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How to Set SMART Run/Walk Fundraising Goals


By Allison Gauss

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Like any fundraising event, a charity run/walk needs to have clear goals in order to succeed. It’s easy to get caught up in logistics as you plan a run for charity, but starting out with well-defined goals and a plan to achieve them will keep you focused and make your run/walk more successful.

Because of their operating costs, run/walks aren’t always the most financially lucrative fundraising events for social impact organizations, but their potential to create brand awareness, community engagement, and new supporters means they can still be a good choice. To get the most out of your event, you need to set smart goals—and they may not all have to do with dollars and cents.

Read on to find out what makes a SMART goal, which metrics to track at a run/walk, and how to take action toward your goals.


In 1981, George Duran outlined a helpful objective-setting system in his article, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Through a simple acronym, he explains the qualities of a truly effective goal.

Specific – The goal should deal with a particular metric or area of performance.

Measurable – The goal should be measurable. In other words, success should not be subjective.

Ambitious/Attainable – The goal should push for higher performance while remaining within the realm of possibility.

Relevant – The goal should relate to the overall mission and objectives of the organization.

Time-Based – The goal should have a deadline.

These qualities are important for all kinds of organizational and fundraising goals. Next we’ll explore what kinds of metrics and goals you can set to guide your charity run/walk event.

What to Track

The amount of money you can raise will obviously be important to the goals you set for your run/walk, but there are several ways to track revenue.

  • Registration Fees – Most charity run/walks raise money by charging for participation. Consider setting a goal for the revenue you collect through this channel.
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Revenue – With combined registration and fundraising, it has never been easier to incorporate online peer-to-peer fundraising into your charity run/walk.
  • On-Site Donations – Whether you sell concessions, have an auction, or just collect spare change in a fish bowl, on-site fundraising is another way to bolster your overall results.
  • Sponsorships – Run/walks are a great opportunity for sponsorship revenue. Early on, set a goal for the money you will bring in from businesses and corporations.

As mentioned, however, dollars raised isn’t the only metric important for running a successful charity run/walk.

Some other metrics you can set goals for and track are…

  • Registrations – This reflects your ability to mobilize supporters and your surrounding community. You can also set goals for the timing of registrations. For example, you might aim to register 50 percent of your full capacity one week out from the event.
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers – For run/walks incorporating peer-to-peer, more fundraisers can mean more money. It’s also a good idea to track the average amount raised per individual.
  • Social Impressions and Hashtag Uses – Social media can be a big help in terms for awareness and brand recognition. People can’t participate in your event if they don’t know it’s happening.
  • New Contacts – Charity run/walks are also a big opportunity to grow your community of supporters. You can set goals for the number of new contacts you acquire through registrations and third-party donors.

Examples of SMART Goals

Now let’s look at an example set of goals for a run/walk. Awesome Organization, a fictional nonprofit, is holding their fourth annual 5K run/walk. Last year they raised $14,000 from registrations and an additional $9,500 in sponsorships. Although it wasn’t a prominent goal last year, they also found that they acquired about 100 new contacts from the event.

This year, they want to raise more money and gain new supporters to follow up with later in the year.

Their goals are…

Goal 1: Raise $20,000 in registration fee revenue.

  • Specific in its type of revenue.
  • Measurable in dollars.
  • Ambitious/Attainable, based on past events.
  • Relevant because the event is fundraising for programs.
  • Time-Based because registration ends the day of the event.

Goal 2: Raise $15,000 in cash sponsorships by the end of race day.

  • Specific in the type and source of revenue.
  • Measurable in dollars.
  • Ambitious/Attainable, based on past events.
  • Relevant because the event is fundraising for programs.
  • Time-Based because there is a clear deadline.

Goal 3: Acquire 250 new contacts (first name, last name, and email address) by the end of race day.

  • Specific in what qualifies as a contact.
  • Measurable in complete contacts.
  • Ambitious/Attainable, based on past events.
  • Relevant because new contacts will help them grow their base of support and fundraise in the future.
  • Time-Based because there is a clear deadline.

This set of SMART goals will help Awesome Organization as they plan and execute their event. Furthermore, their specificity, measurability, and deadlines will make it easy to see whether they have met their goals.

If you have the staff and resources, your organization may set a greater number and variety of goals. Whatever metrics your organization prioritizes, take the time to define your goals with these SMART qualities.

Plan for Success

The final, crucial step to setting your nonprofit up for success is to create a plan of attack. To gain something more, you have to do something more.

For each of your goals, look at how you performed against this metric in the past and ask “what will we do differently to improve?” Identify the strategies that helped you accomplish what you did and brainstorm new ways to grow and progress.

For example, in order to achieve their new registration revenue goal, Awesome Organization might make these changes to their previous strategy:

  • Increase registration fee from $30 to $35.
  • Send representatives to local events to register runners.
  • Streamline and simplify the online registration process.
  • Promote the registration form on social media.

Together, these actions will help the organization grow registrations and revenue and meet their objectives.

Make your next charity run/walk your best event ever by setting SMART goals with the right metrics and action items. Just like the runners participating in your event, the work you do ahead of time will determine your results on the big day.

A Beginner's Guide to Planning a Run/Walk

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