The Ultimate Guide to Running a Read-a-Thon Fundraiser

A read-a-thon can be the best way to encourage kids and young students to read more books, while at the same time, raise money for your school or nonprofit. This also inculcates a culture of reading in students, which will be lauded by parents as well. Get started with this ultimate guide - and get inspiring examples as well!

7 minutes read
The Ultimate Guide to Running a Read-a-Thon Fundraiser


Parents consistently worry about whether their children read enough. This worry is understandable, with the United States’ literacy ranking 125th worldwide. Public schools around the country have struggled to address this issue due to financial difficulties.

Read-a-thons are a great way for schools, other educational organizations, libraries, PTAs, book clubs, churches, and many other nonprofits to kill two birds with one stone. This article will walk you through a guide to running a read-a-thon fundraiser.

  1. What is a Read-a-Thon Fundraiser?
  2. 8 Steps to Organize a Read-a-Thon
  3. 6 Simple Ideas to Make Your Read-a-Thon a Success

What is a Read-a-Thon Fundraiser?

Read-a-thons are a simple idea where kids collect financial pledges from family and relatives based on the number of pages or books they read. They decide how much they’ll read and the amount they hope to raise. Nonprofits and schools support the student’s efforts with free books, free reading time in school, classroom contests, and prizes.

Regardless of how your organization decides to run the fundraiser, read-a-thons are an excellent way to raise significant amounts and encourage more kids to read.

8 Steps to Organizing a Read-a-Thon Fundraiser

1. Choose a theme

Themes can make your read-a-thon more fun and give kids a way to get involved from the beginning. You may draw inspiration from your reason for holding the event. For instance, if you’re hoping to build a new gymnasium on your school premises, your read-a-thon theme could be “Read for Your Health.”

Another way is to hold a contest and ask students to brainstorm ideas for your theme. This excites them about the event. If your PTA or school is holding this event, you can take teachers’ and parents’ help as well.

2. Decide on your goal

Each organization will have a different reason for holding a read-a-thon. You will also have a rough idea about how many kids will be willing to participate and how much funds you may raise. Depending on all this, you have to come up with a fundraising goal.

You’ll want to keep your expectations and goals reasonable. The last thing you want is for kids to feel disappointed in themselves after all their hard work.

If you want to raise money to build or purchase land (or other big projects), add a read-a-thon to your capital campaign and promote it to the rest of the community.

3. Determine your timeline

Read-a-thons can last anywhere from one month to an entire semester. Remember to not stretch it too long, or else kids will lose interest. If raising enough funds is your concern, start an online crowdfunding campaign to meet your fundraising goal within a short period of time.

4. Finalize the details

There are a lot of details involved in a read-a-thon. Before starting your read-a-thon campaign, you’ll need to finalize the following details:

  • How will students measure their reading?
  • Will all students follow the same measurements?
  • What contests will your read-a-thon include?
  • How will students collect pledges and donations?
  • Who is in charge of monitoring students’ reading?
  • Will the school have free reading time for contest participants?

5. Start online fundraising campaigns to collect pledges and donations

Now you have all the details for your read-a-thon fundraiser. Create an online fundraising page for this fundraiser and let all kids, teachers (if applicable), and parents know about it. They are the people who will help you promote this page and raise more money.

It is advisable to create a crowdfunding page for this kind of fundraiser. Crowdfunding is a proven way to raise more money with time-bound projects like a read-a-thon. Set a specific timeline and add a goal thermometer to your crowdfunding page. This will help track and inspire people to make more donations.

Check out this example here. Through this crowdfunding campaign, the Grace Community Church helps a kid called Maris raise funds to support literacy in Brazil.

read a thon

Get Started With Donorbox

Since you’ll have a lot of kids collecting pledges and donations from people, it is advisable to turn your crowdfunding campaign into a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. That way, you can invite the kids’ parents to create fundraising pages in the kids’ names. The kids can then promote their pages and collect donations.

With Donorbox Peer-to-Peer, it’s as easy as toggling a switch on your crowdfunding or other online campaigns. You can invite fundraisers from the tool itself and they can easily create their own fundraising pages to help you raise money. All donations from all pages will go to your original campaign account.

6. Students sign up and start tracking their reading

Your organization can use individual peer-to-peer campaigns as signup for each kid. You can also hand out physical data forms to track reading progress. Collect the forms weekly and determine who’s in the lead.

You must also check how each fundraising campaign is doing. Remember to help kids and parents raise more money with any marketing material they may need. Ask your volunteers to assist them whenever needed.

Share the kids’ progress on your social media accounts and your crowdfunding campaign. Reward those who’re doing good with small gifts and regular acknowledgments.

7. Promote your read-a-thon

Kids and families alone cannot do all the promotion themselves. Parents will be busy with their jobs and other stuff and kids have little resources to promote the campaigns online. Your organization needs to take care of the marketing with newsletters, reminder emails to parents, flyers, press releases, social media posts, paid ads on social media, and more.

8. Celebrate

Your read-a-thon is finished and kids and parents helped you fundraise. Now is the time to celebrate as a team and hand out prizes. Thank all kids and parents, not just the winners.

Remember to take a picture of the winners along with parents who helped and donated. You can share this picture on social media, in the local press, and in the organizational newsletter that goes out to all supporters.

6 Simple Ideas to Make Your Read-a-Thon a Success

1. Hold a fun kick-off assembly for parents and kids

Before starting the read-a-thon, you’ll need to educate kids and parents on how to track reading progress, create their individual campaigns on your chosen fundraising tool, and collect funds online. You’ll also want to find ways to excite students with the prizes and class competitions.

Hold an assembly, in-person or online event, for parents and kids. Promote this kick-off event in your community to attract more parents’ attention.

2. Turn it into a hybrid fundraiser to reach more people

A read-a-thon doesn’t require a lot of in-person involvement from kids and parents. Some of your contests can be in-person but mostly, kids will be participating remotely and collecting funds online. Hence, you can turn it into a hybrid fundraiser and reach more people than just those in your community.

Use Zoom to hold meetings with parents, check in for progress, and host online contests. Your online fundraising tool can be the best means to boost your outreach and raise more donations. Leverage features like online campaigns, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer fundraising. Use a donor management system to manage your donors and donations. Donorbox comes with all these fundraising tools and a simple-to-use donor management system to offer you a one-stop-shop for all your fundraising needs.

Lastly, promote your campaign page online to reach more people online and increase participation.

The below online fundraising campaign used a simple donation form to accept donations through a read-a-thon.


3. Give it a twist of competition

Competition is fun, exciting, and an excellent way to entice more involvement in your read-a-thon. You don’t want to make any individual child feel ashamed or left out, but by making it a competition, you’re able to gain excitement and raise more funds.

At the end of the contest, reward the winners and let all kids have a pizza party to honor the hard work of every student involved.

4. Hold a book swap

Every kid doesn’t have access to the same amount of books. After their books are done, kids can feel frustrated that they can’t find more. A book swap can be a great solution.

Kids can bring old books they’ve already read and exchange them with those of other kids. You can also collect books or donations from the community to purchase more books to support them. This online campaign raised donations to help 200+ students with textbooks and other school supplies.

read athon

5. Hold additional reading events to raise more money

Another way to gain more participation is to hold additional reading events during the read-a-thon. You can hold an all-day event that gives kids time to read on their own and as a group, including food, costumes, prizes, and more.

You can turn this event into a reading event for all community members by including some games and fun activities for parents and teachers as well. Decide on a pricing strategy and sell tickets to the event to raise some extra funds with your read-a-thon.

Donorbox Events lets you create simple online event pages. You can add an event-ticketing form to your page, multiple ticket levels as per your strategy, and highlight the tax-deductibility of the tickets by inputting fair-market value and the tax rate. Donorbox also lets you accept donations from the event page. Here’s an example of a reading event held by a book club, for which they’re selling tickets to the community with a simple event-ticketing form.

read a thon fundraiser

Try Donorbox Events

6. Solicit prizes from local businesses

Read-a-thons are excellent opportunities for your organization to get the entire community involved. Find local businesses that cater to kids and families. Those that donate in-kind or financial gifts to your read-a-thon will receive marketing opportunities. You can also use this as a way to start community partnerships with businesses and corporations.

These partnerships can lead to more event sponsorships and grants for your nonprofit. You’ll also have a list of potential corporate funders for your next capital campaign.

Final Thoughts

Read-a-thons are an excellent way to encourage kids to read and raise funds for your organization. Kids and parents of all ages and income levels can participate. Your organization can use this fundraiser to build sponsorship relationships with local businesses. Also, remember to store donors’ information in your donor management system and use it to strengthen relationships with these supporters in the future.

Donorbox has helped 50,000+ nonprofits and organizations raise money online through their fundraising campaigns and events. Our features are easy to set up, simple to use, and powerful enough to bring you results. Learn more about our best features including Recurring Donations, customizable Fundraising Pages, Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer, Events, Memberships, QuickDonate, Donor Management, and more!

Your next read-a-thon event can help you raise more money and acquire new donors when powered by expert coaching and premium tools. Check out Donorbox Premium – get the following to ensure fundraising success:

  • A fundraising coach to help meet your fundraising goals
  • An account ambassador who guides you through challenges
  • Team of tech experts whenever you need their support
  • High-performance tools that guarantee more donations and better donor management

Explore tons of helpful articles, free resources, downloadable samples, and more on the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a list of our best resources (blogs, webinars, podcast episodes, product updates, etc.) in your inbox every month.

Avatar photo

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.

  • linkedin
  • url

Join us in serving the nonprofit world!

Take your donor experience to the next level!
Join the 50,000+ nonprofits already raising funds online.
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join a 30min Live Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!
Join a 30min Live Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!