How To Organize A Virtual Walkathon Or Race

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive disruption to not-for-profit organizations, and in particular to event fundraising.

Many physical events have been canceled but in response to this there has been a surge of growth in virtual events – from exercises classes, marathons and races to concerts and galas, 2020 is the year of the virtual event!

So if you had an event planned for the next few months, or if you’re looking for a way to fundraise right now, we suggest organizing a virtual event to do so. It can be a great, low-barrier way to engage your community and raise some much needed funds.

Download your Virtual Event Planning Guide and Calendar Template:

What Is A Virtual Walkathon Or Race?

A virtual walkathon or race is, at its heart, a peer-to-peer fundraiser. Participants raise money from their friends and family to complete a challenge.

A virtual race can be based on any type of exercise. It is usually walking or running but you could also think about cycling, swimming or a particular exercise that is more suited to your audience.

Keys to Success virtual walk by Arizona Friends of Foster Children’s Foundation

Let’s say you’ve chosen walking. As a peer to peer event, participants can sign-up and commit to a number of kms that they will walk in a certain time frame. This could be 5kms over 24 hours, 15kms over 2 weeks, or 55kms over 4 weeks – you can choose the timeframe and challenge, or let participants choose for themselves.

Participants would then be expected to raise funds from their friends and family via their own fundraising pages.

Why Do A Virtual Walk or Race?

While we are in the midst of a crisis, it does not mean that fundraising should stop. In fact, many charities are finding that people are continuing to donate and so we highly recommend pivoting your fundraising strategies to find creative ways, such as virtual events, to keep your fundraising going.

There are many reasons why a virtual walk or race works as a fundraising event right now, and in the future. Here’s just some of them:

  • One of the advantages of having a virtual event means reduced costs on things such as a venue and insurance. If your charity was thinking of tipping its toe into the event fundraising space, a virtual race is a great start 
  • Due to COVID19, there are people at home looking for things to do. A virtual race can provide people with a community activity.
  • A virtual race has a simple, low barrier entry point – the virtual race can be as long as the participants decide, so that everyone from old to young can participate.
  • Due to social isolation, people are craving connection and community right now. A virtual race gives them an opportunity to do that through your charity
  • We are still allowed outside to exercise, and it is important for our physical and mental health. Your event can therefore provide motivation for people to keep active.
Participant’s personal fundraising page for San Marino Schools Foundation’s Exercise-a-thon Challenge

Be sure to check out our 14 Virtual Event Fundraising Ideas for some other event ideas, if a virtual race isn’t the thing for you.

How To Setup And Organize A Virtual Race

Being virtual, everything is obviously online! So instead of organizing a physical event space, focus on the online channels and platforms you will use.

Participants can complete the race or walk in their own time, and update their community through their digital channels  – so you want to be sure you’ve got all the resources in place to help them with not only their challenge but their fundraising goals.

1. Choose The Right Platform

Peer to peer fundraising success really depends on having the right platform – and with a virtual event this is even more important.

We suggest getting started with what platform you are going to use, and scoping out any work that needs to be done to help you build it. You want to try and choose a platform that is easy to set up and use, can integrate with your existing systems, and one that won’t require any additional code or development.

Some of the essentials features you should include are:

  • Mobile-optimized and branded campaign site, equipped with fundraising metrics like a fundraising goal and a real-time progress bar
  • Easy peer-to-peer page setup, so your fundraisers are able to quickly create and share their page
  • The platform must be able to take online donations – through as many payment options as possible including credit card and mobile payments (aka Apple and Google Pay)
  • Easily collect registration fees in the peer-to-peer setup process- if you choose to collect one
  • Easy donor and fundraiser management to help you save time on admin tasks like reporting, receipting, data entry, and more.

Through CauseVox Peer to Peer Fundraising you can access all of the features above and more! Sign up for free and start raising funds today.

2. Planning Your Virtual Race

Once you have decided on and set up your platform, it’s now time to promote your event and get people to sign-up!

Here are some of ideas and suggestions to help you plan your event:

  • Create a timeframe for the virtual race so that you can countdown to the start and finish. 
  • Come up with your concept: do you want everyone to challenge themselves to complete a certain number of hours or miles of activity, or do you want to set one length (ie. ask everyone do walk 20 miles over the course of a week).
  • Make it engaging. Consider different ways you can recognize and celebrate participants.
  • Come up with a hashtag and encourage each person to post while doing their walkathon or race. (ie: The Arizona Friends And Foster Children Foundation came up with the hashtag #DoTheVirtualWalk to create community and keep people engaged online.
  • Decide if you’re going to charge a fee for registration (ie: the Arizona Friends and Foster Children Foundation charged $35, and mailed everyone a t-shirt
Easily collect registration fees on CauseVox with Peer-to-Peer Registration

3. Recruit Your Virtual Walkathon Or Virtual Race Participants

An individual fundraising page such as this can help participants organize and promote their own fundraising. 

To recruit your virtual walkathon or virtual race participants, you’ll want to:

  • Use email to activate all your existing donors – tell them why you need them now more than ever, and ask them to sign up for the event
  • Particularly target board members, staff, returning donors, volunteers, corporate partners, and others in your close network to participate in the virtual walkathon or virtual race.
  • Compile virtual walk/race toolkit to help your peer-to-peer fundraisers easily promote their personal fundraising page. For more information on how to do this, we have created a guide for you.
The Keys to Success provided their participants with everything they will need to promote their fundraising event, including social media posts, to make it as easy as possible

Here are some of ideas and suggestions to help you promote your event:

  • Use social media to promote your event – post on your page, groups and existing networks
  • Use local media to promote the event, particularly if your donors are located within the one area
  • Create promotional videos, and tell stories that compel people to sign-up to support your cause
  • Link to the event from your website
  • Be sure to give yourself a few weeks before the virtual race starts to promote it and get your first round of participants.

We sat down with Kimberly Searles to discuss how she pulled off her successful virtual walkathon on our Nonprofit Leader Panel: How To Raise More Through Virtual Events: Watch the webinar on-demand.

4. Engaging Your Community

Once your virtual race has started, it’s important to keep you community engaged. Not only do you want them to continue raising money, but you also want to provide them with encouragement to finish the challenge. Keeping them motivated is key! 

Here’s some ideas to keep your community engaged:

  • Set up an email nurture campaign that delivers weekly content to your participants including motivational quotes, fundraising updates, how-to kits and/or work out tips
  • Create a Facebook group where you can share participants’ updates and fundraising goals. This is also a place where your community can connect and share their own images, tips etc
  • Share content such as indoor workout videos and running/race tips 
  • Share the impact of the fundraisers by telling stories of the beneficiaries that they will support
  • Encourage participants to share their race updates with their friends and families through their own social channels

5. Best Practices To Raise More Funds Through Your Virtual Race

Obviously the main goal of your virtual race is to raise much-needed funds for your cause.

Here are some tips for helping your participants raise more money for their virtual race:

  • Charge a small registration fee to kick start your fundraising OR ask your participants to make the first donation to their fundraising page
  • Encourage participants to commit to raising a particular amount
  • Encourage participants to sign up their friends and family – you may offer discounted or free registration and/or incentives and prizes for how many friends they can sign up
  • Get a matching grant/gift from a major donor, partner, or board. Typically, donors give 50% more when a match is place
  • Share impact-driven compelling stories of the beneficiaries that they will be supporting

6. Impact Reporting & Tracking Data for Increased Results

Often people feel that if they’re unable to donate large sums of money to their favorite organization that they wouldn’t really be making an impact.

CauseVox helps donors and other participants focus less on the transaction and more about the story and impact through the CauseVox impact metric and customizable donation tiers.


The N Street Village team appreciated that the software allowed them to add an increment to their fundraising page so donors could see that their donation went to X number of meals for women in the shelter. People are more likely to give when they can see how their gifts get your organization to its goal.

“We heard a lot of feedback from new donors who came on as team members of friends that the impact meter was a big driver for them. They were able to see that their $4 donation made a real impact on the overall fundraiser,” MaKenzie noted.

In fact, a survey from Charities Aid Foundation found that 68% of their respondents said that it was important to have evidence about how a charity is having an impact. Descriptive Tiers are a bite-sized way to provide that information.

With descriptive donation tiers, you can show each donor how much each gift size really makes a difference:

Keys To Success Virtual Walk Descriptive Donation Tiers

Organize Your Virtual Walk Or Virtual Race With CauseVox

CauseVox is your race-day teammate. 

CauseVox helps you raise more with less effort for your virtual walkathon or race by taking the complexity out of fundraising. We’ll help you:

  • Launch a branded campaign with no IT person required
  • Recruit more participants with easy, < 60 setup fundraising pages
  • Get more donors through smart donation forms
  • + more

Learn more about running your virtual walkathon or virtual race on CauseVox.

Book a 1-1 Demo with our team to chat about how CauseVox can help you raise more through your virtual fundraising event.

Everyone’s asking: how do I make my in-person event virtual?

We sat down to discuss just that on our Nonprofit Leader Panel: How To Raise More Through Virtual Events. Watch the webinar on-demand.

Simplify and grow your fundraising

It honestly felt like using CauseVox expanded our team by another member.

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