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5 Questions to Answer Before You Host a Charity Run


By Chelsea Alves

People in Charity Run

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Published June 21, 2016 Reading Time: 4 minutes

Charity runs can be a great way to gain exposure and raise funds for your organization. They are an opportunity to reach a new pool of supporters, market your cause, and give your participants an event to remember and look forward to for years to come. While run/walk events are trendy, it’s important to determine if they are right for your organization to host before you jump on the bandwagon.

The five questions below will help you evaluate whether or not the decision to plan a run for charity is right for your organization.

Do We Have the Budget?

Your budget will help you determine if you have the necessary funds to plan your first charity run. In a recent study, Software Advice surveyed nonprofit event planners to get a better understanding of which types of events are best for nonprofit organizations to host based on their size and budget. The results showed that midsize organizations ($6M-$50M) and large organizations (more than $50M) had a higher return on investment and an easier time planning a charity run. Smaller organizations (less than $5M) had a harder time planning a charity run/walk and a lower return on investment. This was largely contingent on the fact that smaller organizations had smaller budgets, and their volunteers and staff may have less event planning experience. However, they still proved to be a good choice for smaller nonprofits over other types of fundraising events such as galas, concerts, and art exhibits.

Based on the overall results of the study, charity runs proved to generally provide positive returns for nonprofit organizations of all sizes. While this study shows promise for all nonprofit organizations, it is important for your organization to run the numbers. First estimate how much the event will cost to run and then determine your possible return on investment. This will help you gain a better understanding of whether or not it will be worth your time, energy, and funds to host a charity run.

Do We Have the Staff?

As with any event, planning a charity run/walk requires a certain level of expertise. Your staff may not have the knowledge needed to execute a successful charity event or the flexibility in their workday to learn how to do it. At the very least, to plan a successful charity walk or run requires you to:

  • Conduct marketing and outreach efforts
  • Work with the city to secure permits, road closures
  • Purchase or rent equipment
  • Assist fundraisers with peer-to-peer campaign page creation
  • Update your website and create an event page
  • Plan an email campaign around the event
  • Answer inquiries about the event
  • Solicit help from volunteers
  • Secure sponsorships to offset event costs

If you feel your staff doesn’t have the time or expertise to accomplish the above tasks you may consider hiring an event planner to take on the brunt of the work. However, most nonprofit organizations shy away from this because it requires allocating additional funds in your budget for this event. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, a seasoned nonprofit event planner will have the prowess to maximize the funds your organization does have available.

Will This Event Resonate With Our Audience?

How your supporters receive your fundraising campaigns determines their success. This also holds true when it comes to your events. Before moving forward with your charity run/walk, it’s crucial to consider if this type of event will make the most sense for your supporters. When you think of your audience, consider if they:

  • Are physically active
  • Enjoy being outdoors
  • Have a competitive nature
  • Are able to complete a long walk

If your supporters embody these traits, you’re off to a good start. Keep in mind that things like geography, average age, and other audience demographics could impact your decision to host this type of event.

You’ll next want to consider whether your audience extends beyond the city you plan to host your race in. Perhaps your audience is widespread and you feel the physical nature of a 5K would limit their participation. Consider adding a virtual component to your campaign in order to involve as many people as possible. This enables supporters both near and far to participate by allowing them to complete the event on their own no matter where they live. To help virtual participants feel included in your event, mail them the same swag bag you’ll pass out to your supporters on the day of the event.

Are We in the Right Community?

Is your community an ideal location to hold a large-scale outdoor activity? Cities like sunny San Diego are obvious choices for outdoor events with favorable weather year-round and an abundance of trails and pathways. On the contrary, a city like New York may be a more challenging place to hold this type of event due to possible permit restrictions and inclement weather.

Another factor to consider is if the community where you will be hosting your event is enthusiastic about outdoor activities. If you live in a city where run/walks are popular, this could be an opportunity to reach a bevy of new supporters and spread the word about your cause. With enough word-of-mouth exposure, your run/walk could grow into a scalable yearly tradition.

Do We Have Realistic Expectations?

Every organization hopes their first new fundraising event will be a success. As much as you plan and work, your first charity run/walk event may not reach all of your goals. Financially, it’s possible you may only break even your first year, or you may not even make a profit at all. Yet, that doesn’t mean your event was a failure.

Even if your first charity run/walk isn’t a huge money-maker, there may still be other benefits. These include the opportunity to gain new supporters, spread the word about the event and your cause, and build excitement for next year’s charity race. Fundraising benefits can also carry over to your next campaign now that more people are familiar with your cause and ready to support your organization. Communities take time to build, but the right event can generate positive word-of-mouth that brings you long-term support.

If your organization answered, “yes” to the above five questions, you are in a good position to host your first charity run/walk. To plan this type of charity event does take an ample amount of time, but luckily we’ve got your 9-week plan outlined right here.

Want even more helpful resources? Check out the guide below to learn how to plan a charity run/walk like a professional.

run walk guide

A Beginner's Guide to Planning a Run/Walk

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