How To Run A Bowl-A-Thon

Megan Donahue
Megan Donahue

If you’re planning a bowl-a-thon fundraiser for your nonprofit, you’re probably hoping for a bunch of fundraising strikes, or at least to avoid a gutter ball. 

But what makes a peer to peer bowl-a-thon successful? 

How can you make sure your event is a hit, instead of a ton of work for no results? 

Combining peer-to-peer fundraising with in-person events is a great fundraising strategy, but it has a lot of moving pieces. 

If you’re chasing down registration data in one program, raising money in another, and tracking donors somewhere else, you’re likely to get overwhelmed and spend too much time on admin instead of fundraising. 

Here at CauseVox, we’ve seen some remarkable bowl-a-thons. 

Junior Achievement aims for $500,000 from their bowl-a-thon events, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Carolinas raised more than three times their fundraising goal in 2019.

Clearly, a bowl-a-thon can be a fundraising powerhouse…if you run it right. 

What Is A Bowl-A-Thon?

A bowl-a-thon is a peer to peer fundraiser that combines an online fundraising campaign with an in-person bowling event. Teams set goals, raise money online for the nonprofit, and then participate in a fun bowling event together. 

Do you wish you could talk to a bowl-a-thon expert? 

Look no further than Lauren Meltzer, Director of Development and Events at Junior Achievement of Washington DC (JA). The organization has hosted bowl-a-thons since 1985, working with corporate partners to run 20-25 bowl-a-thons a year.

That’s a lot of bowling. 

Each year, JA sets out to raise around $500,000 with these peer to peer events. How does Lauren keep all of these campaigns running smoothly and seamlessly? She uses CauseVox to streamline her fundraising. 

“We’ve gone through multiple platforms and [CauseVox] is by far the most straightforward, easy to use one that we’ve used,” she says.


For the best results with your bowl-a-thon, you, too, will need a streamlined process that puts all your data in one place, saves you time, and is easy for participants and staff members alike. 

How To Run A Bowl-A-Thon

1. Start With The Right Platform

Your online fundraising platform can make or break your campaign. 

It’s what makes the difference between a smooth and seamless giving experience and a weird, clunky one. It’s what makes your supporters feel ready to fundraise, or confused about how it’s supposed to work. 

When looking for a platform for her bowl-a-thons, Lauren knew, “We needed to find a platform which would be user-friendly, attention-drawing look and feel, and that would help Junior Achievement to maximize our fundraising dollars – all while making each Bowl-a-Thon a successful, fun event for our participants.” 

Your online fundraising platform is the home of your campaign, so look for one that is:


Wrestling clunky software robs you of hours and hours you could have spent creating fundraising tools or rallying your supporters. It frustrates your peer to peer fundraisers, which will affect how much they raise. 

Most of all, it’s completely unnecessary: bad software is not all that’s out there. CauseVox makes peer to peer fundraising a breeze for you and your supporters. 


Here’s one thing we’ve learned observing more than a thousand CauseVox campaigns: Donors like pretty things. A well-designed, visually-appealing campaign inspires more confidence, and donations, than a generic and bland one. 

We know that “learn to design beautiful, branded online fundraising campaigns,” is not at the top of your bowl-a-thon to-do list, so we’ve taken care of that. With CauseVox, you can pick your own colors, add your logo, and keep your page on-brand without IT or design skills.

JA runs their bowl-a-thon on CauseVox with branded fundraising pages
JA offers their fundraising partners a beautiful, branded fundraising page. 

Combines Event Registration And Fundraising

Is running your bowl-a-thon more complicated than it needs to be? 

If you’re running event registration and fundraising on different platforms, the answer is, “Yes.” The more programs you’re using, the more complex managing it all becomes. Tidy up your event with a platform that does it all. 

Lauren, who runs 20-25 bowl-a-thons a year on CauseVox, relies on this functionality to keep her campaigns running smoothly.

“CauseVox enables participants to register as individuals, join a team, and have all donations to the participant add to the total of the team,” she says. 

2. Set Your Fundraising Goals

Like any fundraising campaign, you’ll need a goal. Bowl-A-Thons are a great opportunity to set several: individual, team, and organization-wide goals. 

Your Overall Goal

Goal-setting is different for every organization. It depends on your capacity, other fundraising, base of supporters, and many other factors. We recommend setting a SMART goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. 

Individual And Team Goals

Your supporters can set ambitious or modest goals, but many bowl-a-thons have a minimum fundraising requirement to participate. Requiring all bowlers raise at least $150, for example, can help focus their fundraising efforts, and make it more likely for you to reach your overall goal. 

A JA Team surpasses their goal!

3. Showcase Impact

Your fundraising campaign isn’t just about raising dollars, it’s about making a difference. When people feel inspired and connected to your cause, they’ll give more and/or be excited to raise more. 

Center your organization’s story in your fundraising video. JA uses this one to show how young people benefit from their programs. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Carolinas highlights donor-impact in their bowl-a-thon appeal. They even give their supporters a special name, “Defenders of Potential.”

This puts the focus on how supporters are making a difference–much more inspiring than a plain “donate” message. 

BBBS centers the donor in their bowl-a-thon

CauseVox makes it easy to tell your story and show your impact. It’s easy to add an impact metric to your campaign, like this one, also from Big Brothers Big Sisters. In addition to dollars raised, they show how many children will be paired with a mentor. 


JA also uses impact metrics to show how donors’ dollars make a difference for kids. 

4. Rally Your Community

Fundraising, as you know, is hard work. Without your support, your volunteers may fade out before they reach their goals. Fundraising isn’t their full-time job, and they’ll need resources, encouragement, and tools to be successful. 

Start your fundraisers off right by providing them with a toolkit that includes templates for emails, schedules for outreach, fundraising strategies, and sample posts for social media, along with graphics, hashtags, and other campaign materials.

Check-in with your fundraisers regularly. CauseVox’s dashboard makes it easy to see how individual campaigns are going, so you can congratulate them on successes, or coach them through setbacks.

A weekly email with fundraising tips and an update on campaign progress can go a long way towards keeping volunteer fundraisers engaged.

Speaking of updates, CauseVox’s update and blogging features make it a snap to make announcements and share stories with all of your supporters, fundraisers and donors alike.

Check out these posts from Big Brothers Big Sisters, that share exciting news, congratulate teams, and build momentum. 

BBBS uses CauseVox's update tools to rally the bowl-a-thon community

Lauren and JA used friendly competition to generate more excitement around their campaigns.

Lauren worked with CauseVox to create a customized widget that “takes all data from the 20 to 25 separate events, and converts it into a ‘Leaderboard’ consisting of fundraising dollars (ranked), number of teams, and number of participants.”

Advanced customization options like this Junior Achievement’s Leaderboard are easy to integrate on a CauseVox-powered fundraising website.

5. Keep Going

The nice thing about ending your online campaign with an in-person event is that you can continue to fundraise at the event itself.

Make it easy for onlookers and supporters to make a mobile donation by posting signage with your campaign information. Are you doing a short presentation at your event? Make your campaign info your last slide!

Bowl-A-Thon Checklist

Choose a Fundraising Platform

  • Research Platforms
  • Trial Platform
  • Sign up
  • Build Online Campaign

Set Goals

Event Planning:

  • Choose Event Date
  • Choose Event Location
  • Choose Vendors

Fundraising Planning:

  • Set fundraising goal
    • Does your event’s ROI look good?
  • Set # of fundraisers goal
  •  Begin recruiting fundraisers
  • Create fundraising toolkit
    • Create an impact metric for the campaign ($50=1 scholarship, $100=2 hours of programming, etc)
    • Choose stories that showcase donor impact  

Update and Encourage

  • Create weekly email to encourage fundraisers during campaign
  • Check dashboard for opportunities to reach out to fundraisers
  • Create blog updates to add to your CauseVox campaign
  • Post campaign milestones on social media
  • Encourage supporters to share posts

Keep Fundraising

  • Send message with fundraising link to anyone who couldn’t attend the event
  • Bring a tablet for mobile gifts at the event
  • Create signage with your link at the event

Declutter Your Bowl-A-Thon With CauseVox

Tidy up your bowl-a-thon and cut out the clutter with CauseVox. Keep all your data in one easy-to-manage platform, from registration to donation processing, without hassle or headaches. When you streamline your fundraising you can spend more time raising money and less on unnecessary admin.

Sign up today and get started.

Learn more about running your peer-to-peer fundraising event on CauseVox.

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