5K races are such a staple of fundraising campaigns because they can offer significant return (both in terms of revenue and donor engagement) on your invested time and resources. Although they take more work to plan than average events, your organization can easily boost its fundraising capacity by hosting a 5K.
But don’t forget to add your own to this traditional nonprofit event! You can add on any 5K fundraising idea to personalize your race for your specific organization or cause—and raise more money in the process!
- Our favorite 5K Fundraiser Idea
- 5K Fundraiser Ideas for Nonprofits
- Ideas for a Healthcare 5K
- School 5K Fundraising Ideas
- 5K Fundraiser Ideas for Churches
Let’s dive in, starting with the all-time favorite fundraising idea: running shoe drive fundraisers!
Our Favorite 5K Fundraiser Idea
Running Shoe Drive
A running shoe drive fundraiser is the perfect addition to your organization’s 5K. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, the process is quite simple when you partner with an organization like Sneakers4Funds:
- Step 1: Collect gently worn, used and new running shoes from race attendees and participants.
- Step 2: Band the sneakers together and place in a pre-paid shipping bag provided by the fundraising coordinator.
- Step 3: Ship your bag from the nearest UPS store to the Sneakers4Funds warehouse.
- Step 4: Enjoy your check!
Adding a running shoe drive fundraiser to your 5K is easy and will not cost your organization any extra out-of-pocket fees—you just get to enjoy the additional revenue!
Most people have extra pairs of sneakers lying around in their garage or closets that they no longer wear. You can give them the perfect opportunity to clean out their homes and benefit their community as a result!
5k Fundraiser Ideas for Nonprofits
Create an obstacle course
Want to add an extra level of excitement to your 5K fundraiser? Incorporate fun, challenging obstacles into the course!
At each kilometer mark, you can add a different challenge for runners to overcome, such as:
- Rope ladder.
- Bag races.
- Walking on a beam.
- Climbing up and down stairs.
- Mud run.
Not everyone will be equally enthusiastic about running a 5K, but when you add a new, fun twist to a traditional idea, more people will want to join! Your team members can easily construct these obstacles, or you can recruit passionate and skilled community members to help.
This idea pairs extremely well with the running shoe drive, since attendees will be more than willing to let someone take their muddy sneakers off their hands at the end of the race.
Gain more participants—and generate more revenue—with this idea!
Sell custom water bottles
Custom water bottles are a staple of 5K runs because they’re easy to incorporate, and they work well with athletic themed events. You can easily include the water bottle cost in their registration fee or sell them at the event.
Make sure you put the name of your race or nonprofit on the water bottle! This way, racers will not only remember to stay hydrated, but they’ll also not forget your organization long after race day is over.
Your nonprofit has a network of connections within your community that can be leveraged to produce an excellent charity auction. Invite the racers to celebrate their run with their family and friends by attending your charity auction and bidding on some fun, unique auction items.
You can provide some incentive for runners to attend by giving free drink vouchers, a small gift, or by waiving the entrance fee for the runners.
You can even try to theme the auction items to relate to either your cause or athletics because you know your audience is passionate about both! Don’t shy away from hosting an auction only because it may take more planning—this idea has the potential to raise a significant amount of funds in addition to your 5K.
This 5K fundraiser idea can be executed in several ways, but your participants will love any method you choose. For this idea, you will need to limit your participants to 21 and over, but you will still have no problem finding eager participants because your event will have two things they want: a way to support a good cause and beer.
Encourage your community to participate in your 5K by adding a fun twist. You can do this by:
- Supplying beer to each participant when they run a certain distance (i.e., 1 beer every half kilometer)
- Providing a party at the finish line where race participants can redeem a voucher for a specific number of drinks.
Make sure members of your nonprofit circulate among the participants so that they can learn more about your organization in a relaxed, fun environment!
Who would turn down an excuse to hang out with their best friend? Let your community members come together to support your organization’s 5K by allowing people to bring their furry best friends along.
A Paw-pal run will enable your community to bring their (leashed) dogs along with them while they walk, run, or jog the distance.
Don’t forget to set up water stations along the way, for both the people and pups! You can even sell branded merchandise that appeals to dog owners, like leashes, collars, bandanas, or tennis balls for a little extra revenue!
Ideas for a Healthcare 5K
Peer-to-peer fundraising capitalizes on the social connections of all of your supporters and can easily be integrated into your 5K.
If you’re trying to use your 5K to raise awareness for a disease or support for a specific person/group of people, enlist your current supporters to ask for donations on your behalf. You can even set up fundraising teams who can compete to win challenges leading up to the race.
Don’t forget to encourage runners to set up a pledge-style campaign so they can collect pledges ahead of time.
Supporters can circulate information about your 5K run to their friends, families, and social media followers so that your event can gain even more attention. At the race itself, your supporters can engage with the participants and viewers to direct them toward their fundraising donation pages.
If your goal is to raise awareness for an illness or commemorate loved ones, this is the perfect activity to attach to your 5K. Invite your community and supporters to participate in the race, or cheer from the sidelines, and join you for a lantern release at the finish line.
You should make sure people know why you are releasing the lanterns. You can let people release lanterns to memorialize someone they love or send up a prayer and well wishes for a sick loved one. You don’t even necessarily need to charge per lantern. When people understand the cause you are supporting, they will be more than willing to donate to your fundraiser.
In the United States alone, 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer during their lifetime. It is a shocking statistic that not everyone realizes. You can raise more funds and awareness for breast cancer by encouraging all of your 5K runners to wear pink.
You can even provide pink breast cancer ribbons for runners and spectators to wear in support of your cause!
You could also consider hosting a pink party at the finish line where you can have pink decorations and take the time to honor breast cancer survivors and those who lost their battle with cancer. People can share stories and speak about their experiences. It is sure to spur people into supporting your fundraiser.
Finish line flowers
Allow race spectators to get involved in the 5K fundraiser by encouraging them to send a flower to a racer at the finish line. You can charge a small fee per flower and allow them to personalize a note saying why they are sending this flower.
People can thank runners for supporting this cause, express their admiration, or share stories about their relationship to the purpose your 5K supports. People will love the chance to show their support and honor loved ones with their support. It can simultaneously boost your fundraising revenue and show your runners the importance of their support.
For a bonus, set up a running shoe drive at the finish line so people can easily donate their gently worn, used and new sneakers for a good cause!
Many people participate in fundraising events for personal reasons they associate with the cause your fundraiser supports. They want to experience a real activity that allows them to help a cause for which they are passionate about in their lives.
Your 5K will provide this opportunity so you should give them something to remember about the event.
A photo booth at the finish line will allow participants to celebrate their race completion! They can pose with fun props and signs, including a chalkboard that they can write a personal message! People love this special addition to an event and will feel even more inspired to support your good cause.
School 5K Fundraising Ideas
Sell custom t-shirts
So many people can look at the old shirts in their closet that remind them of a specific time in their life and smile. These memories remind us of what was important to us throughout our lives, and it is essential to collect things like this.
Your school 5K should have custom t-shirts for people to wear during the race that demonstrates in some way what the race supports. You can sell these shirts to your students, teachers, faculty, and community members to raise awareness for your competition and invite everyone to participate in the event! If you want to streamline this process, fund a t-shirt design platform that lets you order in bulk and order online.
Your more daring 5K Fundraiser participants will love to climb inside a dunk tank for the chance to raise more money for your school. Meanwhile, others will jump at the opportunity to knock their friends, teachers, and family members into the water.
Charge a small fee per throw or set of throws. You’ll be amazed at how quickly these funds can add up!
Make sure to have a supervisor at the dunk tank at all times to ensure there are no accidents and that everything goes smoothly!
When people take their shoes off for the dunk tank, you have the perfect opportunity to ask them to donate their sneakers to your running shoe drive.
Have you ever wanted to eat a bunch of donuts and then run a 5K? Maybe not. Your students, on the other hand, will likely be excited by any chance to eat free donuts!
You should charge a small entrance fee to cover the amount of the donuts, but you will surely get an abundance of attendees with this fun idea. Partner with a local donut shop to sponsor your event so you can get more donuts for less!
You can incorporate donuts into your race however you like including:
- Making participants eat 6 donuts before the race and 6 at the finish line.
- Having participants eat a certain number of donuts after a specified number of miles.
This exciting twist will not be appealing to everyone, but your students will be more than up to the challenge!
Capitalize on your participants’ competitive, fun-loving nature by encouraging them to dress up as movie characters, superheroes, zombies, or any other fun variation. Your participation levels will skyrocket when you give them an excuse to embrace their creative, childlike side.
Who doesn’t want to run around the streets dressed as Iron Man or Harry Potter? It will make the competition more enjoyable for everyone involved, plus the race can only be the beginning of the event! Host a costume contest at the finish line where people can pay a small fee to vote for their favorite costume!
Enjoy this throwback to the 1960s and 70s by encouraging all your 5K race participants to wear tie-dye to the race. They can tie-dye shirts, bandanas, togas, leggings, headbands, sweatbands, or any other item of clothing they may wish to wear. The street will be an ocean of psychedelic color with this 5K fundraising idea.
Don’t forget to sell your tie-dye merchandise. You can easily sell branded t-shirts or water bottles that are tie-dye colored to embrace the theme fully.
5K Fundraiser Ideas for Churches
Easter egg hunt race
Your young congregation members will be excited to hear that the 5K race has been transformed into an easter egg hunt—but that doesn’t mean that people of all ages can’t still participate!
You can hide easter eggs all along the 5K trail, and the person who finds the most at the end of the 5K can win a small prize! Each runner can hold a basket to make carrying their eggs easier, and younger participants can be aided by siblings and parents to ensure everyone has a fighting chance for that prize.
It is a perfect way to turn a springtime 5K into a fun celebration for everyone!
Jingle Bell Run
It may be challenging to get people to participate in a 5K fundraising idea in the middle of winter, but Jingle Bell runs are a wholesome take on the traditional race. Friends, family, and fellow congregation members can stand on the sidelines of the competition and ring bells to cheer the runners along.
It will bring more attention to the run and create a beautiful ringing melody throughout the streets that beckon in pleasant holiday feelings.
You can ask people to bring their bells or sell silver bells for a small fee at the race to make sure everyone can contribute to the fundraiser!
Adopt a runner
It is a great 5K fundraiser idea to adopt if many congregation members cannot participate in the 5K due to health or personal reasons.
Members of your congregation can adopt a runner to support by making them a care package, pledging money for their run, or writing them a letter thanking them for running and letting them know they are praying for them.
Your church can even provide options for congregation members to buy items to send to the runners on the day of the event, like t-shirts, water bottles, and personal notes. The proceeds from these care packages can then benefit your church.
If you have ever run a 5k, you know that you get extremely hungry about 30 minutes after you run. Meanwhile, churches are known for their amazing potlucks. The perfect solution is to have a potluck raffle after everyone has finished the race.
Charge a small fee to eat at the potluck (but consider giving the runners a discounted price for their efforts) if you want an extra revenue boost!
Plus, you can always have people vote on their favorite dishes for a fee as well.
Water balloon fight
Want to provide your congregation members an additional way to engage in your 5K fundraiser idea? Sell water balloons for a small fee at the race for them to throw at the runners as they pass by. Of course, you should advertise this in the race, so all participants know to expect the water balloons.
Your congregation members, especially your young members, will find this idea hilarious and be more than eager to participate. After all, it’s for a good cause!
Additional Resources for 5K Fundraiser Ideas
Donate Running Shoes: The Step by Step Fundraising Guide. Learn how you can raise more money for your cause by collecting gently worn, used and new running shoes and sneakers at your next event!
30+ Slam-Dunk Fundraising Ideas for Winning Sports Teams by Funds2Orgs. Check out more ways you can raise money for your sports teams and athletic groups with this list!
Custom 5K Race Shirts for the Whole Team: 4 Simple Steps by Bonfire. Creating a custom t-shirt your entire group will love is not as hard as it seems. Learn how you can do it by reading this post!