Events are a core part of most nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups’ fundraising strategies. Bringing your supporters together is an opportunity to create a visibility event that will bring attention to and raise additional revenue for your cause, and it’s also a chance to let your supporters interact with each other, have fun, and even form a community around your cause.
Different events have different audiences, but 5K fundraisers have become notable for achieving widespread success in a variety of communities. While not everyone enjoys a formal gala or serious lecture and presentation series, most of us recognize the need for exercise or are happy to support others who do. Plus, 5K fundraisers tend to have relatively low investment costs while providing participants with a high level of personal satisfaction.
Of course, your organization can’t plan a 5K overnight. To help you get started planning and positioning your event for success, this complete guide will cover:
Before planning your 5K, you should understand the natural strengths of this type of event and how you can leverage them to earn revenue for your organization. Let’s get started with a basic overview of how a 5K can help fundraise for your cause.
5K fundraisers bring your community together to enjoy a run or walk or support their friends and family who are doing so.
Your 5K can generate revenue through a variety of methods, including the following:
Your organization can choose to use any or all of these methods. When choosing how to fundraise, take your audience and fundraising goals into consideration. For example, a community 5K aimed at families will likely have lower sign-up costs but may compensate by expanding their merchandise offerings
5Ks, like all fundraising events, require planning to achieve their full potential. To ensure your planning team accomplishes everything it needs to, here are ten steps to follow for running your 5K:
Like all fundraising events, your organization should plan your 5K with a goal in mind. This will allow you to assess your event after the fact and determine if it was successful. When choosing your goal, ensure that it follows the SMART method:
By taking this approach, your team will be able to approach your 5K planning process with a sense of scale, urgency, and direction. For example, a team with a SMART goal of “Increase participant sign-ups by 15% from last year to attract new supporters in the lead up to next month’s campaign” will enter the planning phase of their 5K focused on their most important metric, attendance, and know definitively when they achieved their objective.
Planning and hosting a 5K fundraiser isn’t a one-person job. Your team will vary depending on your organization and the size of your event, but most organizations hosting a 5K will need to assemble an event planning team that includes the following roles:
Additionally, your team will also need the right resources. To start, you will want to connect with a fundraising software such as Classy, DonorDrive, and Luminate Online. Once you have a fundraising software in place, bring that software to the day-of the event with event management software solutions. For your 5K, ensure your software can work wirelessly and even without internet if you are hosting your event in a remote location.
Once your goal is established and your team is assembled, begin refining the details about how your 5K fundraiser will be hosted. While some details may change as your planning progresses and various challenges and opportunities arise, you should have answers to the following questions:
Ensure you know the answers to all of these questions before promoting your event to participants and sponsors. Additionally, this information will help you recruit volunteers as you’ll be able to describe their exact responsibilities more clearly.
5Ks are an opportunity to not only connect with your supporters, but local businesses in your area, as well. Sponsorships can be mutually beneficial, earning necessary support while boosting each sponsor’s reputation for helping a good cause.
Sponsors can offer support in a variety of ways, including:
Be sure to research your sponsors before approaching them. Choose businesses that have shown an interest in sponsoring charitable causes. Some corporations have philanthropic missions, and if it aligns with your nonprofit’s, you will likely have an easier time making your case for support.
Effective marketing for your 5K fundraiser will help get the word out about your event and attract attention to your organization’s overall mission at the same time. Here are a few effective marketing strategies that your team should consider as you start brainstorming ideas:
During your planning phase, ensure that your marketing team has enough time to launch a widespread marketing campaign to reach your target audiences. Plus, doing so will give you participants time to clear their calendars far in advance.
A major part of marketing your 5K fundraiser is creating the materials you’ll use to spread the word to your community. As part of your strategy, spend time developing marketing collateral early on that communicates the must-know details for people to get involved.
Overall, the materials you design should be eye-catching and match the channels you’ve chosen to promote your campaign.
Whether you’re leaning into digital or direct marketing, consider making fundraising collateral such as:
Thinking through your marketing strategy ahead of time will make it easier to create the right marketing materials to supplement your plans. After perfecting the design of your marketing materials, you can push forward with promoting your 5K fundraiser!
Marketing can be time-consuming and resource intensive. With all the work attracting participants to your registration page, ensure that what they find will make the process easy instead of being another hurdle. You can streamline your registration process by:
You can further optimize your registration process to promote your organization as well. For example, after participants complete their registration, you can prompt them to consider donating to your cause, subscribing to your newsletter, or even just exploring other content on your website.
Ensure you have a team of well-trained volunteers ready to help run your event. When recruiting volunteers, take into account both what skills you’ll need and how many volunteers you’ll need overall. You can use your participant registrations to help pin down the exact scale of your event, which can help your planners determine how many volunteers they will need.
You can effectively recruit volunteers by creating recruitment postings with an engaging message. Clearly list out the expected responsibilities and expectations in your posting, as well as what your volunteers can gain from the experience.
Volunteers help out nonprofits for all kinds of reasons, such as giving back to a good cause, improving their skills, socializing with members of their community, or fulfilling requirements for school, work, or a club. Take these reasons into account as you craft your recruitment appeals to attract as many interested volunteers as possible.
On the day of your event, your team will need to arrive early at your venue to set up registration tables, places for participants to store their belongings, and concession stands. You should also be sure to test out any software you intend to use to ensure it’s up and running before your participants arrive.
Some software solutions can make setting up event spaces easier. For example, wireless software and programs that can function without the internet may be necessary for 5K fundraisers hosted outside or in remote locations. You can also use technology to limit the need for creating a dedicated registration space.
Registration lines will need significant space, and you’ll have to schedule time at the beginning of your event to help participants check in before the 5K’s start. However, you can get around this by using a software platform like Grassroots Unwired’s 4EventDay App, which allows your volunteers to scan tickets and check in guests from their phones. This allows you to eliminate lines, reduce waiting times, and create a more open event space.
After all of your planning, it’s finally time to host your 5K fundraiser! Your event coordinators and volunteers will be kept busy checking in participants, answering their questions, and assisting them throughout your event as needed. Ensure your team members have the tools and strategies they need to stay in touch with your participants throughout the entire event in case they ever need help.
During your event, consider how you can continue generating support for your cause. In addition to selling concessions and merchandise, you can earn more support by educating interested spectators about your cause and encouraging them to consider donating.
Between sending out thank-you emails and sharing final fundraising totals, your event team’s work isn’t complete until you’ve followed up with all of your supporters. There are several groups you’ll need to create unique follow-up messages for, including:
The follow-up process is an opportunity to secure the relationships that your event worked to build. Focus on thanking your various supporters for their time and contributions.
In addition to the steps outlined above, there are a few extra tips and tricks your organization can make use to improve your 5K fundraiser. Here’s how you can create a better experience for your participants and set your organization up to earn additional revenue.
The right software can transform your event for the better, allowing you to stay organized and be more efficient by going paperless. Software designed specifically for 5Ks like Grassroots Unwired’s 4EventDay App has a leg up on generic event management tools. This software comes equipped with unique benefits such as:
Plus, when you integrate your software with your CRM, data from your event will be automatically uploaded to your donor database as participants check in. This allows you to track your donors in real time, keeping your event team updated and providing information you can use later for continued supporter stewardship.
While once out of the question, paid advertising is becoming an increasingly popular and affordable way to promote nonprofit events and other fundraising initiatives. That’s all thanks to resources like the Google Ad Grant program.
Through this program, Google enables nonprofits to promote their missions and fundraising initiatives using its paid advertising platform for free. That makes it the perfect opportunity to amplify your 5K fundraiser landing page and boost registrations.
As explained in Getting Attention’s Google Ad Grants guide, eligible organizations can receive up to $10,000 in free advertising credits every month. These credits can be spent to bid on different keywords and promote specific webpages (like your 5K fundraiser page) for those keywords.
When crafting your ads, be sure to do the following to increase visibility for your race:
Paid advertising can do a lot for boosting registrations, whether you want to connect with new supporters or engage existing ones. The success of your ads relies on your ability to write persuasively and locate the right keywords your prospective runners are searching on Google. If you’re running low on time, a Google Grants agency can step in to eliminate the learning curve. They’ll help you develop ads that target and inspire users to register for your 5K or any other fundraiser.
Leading up to your 5K fundraiser, consider launching a peer-to-peer campaign. Peer-to-peer campaigns empower your supporters to fundraise on your behalf, dramatically expanding your organization’s reach.
Here are a few benefits these campaigns can add to your event:
Some 5K fundraisers encourage their participants to join their peer-to-peer campaign. These volunteers then ask their friends and family members to attend and contribute to your event specifically to support their efforts in the 5K.
Nonprofits can earn extra revenue after their 5K fundraiser through two types of corporate philanthropy: volunteer grants and matching gifts.
Volunteer grants are contributions corporations make when their employees donate their time to a charitable cause like your nonprofit. Similarly, matching gifts are contributions companies make when their employees donate their money to charitable organizations. Essentially, these donations are free money for your organization, so there is no reason not to claim them.
For volunteer grants, help your volunteers research their eligibility and fill out any forms that may be required. Employer guidelines will vary, but most will need your volunteers to submit their hours, so be sure to record when volunteers arrive and leave your event.
For matching gifts, make the research process as simple as possible. Each time someone donates using your online donation page, allow them to research their eligibility for their employers’ programs with an employer search tool. Better yet, choose a matching gift autosubmission tool that will automatically submit their requests to their employers for them if they prefer. No forms to fill out means more people will complete the process!
Planning a successful 5K fundraiser requires a dedicated team, the right strategies, and powerful event software to support your efforts. By putting in this effort, your organization can look forward to a fun, engaging event that brings your supporters together and raises important funds for your mission.
Follow the steps discussed in this guide to plan your event, and invest the time into researching the best software solutions for your event. Doing so will set your 5K up for success, and ensure it is a better experience for your team and your participants.
To learn more about the tools and strategies your nonprofit or advocacy group can use to reach more supporters and boost your outreach efforts, check out these resources: