Article

How To Organize A Virtual Walkathon Or Race

Simone O'Connor
Simone O'Connor

With nearly a year of Coronavirus under our belts, nonprofits have realized that virtual fundraising is here to stay.

Even as we start to think about moving back to some in-person events, nonprofits have realized that the convenience of virtual events can’t be beat. 

If you’re looking forward to your next walkathon or race and thinking that you don’t want to risk an in-person event, a virtual walkathon may be the answer. Let’s see how it works.

For a detailed walkthrough, watch our free webinar, the Ultimate Virtual Walkathon Fundraiser Playbook on-demand:

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.

virtual-walkathon-shero

NStreetVillage activated their virtual walkathon participants to create a personal fundraising page and encouraged them to use the hashtag #SHEROWALK. 

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.

Download your Virtual Event Planning Guide and Calendar Template:

Why Do A Virtual Walk or Race?

The last year has shown us that virtual fundraising is a powerful force, and that even in the midst of a crisis, our supporters want to give. All you have to do is give them the right opportunity. With the hope of a new year, people have a lot of optimism that can be channeled into a virtual walk or race.

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.
virtual-walkathon-walk-the-state

Parkinson’s Nebraska used the virtual format to create an amazing event. Their Walk the State challenge pushed fundraisers to communally walk the number of miles it would take to cross Nebraska.

Be sure to check out our 23 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 Walkathon or 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’s Peer to Peer Fundraising tools, you can access all of the features above and more! Oh, and did we mention that we’ve just rolled out a new feature that will make your walks and runs even better? It’s called the Activity Metric. 

virtual-walkathon-miles-walked-activity-metric

This way, no matter what type of virtual activity or challenge you may be engaging your community in, it’ll be easy for you and your participants to set goals and track their progress.

Here’s a few examples of the types of activities your participants are able to track on their page:

  • Miles walked
  • Miles run
  • Miles biked
  • Ft climbed
  • Laps swam
  • Minutes working out
  • # of [push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.]

Learn more about using the Activity Metric for your virtual walkathon, race, or challenge.

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).
virtual-move-a-thon

Grace Center used the walk-a-thon concept and converted it into a move-a-thon! They asked participants to dance or move for four hours together on a livestream. It was an engaging way to stand out with a fresh concept.

  • Make it engaging. Consider different ways you can recognize and celebrate participants. You could give prizes, do shout outs, or have celebrity guests.
  • 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)
virtual-walkathon-registration-fee

Easily collect registration fees on CauseVox with Peer-to-Peer Registration.

A Simple Way To Manage T-Shirt Distribution For Your Virtual Walkathon Or Race

Want to distribute t-shirts for your virtual walkathon? We learned from doing it ourselves that Merch by Amazon makes it easy for you to customize a t-shirt. Amazon prints them and distributes them for you – saving you a lot of time and hassle.

Nonprofits can sign up for an Amazon Merch account — this gives you a custom t-shirt listing on Amazon. A few key benefits to this include:

  • Fast prime shipping + easy to use on Amazon.
  • Individuals can order their own shirt and slect the size.
  • Amazon handles the order fulfillment and any returns if the sizing is incorrect.

Approvals for a Merch account take a few weeks, but in some cases a few months. Plan to apply early! Once you have an account, you can upload a design.

It’ll take a few days for your design to be approved, and you’ll receive a link to your product like this. Then, we recommend ordering a shirt sample to see if you like the quality.

We gave each speaker at our Digital Fundraising Summit a gift card to cover to cost of purchasing a t-shirt – you may want to do the same for sponsors and select registrants!

3. Recruit Your Virtual Walkathon Or Virtual Race Participants

personal-fundraising-page-virtual-walkathon-participant

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.
virtual-walkathon-toolkit

Walk the State provided their participants with a toolkit that included 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
virtual-walkathon-prizes

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. You can also encourage local businesses or other organizations to form teams. Teams are a great way for people to encourage each other and get competitive.
  • Get a matching grant/gift from a major donor, partner, or board. Typically, donors give 50% more when a match is place.
  • Get creative with how your event is connected to your mission. Postpartum Support International hosts a “Climb Out of Darkness” event in which participants climb or hike. It mirrors the struggle of post partum depression.
  • Keep your participants engaged with lots of social media connection. You can also offer physical incentives like t-shirts.
  • Share impact-driven compelling stories of the beneficiaries that they will be supporting.
virtual-walkathon-stories

702 Miles to Freedom is a run that’s raising money to build a trauma center in South Sudan. Their page does a fabulous job of sharing the stories of those affected, and giving a clear picture of what’s needed to reach their goal. One of our favorite parts is that they share it will cost $14.25 per mile to reach the goal, which makes it feel much more achievable.

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.

virtual-race-impact

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:

virtual-build-a-thon-donation-tiers

Record Robotics hosted a BUILD-a-thon to raise money for their high school robotics team. They used their donation form with great effectiveness by sharing exactly what parts they could buy with each donation.

Organize Your Virtual Walkathon 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 + seamlessly collect registration fees
  • Access the *NEW* Activity Metric on CauseVox so your participants can track their progress
  • Get more donors with < 15-second donation forms + Apple/Google Pay options
  • + 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.

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