Charity Events

Ready, Set, Organize Your Next 5K Walk/Run for Charity in 10 Steps

July 28, 2022

From the starting whistle to the finish line, this guide will give you the tools to successfully organize your next 5K fundraiser

Step #1 Designate a race coordinator

Resources in the nonprofit sector are pretty limited, and key roles are often filled by volunteers. In order to maximize the efficiency of planning for your 5K fundraiser, try to designate someone to be your race coordinator. The ideal race coordinator will have a knowledge of local running routes, and possibly contacts in the local government to help with step two, below. If you are branching your walk/run event into a new community, it might be best to choose a race coordinator who is local to the area who can help orient you with mapping out the course and making local contacts. 

Step #2 Choose a route and verify with your municipality

When choosing a route for your race, keep in mind that you will have walkers and runners of all ages and activity levels. You will want to choose a route that does not have difficult terrain, high inclines, or other hazards. You will also have to coordinate with local public resources, such as the local government and police in order to ensure that your route gets approved, and that race day activities are regulated and kept safe. 

Step #3 Find a co-host and sponsors

Before getting started with planning your charity 5K, try to find a co-host or sponsor. Corporate co-hosts or sponsors not only help out with their financial contributions, but they can also help alleviate some of the grunt work that comes with promoting the event and finding volunteers. When you have a corporate sponsor, their network becomes your network. Associating the name of your nonprofit with a well known company can also have its benefits for bringing in new donors who may have never heard of your nonprofit before. A bonus idea would be to collaborate with a local professional or semi-professional athlete to help spread the word. Once again, their network becomes your network!

Step #4 Choose a theme

You’ve probably heard of color runs, mud runs, glow races (held at night), snow globe runs in the winter time, beer runs, and many more types of 5K road races. These types of themed races provide a fun outlet for your participants while they help you raise money for your cause. Try to choose a theme that aligns with your mission and make participants want to keep coming back year after year. 

Step #5 Recruit volunteers

You will want to make sure you have enough volunteers on staff on race day and in the days leading up to the event. Ideally, you will want to try to have one volunteer for every 20 participants who register. This will ensure that all runners and walkers have adequate access to help and resources when they need them. 

Step #6 Leverage online fundraising tools

Create online registration pages and peer-to-peer fundraising pages to allow participants to sign up for the event and raise money for your nonprofit organization. There are many free tools out there that will enable you to get the most out of the donations you receive for your event. Zeffy for example, provides 100% free event ticketing and peer-to-peer fundraising tools that you can use for your next event. Furthermore, Zeffy is the online fundraising tool for nonprofits that has zero platform costs and zero transaction fees. 

Step #7 Promote the event 

Get the word out about your event by leveraging free resources like social media. If your budget allows, you could also consider spreading the word through local advertising, such as in newspapers and magazines, and on the radio and TV. You can even plan to reach regular donors directly via phone, email, or snail mail to engage them in your charity 5K race. Another great resource for spreading the word might be hanging posters in local gyms, and sports and health stores. This will ensure that running and walking enthusiasts in your area will find out about your event and be inclined to sign up to support your cause.

Step #8 Plan out race day supply needs

Race day could get quite hectic, so it’s best to start planning out your supply needs well in advance. Once you know how many participants will be attending your event, you can have a better idea of how much food, water, and other items like race merch you should have available. Try to imagine that each participant will need access to water (you can provide reusable water bottles or compostable cups that they can have filled along the race route),, plus foods such as packaged snacks, fruits, and more. Participants and their spectators may also want to remember the event by purchasing t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other items. You will want to make sure you have enough to go around. You can likely coordinate with your corporate sponsors to have some of these items donated to you. 

Step #9 Organize and distribute race packets

Each participant in your 5K run/walk should receive a race packet, ideally in the days or weeks leading up to the event. A race packet typically includes a course map, numbered race bib, timing chip, and race t-shirt. You can also include other things in your race packet, such as promotional items from your corporate sponsor or packaged snacks for race day. You will need volunteers to sign up to distribute race packets at a local venue, and keep track of the participants who have picked up their packets.

Step #10 Manage volunteers on race day

You will want to make sure that each of your volunteers has a clear role to play in the overall 5K fundraiser. On the day of the event, you will need some volunteers to check participants in as they enter, some volunteers to pass out food and water along the route, and other volunteers to manage timing at the finish line. If your budget allows, you may want to consider hiring a race day timing service to help outsource race timing and free up volunteers for other positions.