This may allow participants to set up their own fundraising pages. These can link back to your organization’s account. Your organization automatically receives any donations made to a participant’s fundraising page.

Example: Companion Animal Rescue & Education (CARE) is an animal shelter providing utmost love and care to companion animals in need. With Donorbox, they set up a virtual run that comprised 5k, 10k, and half marathons to raise money for new kennels. People needed to pay a $10 entry fee but through this crowdfunding campaign, they could also make additional donations. As you can see in the below image, it’s a simple, branded campaign page with powerful features like a goal meter, a donor wall, and an ‘updates’ tab.

organizing a 5k


7. Communicating With Your Participants

Keep in touch with participants in the run-up to your charity run. This helps to keep them excited and enthusiastic right up to the big day. Otherwise, interest can start to wane if the run takes place months after people register.

If your organization has been collecting registration details, it’s easy to stay in touch. Send them regular emails with tips for training and fundraising, for example.

Are you attracting participants who don’t live locally? Offer them tips for where to stay and what to see while they’re in town. You could even provide them with a training plan to follow.

Pro tip: Drive more interest in your charity run by letting participants know how their donations and registration fees will be spent. This can help them feel that their involvement is making a real difference. What can your nonprofit do with every $100 raised? Depending on your mission, it may allow you to deliver a service or feed 5 kids. Be specific and paint a vivid picture, whenever possible.

5k charity run

As the day of the run draws closer, send a final email with on-the-day advice. This can include:

  • When the event starts
  • Weather forecast information to guide their choice of outfit
  • A schedule of events for the day


8. What to Do Afterwards

Congratulations, you organized your charity run and everything went to plan! Now it’s time to get those congratulations and thank you messages out to everyone who got involved. This can be in a thank you email, card, or letter.

As well as participants and donors, send a thank you email to the volunteers who helped make sure the day went smoothly.

thank you for charity run

If you’re thanking someone who has donated before, you may already know how they’d prefer to be contacted.

Pro tip: Send your thank you communications within a week of the big day—sooner if you can. Let them know how much their support meant to your nonprofit and how the funds raised will impact your organization. And if you’re already planning next year’s charity run, mention this too. While the success of the charity run is still fresh in everyone’s minds, there will be a lot of enthusiasm for next time!

Now is also a great time to get some feedback on how your organization did.

Set up an online survey form and send it out to your participants. Structure your questions so that you receive feedback on potential improvements too.

You want to know what you did well and how you can better next time. Organizing a charity run can make it hard to know what the on-the-ground experience is for runners. An online survey can give you those details and help with organizing another charity run in the future.

Pro tip: It’s not too soon to start next year’s charity run plan! Participants are likely to be on a big high soon after they’ve completed the run. Take advantage of this and offer them a discount if they register for next year’s event.


Over to You

Breaking down your charity run plan into smaller tasks can make it much easier to get organized.

With good planning and strong promotion, your nonprofit can organize a charity run that attracts plenty of participants. And that means more funds for your organization!

An effective fundraising platform is essential for this, not least because it takes the stress out of attracting donations. It also helps you to reach a wider pool of potential donors who will support your event.

If you’re currently making the most of online fundraising, we can help you to take your efforts up a notch.

At Donorbox, we’re supporting over 35,000 nonprofits just like yours to raise funds.

Finally, spend a bit of time sending out thank you letters once the run is over. Let participants, donors, and volunteers know how much you appreciate their involvement. Paint a picture of how their support will help your nonprofit.

For more tips on fundraising and promoting your nonprofit, take a look at our nonprofit blog.

Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.

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