How To Host A Virtual 5k Fundraiser Race

Olivia James
Olivia James

Education at CauseVox

The 5K has long been a staple of nonprofit fundraising for ages, but like a lot of fundraising events, it’s gotten something of a facelift in the last few years. Just like the rest of our lives, 5K fundraisers have been moving virtual. If you want to keep up with the competition, now is the perfect time to explore a virtual 5k fundraiser.

The virtual version of the event looks a bit different from your standard run. But it’s got a lot of benefits. Let’s check out how to make a virtual 5k fundraise a success.

Join us for The Ultimate Virtual Walkathon Fundraiser Playbook webinar on 2/18 @ 2pm EST, where I’ll be diving into all the secrets of how you can create a successful virtual walkathon, race, or challenge for your nonprofit.

What is a Virtual 5k Fundraiser?

Meat Fight hosted their half marathon, 10k, 5k event on CauseVox

At heart, your virtual 5K is a peer-to-peer fundraiser. Your runners will serve as your champions, raising money in support of their run.

Participants can sign-up and commit to running their 5K during a certain time frame. Maybe you want to give them a specific day so that everyone is running at the same time. Or perhaps you give them two weeks and they can run during any day. One of the benefits of the virtual 5K is that your participants have more flexibility in when and how they complete the run, so don’t be afraid to offer a longer timeframe for them to run.

Participants can set up their fundraising pages and raise money from friends, family, and other supporters.

Individuals can create their own fundraising page with your organization’s branding

Why Would I Choose A Virtual 5k Fundraiser Over In-Person?

There are a few important differences between virtual and in-person 5ks that will help you decide which one you want to choose. While you may miss the thrill of a big group in person, crowds just aren’t feasible with COVID in the mix. And it turns out there are other benefits to virtual too.

  • It costs much less to run a virtual event than an in-person one. You don’t need to pay for a venue, race wardens, permits, and insurance. In fact there are almost no costs at all, which means you’ll make more in the long run.
  • Due to COVID19, there are people at home looking for things to do. A virtual race can provide people with a community activity that gets people incredibly excited to participate.
  • A virtual race is easy to participate in. Your runners can run anywhere, at any time, and break up the length as necessary to make it accessible.
  • 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
JCAN used the virtual format to make their event accessible, allowing participants to walk, run, or roll a distance they chose.

JCAN Virtual used the virtual format to make their race highly accessible: participants could walk, run, or move in any way that worked for them. It raised over $15000 more than their goal.

Picking the Perfect Software

Peer to peer fundraising success really depends on having the right platform – and with a virtual 5k that’s even more important. The first step of setting up your virtual 5K is finding software that works for you. Here are the features you should look for:

  • Mobile-optimized: both the donation process and the campaign site
  • Custom branded: you want your page to look like your organization and give you metrics like a fundraising goal and real-time progress bar
  • Easy to use: for you, your fundraisers and your donors! You want an easy interface to set up the page, a simple process so your fundraisers can create their pages in just a minute or two, and a quick donation process
  • A wide variety of payment options: obviously you want to be able to take credit cards online, but also consider options like Apple or Google Pay, or the ability to add in offline donations to your total
  • Easily collect registration fees in the peer-to-peer setup process- if you choose to collect one
  • Easy donor and fundraiser management so that you’re not wasting time after the process trying to see who donated, who fundraised, and what happened
  • An easy way for your virtual event participants to track activity right on your campaign site, personal fundraising pages, and team pages

Through CauseVox Peer to Peer Fundraising you can access all of the features above and more!

Check out this beautiful page showcasing 5k registrants on a CauseVox page.

We’re always adding new features, including our latest Activity Metric which allows your race participants to track any kind of activity. The Activity Metric has some big benefits for you and your fundraisers.

  • The Activity Metric is the best way for participants to show progress towards both an activity goal and a fundraising goal. You can see all that information at any time, making it easy for you to see the progress of your supporters.
  • Your fundraisers have an easy, mobile-optimized setup process: that includes adding in their activity goals. It’s so easy for them to participate in your challenge that they’ll be excited to get started.
  • Update any time anywhere. No matter what they’re doing or when they’re doing it, your participants can update their activity.
  • Easy tracking = easy engagement: You’ll be able to easily see individuals, teams, and the overall challenge’s progress in real-time with simple reporting. This makes it easy to encourage participation and reward your participant’s and teams’ progress towards their activity + fundraising goals.

How Do I Run My Virtual 5k?

So now you have your software chosen…what do you do? In many ways it’s not so different from any other event you would run. Select the date or timeframe you’re going to host the 5K. Decide if you’ll have a program (like a livestream) to kickoff or round off the event. Name the event and pick any theme you might want to have. And last but not least, decide if you’re going to have a registration fee.

Now it’s time to get folks to sign up and start fundraising!

Here are some of our favorite ways to get the word out about your 5K:

  • 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. Some of the best people you can focus on are board members, returning donors, volunteers, or others in your close network.
  • Use social media to promote your event – post on your page, groups and existing networks. Don’t forget to create a hashtag so you can see when other people are posting about the race
  • Set up an email campaign with weekly content for your participants. It could be motivational quotes, updates, how-to info, or updates on the top fundraisers
  • 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 the impact of the fundraisers by telling stories of the beneficiaries that they will support. Consider using video that will really show the impact of the work.
  • Encourage participants to share their race updates with their friends and families through their own social channels

Adding Incentives And Prizes To Your Virtual 5K


It’s incredibly common for 5Ks to include t-shirts, swag, and other giveaways. 

If you want to include other swag for your participants, you can offer the options of mailing to participants or having them pick up from your office. 

The best part is that CauseVox lets you customize multiple registration types at different price points. You can include swag at different registration tiers. 

Climb Out of the Darkness used CauseVox’s registration tiers to give participants options

ClimbOut of the Darkness offered three different registration tiers. One was free, and just included entry to the event. The second included a t-shirt, while the third included a t-shirt and a medal. 

Of course registration isn’t the only time you can include fun giveaways in your 5K. You can also consider offering prizes for the top fundraisers, or the largest team. Think about what you want to incentivize your fundraisers to do: get the most donations? Get the most dollars? Update and customize their page? Offer drawings or prizes for each goal. N Street Village offered a mask for everyone who raised over $45.


One important thing to note about prizes is that you need to be clear about timing. It will take time for you to fulfill these orders. If you’re giving away a prize for everyone who raises over $45, give a date by which fundraisers need to reach that goal. That gives you time to fulfill the orders.

Quick tip: If you’re running a virtual 5K, you might be wondering how you manage distributing shirts and other merch. We learned from doing it ourselves that Merch by Amazon makes it easy for you to customize a t-shirt. Just sign up for an Amazon Merch account as a nonprofit, and you can create a custom t-shirt listing. Amazon prints and distributes, dealing with all sizing, fulfillment, and returns.

Just remember to set up your account early as approval for the merch account can take up to a few months. 

How To Equip Your 5k Participants To Succeed

The final piece that you should have in place before your event is ready to rock and roll is your fundraising toolkit. 

Walk the State kept their toolkit simple and easy to navigate

You want to make sure that fundraising is fun and easy for your participants. The best ways to do this are to make signing up quick and easy, and to provide plenty of information after someone signs up. 

Here’s what to include:

  • Brand guidelines
  • An overview of the campaign
  • A communication calendar 
  • Images and logos
  • Pre-written social media posts
  • Email templates they can use to copy + paste and send out
Parkinson’s Nebraska included this communications calendar for their participants to follow to help them promote their fundraising pages.

With the toolkit in hand, your runners are ready to get fundraising.

All you have to do is cheer them on. The final step is to verify who completes the race and share any congratulations or thank yous at the end of the race time period. There are tons of ways you can do this, whether by checking in on the activity metric on CauseVox, or by asking your fundraisers to contact you when they’ve completed their race. 

Let’s do a quick review. Here are the main steps you’ll want to take to get started with your virtual 5K fundraiser:

  • Pick your software (we may be biased, but we’d suggest CauseVox)
  • Pick the date or timeframe
  • Decide if you’ll be running a program on a specific date
  • Set up registration, including any tiers
  • Build a toolkit for your fundraisers
  • Recruit your fundraisers
  • Offer incentives for fundraising
  • Use the Activity Metric to see when your participants have completed their run

Power Up Your Virtual 5k Fundraiser 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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