The Essential Guide to Organizing a Walk-a-Thon Fundraiser

Walk-a-thons are a popular fundraising idea to join with others and support a cause. Typically a popular fundraiser, walk-a-thons can be held by individuals, nonprofits, corporations, and communities. The following step-by-step guide details who you need to hold a walk-a-thon, how to set up and run the event, and where you can promote it.

6 minutes read
The Essential Guide to Organizing a Walk-a-Thon Fundraiser

Walk-a-thons, also known as walking marathons are extremely popular events to promote a cause or fundraise for it. People participating in walkathons usually walk along a long, predetermined distance to help and support their favorite cause.

Nonprofits may hold these events on their own or with other organizations to build a solid foundation of giving. Walk-a-thons are a healthy way to build stronger communities and encourage more participation in an organization.

This article will discuss walk-a-thons, the parties involved, and provide a step-by-step process on how to start your own.

  1. Why should nonprofits organize a walk-a-thon?
  2. Who all are involved in a walk-a-thon?
  3. Step-by-step process to organize a walk-a-thon

Why Should Nonprofits Organize a Walk-a-Thon?

walkathon fundraiser

Walk-a-thons are popular for several reasons. They appeal to a larger audience and hold the enormous potential of marketing a cause or an organization. As a fundraiser, a walk-a-thon gives you more than just one way to raise money. You can sell additional products such as t-shirts, refreshments, etc. Offering free branded goodies is an option to boost marketing efforts. Community partnerships and sponsorships during these events can help a nonprofit in the long run.

School and student organizations that hold walk-a-thons help students take a leadership role thanks to the ease of running this type of event. Walk-a-thons are also a wonderful way to encourage physical activity among adults; which is why it’s a great opportunity for charities to partner with companies and have their employees partake in walk-a-thons.

Who All are Involved in a Walk-a-Thon?

walkathon fundraiser

When starting your own fundraiser walk, you need 4 different groups of people.

1. Organizers

As a fundraiser, you should not be running any event on your own and walk-a-thons can take more work than one person can handle. So creating an event team of organizers is vital to the success of your walk-a-thon fundraiser.

The first group you should address is your board. Nonprofit board members should be actively involved in all aspects of the organization, especially fundraising. Other than board members, you can recruit organizers from your current volunteer base and even connect with local volunteer organizations or companies to find more support.

Organizers are responsible for the event’s logistics, including the date, time, location, fundraising goal, and other details that create an excellent event. Each member can take charge of different aspects of your walk-a-thon fundraiser. You can ask them to find sponsors, create products to sell, and help with unique walk-a-thon fundraising ideas.

2. Participants


The second group involved in a walk-a-thon are the participants. These individuals are the ones who sign up to walk and can directly raise funds for the organization.

As you begin to sign up more participants, your office must clarify what is expected from their involvement. Most participants may assume they just pay for their ticket and walk on the day of the event. But remember they’re participating because they also support your organization.

To get the most out of it, your nonprofit should create a peer-to-peer campaign for this fundraising event. Invite interested participants to fundraise for your cause and leverage the power of their network. You can reward them with gifts at the end of the event.

3. Supporters

The final group involved in a walk-a-thon is its supporters. They donate to your participants or directly to your cause. Most of these supporters have never heard about your organization before. These supporters will likely have a personal connection to a participant instead of your nonprofit. The goal is to start relationships with these donors and entice them to learn more and become permanent supporters of your organization.

4. Sponsors and partners

Without sponsors or community partners, it may be difficult to make a walk-a-thon fundraising event a success. They help you by not just sponsoring the event but also introducing your cause to their network of people, customers, and employees. In exchange, they expect their name to be associated with a cause they support and free advertising of the company.

The Step-by-Step Process to Organizing a Walk-a-Thon Fundraiser

how does a walkathon work

If your organization wants to hold its own walkathon, there are a few steps you can take to ensure its success.

  1. Choose a why
  2. Define your goals
  3. Choose a fundraising tool
  4. Promoting your walk-a-thon
  5. Find sponsors
  6. Hold the event
  7. Follow up with participants and supporters

1. Choose a why

First, ask yourself why you want to hold specifically a walk-a-thon. Is it somehow tied with your cause or can be closely associated with it? Are you partnering with a local school or an organization and expecting students and their staff to participate in it? Will that help spread the word about your organization to your target audience? Do you think with this event, you’ll have more chances of raising funds and gaining partnership opportunities than any other event? Are you comfortable and ready to fundraise in many different ways during the event?

2. Define your goals

Choosing a single program to fund will help you decide on your financial goal for this event. Your annual budget will also provide you with a number Once you have that number, you can create a budget that includes additional costs related to running a walk-a-thon.

In addition to financial goals, your organization should also focus on donor development and relationship-building goals. A walk-a-thon gives nonprofits several opportunities to turn event participants and new donors into long-term supporters.

3. Choose a fundraising tool

Nonprofits need fundraising tools to run a walk-a-thon. Many of these services are affordable and can provide organizations with various ways to raise funds. When choosing a fundraising tool for your upcoming walk-a-thon, be sure to pick a product that offers the following:

  • Mobile-friendly, customizable fundraising page
  • Simple and robust donation forms
  • Donor management
  • Crowdfunding features
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising features
  • Automated donation receipts
  • Integrations for ease of marketing and communications
  • Text-to-give options
  • Social media shareability

The below fundraising page belongs to Edu-GIRLS’ annual walkathon that was virtual this year due to the pandemic. This charity helps less privileged girls attain financial independence through quality education. This is a simple crowdfunding page with a popup donation form, social media sharing buttons, a donor wall to acknowledge the donations, and an updates tab to keep donors and participants informed.

how does a walkathon work

4. Promoting your walk-a-thon

When holding a walk-a-thon, you need to promote your event to participants and supporters.

To find participants for your walk-a-thon, you should first ask your organizers to contact their friends and family, along with other organization supporters, to find participants willing to walk and raise funds online. You can also create social media posts and email blasts to inform current supporters of your organization about the upcoming walk-a-thon. Your fundraising office should focus on finding volunteers who have a large online following.

Closer to the event, you should move from finding participants to finding supporters. Your participants and organizers should already be collecting pledges and donations from their friends and families. But your office must find ways to entice existing and new supporters to give. Have an online page laying out how donations will specifically fund the program and make an impact. Regular updates on the event will keep donors interested.

5. Find sponsors

Walk-a-thons offer excellent opportunities for corporate sponsors to fund your organization. Your nonprofit can create sponsorship packages that provide event and online marketing. Sponsors can have a booth at the event to give or share products and show advertisement videos to promote their company. In addition to giving funds to your organization, many companies may encourage their employees to participate in the event.

Pro tip: If you can find a major sponsor willing to give a significant amount, use their gift to encourage more funds from individual donors. You can use this as a matching gift challenge. Ask donors to help reach that amount so you can receive double the amount. An excellent way to keep this challenge in your donors’ minds is with a goal meter placed on your primary campaign page, as shown in the below image.

walk a thon fundraisers

6. Hold the event

During your walk-a-thon, you can promote your organization and encourage more involvement. Nonprofits should have their own booth to sell tickets, collect donations, and promote the organization. They must find ways to share their mission and the program being funded. By doing this, nonprofits have a better chance of encouraging new donors to support their organizations.

Live streaming has become a necessary way to promote events to your supporters. Nonprofits can use this tool to share the event with online supporters interested in the event.

Pro tip: Sell refreshments, branded t-shirts, and goodies to your participants and donors. You’ll be making the event more fun, at the same time, have more ways to raise funds. This can also be an easy way to partner with local food stalls and printing companies, and gain some long-term partnership opportunities.

7. Follow up with participants and supporters

walk a thon fundraisers

Nonprofits should find ways to turn participants into continued advocates for the organization, supporters into long-time donors, and sponsors into long-term community partners. Send personal thank you cards and make calls to participants, send program information to supporters, and work with sponsors to create a plan for both sides.

Remember to take feedback from each group and improve your fundraising efforts for your next walk-a-thon.

Final Thoughts

walk a thon

Nonprofits can gain a lot from walk-a-thon fundraisers. Thanks to the wide range of supporters these events include, organizations can use a walk-a-thon to promote the organization and build relationships that can benefit the nonprofit long term.

Donorbox is an affordable online donation processor nonprofits can use to raise funds and collect essential information on their donors. Learn more about our donor management system, customizable campaign pages, various fundraising features, and more on our website. For more fundraising tips and resources, visit our blog and subscribe to our newsletter.

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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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