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Fundraising Tips

How to Organize Your First 5K Race: 20 Steps for Fundraisers

December 26, 2023

Planning a 5k race can be complicated and time-consuming, but you don't need race experience to plan a successful 5k. Your 5k race can be a one-time event to fund a specific project or an annual event to provide operational funds for your nonprofit organization.

Whether you're organizing half marathons, a charity run, or a fun run, planning a 5k will take several steps and support from your community.

We've included a step-by-step guide to share how to organize a 5k, along with more tips to help you raise money and build relationships with donors and sponsors:

  1. Define Purpose and Goals
  2. Form a Planning Committee
  3. Choose a Date, Time, and Location
  4. Establish a Budget
  5. Get Necessary Permits
  6. Solicit Sponsors
  7. Announce the Event
  8. Choose an Online Fundraising Platform
  9. Create a Race Website
  10. Market and Promote Event
  11. Plan Event Day Logistic and Race Timing
  12. Contact Vendors
  13. Volunteer Coordination
  14. Plan Course Route
  15. Pre-Race Day Communication
  16. Set Up 5K Race Course
  17. Check-in Race Participants
  18. Race Day Management
  19. Send Thanks for a Successful Event
  20. Evaluate and Plan
Create your 5k race event page now

20 Steps for Planning a 5K Race

Event Planning (6-12 Months Before the Race Date)

1. Define Purpose and Goals

in the best-case scenario, you'll have six to twelve months before your next 5k run. You may not have that long, but you'll want to begin planning for your event as soon as possible. The first step when planning a charity run is determining your event's purpose and goals.

Start by choosing a specific program or project to fund, and decide on your financial goal. You can also include other goals, like the amount of new donors, event participants, sponsors, etc.

Check out our free fundraising calendar template to help achieve your nonprofit's goals →

2. Form a Planning Committee

Another step to take in the beginning is to form a planning committee. You should never run a 5k race or charity run by yourself.

Create a group that includes one or two staff members, volunteers, board members, and donors. You can also connect with local running clubs to find other potential supporters.

Once you've formed your event committee, you must assign roles and responsibilities to each member. Some roles will be on race day, like race director. You'll also need committee members to take responsibility for finding sponsors and vendors, pre-race and race day registration process, and training for peer-to-peer fundraising.

3. Choose a Date, Time, and Location

One of the first responsibilities of the planning committee is to choose a date, time, and location for your fun run. At this time, the committee can also choose a unique and compelling race name and theme to inspire more participation.

Runners of a charity 5k on the starting line

Online fundraising tools allow nonprofits to hold virtual and hybrid fun runs. Many nonprofit organizations chose to host their 5k runs online during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your organization wants to reach a wider pool of runners and raise more money, you can use tools like Zeffy to run your 5k race online.

Virtual runs may have a date and time when followers can run in any location and collect pledges. Nonprofits can also ask supporters to participate by running and raising funds by a specific date. As long as participants take pictures and share them on your organization's social media page, you can publicize the run and share runner stories and images to share your success.

4. Establish a Budget

Your nonprofit's development department can establish a budget with committee members or independently. Your event budget should include revenue you can make with entry fees, pledge collections via peer-to-peer fundraising, sponsorships, vendor fees, t-shirt sales, and other swag.

You must also plan for the following race expenses:

5. Get Necessary Permits

Another expense you must include is any necessary permits for road closures, park usage, etc. Contact local government and city officials to ensure you meet all requirements.

Checklist for sponsorships

6. Solicit Sponsors

Once you have all expenses finalized, it's time to research and solicit potential sponsors. Start by reviewing your donor database for past sponsors and in-kind donations from local businesses. You'll have a better chance with organizations with whom you've already formed relationships.

The next businesses to contact are running stores and other athletic organizations. These companies will be interested in your event participants, so you must offer marketing opportunities in exchange for their sponsorship.

7. Announce the Event

At the same time, you can announce your upcoming event to the public. Mail save-the-date cards, send emails, and share on social media to reach the most people.

Event Marketing (4-6 Months Before the Race Date)

8. Choose an Online Fundraising Platform

Zeffy free fundraising platform

After initial planning, it's time to take tangible steps for marketing and promoting your event. One of the most crucial marketing decisions is your nonprofit's online fundraising platform. If you don't already have one, now is the time to research the best donation websites to choose for your organization.

Choose a platform that offers the most fundraising opportunities for your race website, including:

9. Create a Race Website

Once you have a fundraising platform, you must create a registration and fundraising page to promote and collect online pledges and donations.

Zeffy simplifies the registration process with customizable event tickets with logos, colors, and website banners. Organizations can also add QR codes and make scanning tickets at your registration table easy.

If you choose to raise funds with a crowdfunding page, you must share your nonprofit's story along with running stories to inspire supporters to share and collect pledges.

Create your 5k race event page now

10. Market and Promote Event

Once you're done with the initial planning for your event, you must also create a marketing strategy to promote your 5k race. Start with free marketing options like emails, social media posts, a media press release, and peer-to-peer marketing.

A charity run offers a compelling reason for participants to spread the word about your nonprofit event. You can get the most out of this option with a fundraising competition. Contact local businesses for a prize to give to your top fundraisers. Encourage participants to collect pledges based on length, time, or other personal health goals.

When you open registration for your 5k race, you'll want to personally connect with participants about collecting these pledges and provide details on the program that needs funds, along with a training packet to create a peer-to-peer fundraising page. Make sure to regularly update race participants and your supporters for the next four months.

Event Logistics & Recruit Volunteers (2-3 Months Before the Race Date)

11. Plan Event Day Logistic and Race Timing

Planning for the 5k race event day

Now that you're getting closer to race day, it's time to plan logistics for your charity run and order essential marketing materials and race items, like:

12. Contact Vendors

Now's also the time to start contacting potential vendors to cover food and drinks. A 5k race can include hundreds of event participants, volunteers, and audience members. Your nonprofit can sell vendor tables to local companies and running stores to market to these individuals and sell items.

13. Volunteer Coordination

While contacting vendors, you must also find volunteers for your 5K's registration table, water stations, course marshalls, race directors, medical professionals, etc.

14. Plan Course Route

The final step at this point is planning the race course and marking it for participants.

Create your 5k race event page now

Event Communication (1-2 Weeks Before the Race Date)

15. Pre-Race Day Communication

One to two weeks before race day, you can start sending communication to race participants, volunteers, sponsors, vendors, and the public.

Participants

Send participants race details, parking instructions, and directions on where to pick up their race bibs, shirts, and other materials. You should also remind them they only have one to two weeks to collect their final pledges. Share an update on how much has already been raised and who is currently winning your fundraising contest.

Vendors

Send vendors parking instructions along with the race schedule and other necessary details.

Volunteers

Send parking instructions, last-minute updates to volunteer assignments, and the race day schedule.

Pre-race day communication

Race Day

16. Set Up 5K Race Course

You made it! It's race day and time to turn your planning and hard work into a successful event. Be sure to arrive early to set up event banners, start and finish lines, first aid stations, and more.

You must also finalize online registration details and work with volunteers to set up registration tables. Make sure your volunteers have smartphones to scan all online registration tickets.

17. Check-in Race Participants

Volunteers must distribute race materials and scan QR codes to check in racers when participants arrive.

A 5k charity run

18. Race Day Management

To ensure safety measures are in place, you'll want to have a few volunteers scheduled as event organizers and race directors. Let them oversee the race start, monitor the course, manage vendors, and take charge of unexpected situations. This will give you enough time to do what you need to do: connect with donors, sponsors, and vendors to build relationships. Relationship building is crucial, and each of these businesses may turn into significant funders for your next events.

Post-Event

19. Send Thanks for a Successful Event

Zeffy immediately sends automated tax receipts to race participants and donors when they give online. That doesn't let you off the hook. You must thank volunteers, sponsors, and participants in various ways after your event. Send acknowledgments within 48 hours after race day. Share funds raised and other successes via social media, newsletters, and the local press.

20. Evaluate and Plan

Another way to build relationships with donors is by letting them know you care what they think. After your running event, send surveys and collect feedback from participants and sponsors. Review your event's successes against your goals, and analyze your event's finances, attendance, and participant feedback.

Ready to Start Planning Your First 5K?

Organizing a 5k race can be complicated, but it's also an excellent way to raise money and encourage more participants. When planning your charity or fun run, come up with a race name and theme that shares your nonprofit's mission and inspires excitement for your event.

Zeffy is a 100% free online fundraising platform and can help you create a race website that simplifies the event registration process. Donors can pay an entry fee, create a fundraising page, and collect pledges from their community. Visit our website to learn more and sell your 5k race tickets for free.

Create your 5k race event page now

A few other interesting articles about fundraising:

How to throw successful fundraising events

11 Best Online Fundraising Platforms

Peer-to-Peer fundraising: The Definitive guide