21 Essential Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Every Cause
Walkathons have proven themselves to be an extremely effective method of fundraising for a wide variety of organizations. They’re easy to organize and execute, and they can get a lot of people from your community involved with minimal hassle. If you’re not entirely sure how walkathons work, the process is simple:
- Individuals register to participate in your walkathon.
- Participants collect pledges, meaning a supporter will donate a certain amount of money per unit walked (i.e. per mile, lap, etc.).
- The participants complete the walkathon and raise money for your organization.
However, some nonprofits have recognized the potential to raise even more money at walkathon fundraisers by incorporating additional fundraising methods. This post will walk you through some of the best walkathon fundraiser ideas that can work for any type of cause:
- Our Favorite Walkathon Fundraiser Idea
- Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Cancer
- Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Churches
- School Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas
- Unique Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas
Don’t let your organization miss out on the opportunity to increase its walkathon fundraiser revenue. Incorporate one or more of these ideas into your current fundraising strategy and you’ll see a boost in no time!
Our Favorite Walkathon Fundraiser Idea
Running Shoe Drive
A running shoe drive fundraiser is a natural addition to your walkathon event. Walkathons bring active, engaged people from your community together to support your cause, and these audiences are also the most likely to contribute to a running shoe drive.
When you partner with an organization like Sneakers4Funds, hosting a running shoe drive is easy:
- Step 1: Collect gently worn, used and new running shoes from walkathon participants and spectators.
- Step 2: Place the donated pairs of sneakers in a pre-paid shipping bag provided by the fundraising coordinator.
- Step 3: Ship your bag (free of charge!) to Sneakers4Funds.
- Step 4: Use your check to continue your good work!
Your walkathon can easily bring in more money when you add a running shoe drive fundraiser. This idea will not cost your organization any extra money—all you have to do is request that community members bring the sneakers they no longer wear to the event.
These fundraisers work because so many people have extra pairs of sneakers laying around their house that they would absolutely be willing to part with! This is especially true when they know the donated shoes will be helping your cause.
Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Cancer
In 2019 alone, 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the US. That means more and more people’s loved ones are going to be struggling with a life-threatening illness and unexpected costs for treatment.
Between raising money to help cover medical bills and inspiring donors to support life-saving research initiatives, breast cancer unlocks a lot of philanthropic spirit in communities around the country. A walkathon is the perfect way to engage your whole community in an uncomplicated way.
A walkathon in support of breast cancer should have a pink theme to help people demonstrate their dedication to the cause and rally together for support. Your organization can sell pink items like t-shirts, wristbands, bandanas, etc., so that anyone who attends can have the chance to represent the fight against breast cancer.
Your walkathon for breast cancer awareness and support should allow people to dedicate their participation to a loved one who’s struggled with breast cancer now or in the past. These events can offer a powerful platform for people to share their stories and speak with others who have been affected by the illness.
Every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer in the US. Families, friends, loved ones, fellow victims, and empathetic community members rally around these children to demonstrate their support and try to raise money to help with medical expenses or fund research.
These kids are superheroes, fighting their illnesses in their bodies despite feeling afraid. It only makes sense, then, that fundraising race participants should dress up as superheroes!
Race participants will love the opportunity to inspire the children to keep fighting by dressing up as superheroes and walking to raise money. Partner with your local children’s hospital to take superhero requests so kids can be sure to see pictures, video, and (if possible) witness in person, their favorite heroes coming together to help support them.
Your organization should inform race participants of the requested superheroes and sell small superhero tokens like masks and shields. Community members will jump at the chance to participate in this fundraiser if there is a small chance it will bring a smile to a sick child’s face!
Kid’s Face Painting Event
People of all ages should be able to feel included in your walkathon with special activities. The more people you can get to support your walkathon, the more money you will be able to raise to support your cancer-related cause.
Children are affected by this disease just like adults, whether they’re fighting it themselves or seeing a loved one fight it. Kids should get the chance to show they aren’t afraid and want to support your cause! Look for plenty of ways to get kids involved in your walkathon event.
Offer face painting to all race participants, you’ll likely see more kids who want to step up and participate in the walkathon. This will turn your cancer walkathon into a family event and show that entire families can work together to fight against cancer and support its victims.
Cancer has taken so much from so many people. Your walkathon event can be a great opportunity for your community to share in a meaningful memorial event. Hosting a lantern release after your walkathon is a popular way to do just that.
Your organization can sell lanterns at the event for people to release in remembrance of their loved ones. Just be sure to get clearance from the proper local authorities before getting started.
With this fundraising idea, you can raise support through the walkathon’s registration fee and get a small boost from selling lanterns. Some participants and community members might even want to make “In memory” donations to your organization to further show their support.
One of the greatest ways to encourage people to donate more to your cause at your walkathon fundraiser is to sell t-shirts. Presenting a united front against cancer will boost the feeling of teamwork and community among your walk participants.
Your organization should sell t-shirts that are branded to your organization and convey your cause with the help of a t-shirt fundraising company like Bonfire. When people see the shirts, they should know:
- Who organized the event.
- What cause you support.
- What event you hosted.
This will ensure that even long after the walkathon is over, participants can remember your organization and continue to offer their support. Shirts are also a great way to raise awareness for your cause—everyone who sees your shirt should learn enough to find you online and get involved.
Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Churches
This is a great idea to incorporate into your church’s walkathon to help raise more money for your projects or expenses. All you need for this idea are candles to sell to congregation members.
The premise behind a candlelight celebration is for walkathon participants to purchase a candle and either carry it during the walkathon or place it along the side of the walking path to light the way.
Many churches choose to use their walkathon fundraiser as an opportunity to pray as a group. The candles offer an opportunity for participants to light a candle in memory of a loved one, in honor of a mission project, or merely to demonstrate their faith.
Whenever you choose to host it, congregation members will love the opportunity to feel connected to one another and support your church in this way.
Engage all members of your congregation by adding this fun twist to your event. The youth in your congregation will jump at the opportunity to support your church with this walkathon fundraiser idea.
Encourage the members of your congregation to wear all white clothes and show up ready to be covered with colored powder by eager volunteers.
It is recommended that you set up multiple color stations along your walkathon path. At these stations, you can have volunteers dispensing the colored powder from condiment bottles. Alternatively, you can have powder bottles along the path that participants pay to pick up and blast each other with.
Your congregation members will definitely be excited by this walkathon fundraiser idea. Don’t forget to remind participants that when the color run is over, they can donate their colored sneakers to your church for an added fundraising boost!
Perfect for the holiday season, this walkathon fundraiser idea allows congregation members to dress up as angels for the event. This idea doubles as a costume contest that can be held at the end of the walkathon.
Earn extra money for your church by allowing walkathon participants and spectators to vote for their favorite angel costume by donating money to your organization. Each dollar can count as a single vote for their favorite angel.
Parents will want to vote for their children and friends will vote for one another, guaranteeing a fun competition for your community and an extra source of revenue for your church!
Host your walkathon during the Christmas holidays and promote it as a caroling walkathon. There are two ways you can accomplish this walkathon:
- Place volunteers or registered carolers in groups along the walkathon path to sing to the walkathon participants as they pass.
- Have volunteers or paying participants in groups along the walkathon path ready to lead the walkers in singing a popular carol along each stretch of the path.
Many festive congregation members will love the opportunity to sing and be sung to as they walk to support your church, increasing the number of people you have participating in your fundraiser. If you live in a small town or tight-knit neighborhood, this is an easy way to get the whole community into the holiday spirit!
Here’s a pro fundraising tip: Any event can be improved by offering pancakes as a reward when it’s over! Walkathons are no exception to the rule.
Have volunteers from your church organize a pancake breakfast for all participants to enjoy after the race. Depending on when you schedule your walkathon, the meal could be promoted as a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner party. Either way, offer all the classics like pancakes, eggs, bacon, and juice to entice more people to attend.
Make sure you invite the participants’ loved ones and those who came to watch the walkathon. The cost of breakfast can be built into the registration fee for participants, but you can charge a small fee to others who want to attend.
Don’t forget to set up collection plates at the breakfast for additional donations, just in case members of your congregation and walkathon participants feel led to further contribute. Offering food is always a good way to bring people together in support of a cause!
School Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas
Need to add some extra challenges to your walkathon to get your students involved? Try incorporating fun obstacles at regular intervals along the walkathon path.
Try some classic obstacles like:
- Rope climb
- Tire run
- Mud crawl
- Stair climb
- Beam walk
It can be difficult to get students interested in fundraising, but this crazy twist is sure to grab their attention. Students will be raring to go and prove that they can overcome any obstacle you throw at them! You might even choose to let supporters make bonus pledges per the number of obstacles their student is able to complete for even more revenue!
Don’t forget to remind students to donate their muddy, used sneakers to your school’s shoe drive fundraiser so you can raise even more!
Turn your walkathon into a party for your entire community with this walkathon fundraising idea! The walkathon can be one of the many ways your school raises money. While the walkathon happens on your school track, you can turn your parking lot into a party for other students and members of your community.
Allow community members to purchase tickets that can be used to participate in simple games that your school provides. These can include:
- Water balloon toss
- Giant checkers
- Lifesize Pac-Man
Community members will love the chance to come together to play games and have fun, but make sure to sell concessions to increase the amount of time (and money) people spend at your walkathon block party.
Want to encourage more students to engage with your organization? Try turning your walkathon fundraiser into a giant game of freeze tag.
Ahead of the event, allow students to purchase “freeze” and “unfreeze” cards to be used during the game. During the walkathon, students can “freeze” a fellow participant (who then has to remain still until unfrozen). Students can become unfrozen by using one of their “unfreeze” cards or by receiving an “unfreeze” card from a fellow participant.
Students will want to purchase more cards to ensure they are able to keep walking, get ahead of their friends, and raise money for your school—regardless of whether via card or pledges, your school is raising more money!
Increase involvement, add a fun twist, and boost your event’s online visibility by hosting a selfie walk! This idea is particularly effective for middle school and high school walkathon events.
The premise behind a selfie walk is quite simple. Participants must take pictures of themselves at checkpoints during the walkathon and post them online to verify their progress in the walk.
You can have photobooths set up along the path with props and checkpoint markers. When participants post the pictures they can even use a custom hashtag! Pledgors can then keep tabs on the participant they are supporting with these image updates and comment and like to show their support and offer encouragement!
Participants will love the opportunity to share with their social network that they are supporting their school and having fun while doing it!
Who doesn’t love dressing up in a costume? Try hosting a Halloween walkathon where participants come dressed in their favorite costume! There are a number of ways to ensure the success of this twist on your walkathon:
- Host a costume contest after the walkathon where people cast votes with dollar bills for their favorite costume.
- Hold the event during a school day (you may be surprised how many students are willing to pay to get out of class).
- Sell basic costume items so all students have the chance to participate.
Students will be excited at the prospect of participating in your walkathon when you incentivize it with getting out of class, or the chance to win a costume contest. Make sure you promote it with signs and announcements in your school so everyone knows about the opportunity.
Unique Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas
Everyone has a subject they like to boast about their knowledge of. It could be superheroes, astronomy, popular music, classic movies, Harry Potter, or any other range of obscure topics. You can appeal to everyone’s desire to show off their knowledge by incorporating a trivia game into your walkathon.
At intervals throughout your walkathon, require participants to try to answer a series of trivia questions about a specific subject.
The trivia game also opens up a new avenue for pledge collection. Not only can participants collect pledges based on how far the participant walks, but also based on how many questions they answer correctly. Make sure not to make your questions too hard so more people can collect more money from pledgors!
No one would argue with the fact that any day, event, fundraiser, etc., can be made better with puppies, right? Turn your walkathon into a puppy party to encourage more participation and get everyone more excited on the big day.
Partner with a local animal shelter to bring dogs to your walkathon. Not only will the promise of puppies bring more participants to your walkathon, but the puppies can also inspire participants to walk farther. After all, it is much easier to walk long distances with a puppy trotting alongside you.
Make sure to bring dog toys (balls, ropes, etc.,) that participants can use to entice the pups to run alongside them. Have plenty of food and water on hand for them, as well.
As an added bonus, don’t forget to offer walkathon participants a chance to adopt the pups from the local shelter.
Virtual Road Race
Possibly the easiest type of walkathon to organize, virtual road races don’t require participants to be in a single location.
People from all over the world can participate in your walkathon when you choose to create a virtual aspect of your walkathon. The process of a virtual road race is simple:
- People register on your organization’s website.
- The participant collects pledges and donations.
- They walk a predetermined distance (1 Mile, 5K, 10K, Marathon).
- The participant tracks their distance and time on their phone, smart watch, or other device.
- They report their distance to you and their pledgors.
- Your organization raises more money!
This opens your organization up to a wider audience and allows all your supporters to help you raise money!
It can be difficult to get people to participate in outdoor walkathons during the summer months. If it is overwhelmingly hot, people will avoid going outdoors at all costs. Try to entice people to attend and participate in your walkathon fundraiser by hosting a snowcone social during your walkathon.
People will jump at the chance to participate in your walkathon, even in the heat of summer, if there is a promise of snowcones!
Get volunteers from your organization to facilitate and distribute various flavors of snowcones to your participants. This is an easy, refreshing snack idea because participants can eat their snowcone while they are walking without slowing their pace. They will get the extra boost of energy from the cool snowcone and be encouraged to walk farther.
What can’t be made better with wine? Host a 21-and-over walkathon for adults in your community to pay for a glass of wine, walk around a track, and chat with their friends. This fun alternative to a beer run will attract plenty of adults in your community who want an easy, relaxing way to raise money for your organization.
With a wine walk, make sure the participation fee includes the first glass of wine, but allow the participants to purchase a limited number of extra drinks to raise even more money for your organization!
This walkathon fundraiser idea will easily attract more people and allow community members to have fun and blow off steam with their friends all while raising money for a great organization like yours!
Additional resources for walkathon fundraiser ideas
Donate Running Shoes: The Step-by-Step Fundraising Guide. Find out more about incorporating a running shoe drive fundraiser into your next walkathon.
21 Awesome 5K Fundraiser Ideas for All Organizations. Interested in hosting a 5K as your next fundraising idea? Check out these fundraising ideas!