Virtual walks and runs were gaining popularity before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations were using these types of events to raise money. For example, virtual Strides raised over $82,000 for charitable causes in 2015.
Now that large gatherings are unsafe because of the Coronavirus, many popular runs and walks are going virtual and people are flocking to them in the absence of in-person races. Even the famed IRONMAN triathlon series is offering virtual races and attracting tens of thousands of participants each week during the Coronavirus pandemic. They’re also raising money for their "Ironman Foundation" which provides relief aid worldwide.
Virtual charity runs and walks start on the internet but take place wherever participants want to complete the distance. People who sign up for virtual charity runs and walks register online and complete the mileage at their own convenience and wherever they live. Once they finish the "race," participants upload their results online.
There are many benefits to hosting a virtual run/walk, and they’re relatively easy to organize. Even small nonprofits can put on a successful virtual charity walk with the right preparation! We gathered some of the best tips, tricks, and resources to help you organize your first charity run/walk to raise money for your organization.
Benefits Of A Virtual Walk/Run Fundraiser
There are plenty of reasons fundraisers should consider putting on a virtual run or walk event. No matter what type of nonprofit you have, you can benefit from this type of fundraiser.
A virtual run/walk is far cheaper than putting on a traditional race. You won’t need to pay for event permits, snacks, water, and other things that eat into your fundraising income. To put on a virtual race, you’ll need an event page on your website and a crowdfunding platform that allows participants to fundraise for the cause. A quick-start guide to help people meet their fundraising goal would also be helpful.
Of course, there are other things you can add that would make the virtual walk/run more attractive, like an event t-shirt or finisher’s medal. Still, those aren’t essential to the success of the event. You can even reduce overhead by offering these "prizes" to people who raise a certain amount or for people who pay a small registration fee.
Ability to attract a broad audience
Practically anyone can participate in a virtual run/walk. It doesn’t matter where they live, what their athletic skills are, or any other factors! Whether you’re 5 or 55, a seasoned marathoner or just starting your fitness journey, anyone can participate in a virtual run/walk because you can complete it at your own pace and when it fits in your schedule.
Because people can complete the run or walk wherever they live, you can mobilize your entire network, not just your supporters in one city or region.
Most virtual charity walks/runs have a window of time for people to complete the distance. So, even people with busy schedules can participate in your charity event. This also makes it more accessible for people who might not be as physically fit as others. People can go at their own pace and even break up the distance into manageable chunks.
Practically unlimited fundraising potential
Virtual charity runs and walks have nearly unlimited fundraising potential. You aren’t limited by how many registrants you can take or who is available on a specific day. You can also empower your supporters to raise money instead of charging a set entrance fee. All of these factors make virtual walks/runs excellent fundraisers.
As traditional running events are canceled, you can attract athletes who want to stay motivated
Athletic events all over the world are getting canceled and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the 2020 Boston Marathon was moved from April to September. Many athletes are looking for ways to stay motivated and use their love for running positively.
Everyone wins with virtual charity runs and walks! Your organization raises much-needed funds, and athletes get to use their talents and interests to make a positive impact in the world.
This particular advantage might be temporary because races will hopefully return to normal as the pandemic subsides). But if athletes have an excellent experience with your virtual event, they may be eager to participate in future events you put on.
5 Steps To Plan Your First Virtual Charity Walk Or Run
Planning a virtual charity walk is relatively easy. Even small fundraising teams can pull it off!
1. Define your goal.
Did you know that the majority of startup virtual races are connected with charitable causes? A successful virtual charity run or walk has a cause that people will rally behind and a specific goal everyone can work toward.
Set specific goals for your team to work toward. How many people would you like to participate? How much money would you like to raise? How many new donors would you like to attract? These types of goals help you get the most out of your efforts.
You’ll also want some goals to share with all the participants. Some organizations set one big fundraising goal. Other nonprofits challenge each of their virtual walkers to raise a certain amount of money each or get a certain number of donations. There’s no right or wrong strategy, but people appreciate having a very specific and measurable goal to work toward.
2. Create an event page on your website and set up fundraising pages for participants.
Create an event page on your website for people to learn about your cause and register for the virtual run/walk. Having a specific page on your website makes it easy for people to share it with friends and family.
You’ll need to decide whether you are going to charge an entry fee, have people fundraise (peer-to-peer fundraising), or both. If you choose to go the peer-to-peer fundraising route, you’ll need a platform that allows each participant to set up their own donation page.
3. Advertise and mobilize!
Social media is your best friend when it comes to cheap or free advertising! Create a Facebook event that people can share. Invite participants to share the event on their own social media platforms to invite others to join the fun. Having a logo and some other graphics that people can share will help with their fundraising efforts.
Many organizations create a short guide to successful fundraising. A resource like this includes essential fundraising tips and tricks that equip and empower peer-to-peer fundraisers to achieve their goal (and help you reach your financial goal).
Having a strong social media presence raises awareness about your event and your nonprofit. Keep it updated with information about the event, celebrating the fundraising efforts of participants, and keeping everyone updated on progress toward your goals.
4. Celebrate participants and consider offering finisher rewards.
Even though virtual events usually take place over a few days, it’s crucial to celebrate participants as they finish the distance and record their results. Most charity walks/runs don’t really emphasize finish times, but they usually encourage their participants to log their miles using their smartphone, smartwatch, GPS, or other another device and report the results.
If you decide to offer finisher medals or other swag, you’ll need to make a plan for mailing those items to the finishers within a few days of when the event ends. This is an essential piece of celebrating people’s walking or running goals, as well as their fundraising goals.
Some charity walks and runs offer special prizes for participants who reach or exceed the minimum fundraising goal. This helps reinforce that it’s a fun event with a serious goal (in a friendly way, of course).
Finisher rewards are by no means required. One way to minimize overhead is to have a minimum fundraising goal or a small registration fee in addition to their fundraising goals.
5. Follow up is critical!
As with every fundraising event, follow up is critical! Send a special thank you card to every person who raised money for your cause. Acknowledge their efforts and partnership.
Send a thank you email or note to everyone who made a donation to the cause. Make sure to send a welcome note to any first-time donors. Share information about your nonprofit and offer other ways they can get involved.
Now that you’re ready to host your first virtual charity walk or run, here are three more resources to help you give your fundraising a boost.
- 8 Tips for Hosting A Virtual Fundraising Event: Virtual fundraising events might be a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think they will remain a great fundraising option, especially for organizations that have donors scattered far and wide. Here are some great tips to help you put on a wonderful virtual fundraising event.
- Is Your Nonprofit Making These Common Crowdfunding Mistakes? Virtual charity runs are a type of crowdfunding campaign. These types of fundraisers can be incredibly successful, but there are a few common mistakes that nonprofits make.
- 5 Simple Tips To Improve Donor Relations: Improving your donor relations is one of the most effective ways to improve donor retention and increase the lifetime value of a donor. But donor care is both an art and a science. Here are some concrete ways to strengthen your donor relations.