Come warmer weather, your school may be looking for ways to plan an exciting outdoor event. Walkathons are an excellent way to bring your students and families together safely while raising money. In the COVID climate, your school walkathon might be virtual or socially distanced but can be just as effective as a typical fundraising event.

Walkathons are relatively simple to plan and host for your organization with the right tools. If your school is new to this type of event, reviewing a few frequently asked questions and getting set up with pledge fundraising software (like 99Pledges!) will simplify the process. Once you plan your event, there’s still one critical task left to tackle — promoting your walkathon.

Your school has to take steps to actively promote your walkathon to get the most out of all the hard work that went into planning it! These strategies will help you build a solid marketing foundation to ensure a successful walkathon.

  • Taking a peer-to-peer approach
  • Using multiple communication channels
  • Offering perks and shout-outs
  • Encouraging healthy competition

Effective promotional strategies will ensure that your walkathon raises money and that your students and families know about it to begin with! With a range of marketing tactics at your disposal, your event is sure to succeed with your community. Let’s dive in.

1. Take a peer-to-peer approach.

The most crucial aspect of your walkathon is the promotion of your event. The more frequently people post and talk about your event, the greater the support and turnout. As a school, the connections between your students, families, and community will give you a real leg up in this regard.

So what’s the best way to tap into the power of these community connections? Taking a peer-to-peer approach to promoting your event.

Successful peer-to-peer fundraising involves your supporters promoting your campaign on your behalf to collect donations (or, in this case, walkathon pledges) from their own online networks. When word spreads about an event, especially for a local school, people will want to support the community they are a part of. Overall, peer-to-peer strategies have a range of key benefits:

  • They help you reach a much wider audience than you would on your own.
  • They help you raise more support from your growing audience.
  • They help to strengthen your relationships with supporters by letting them directly further your
  • campaign on their own.

To give your participants an easy way to spread the word about your walkathon, you’ll need dedicated walkathon software or pledge fundraising tools. A support service specialized in these types of events will be able to set up each of your registered walkers with their individual pledge pages, which they can then easily share far and wide online.

Encourage your walkers to actively promote their pledge pages to help your school tap into these networked benefits. Parents and students alike can play crucial roles in peer-to-peer marketing to your community. With friends and family as the faces of your cause, you can gain traction with your event with the personal touches that they provide.

Ask your students and families to personalize their social media posts and emails with their own messages or stories about what your school means to them. Hearing their motivations and reasons to contribute will be effective in putting a face to the cause.

Get creative to come up with additional fundraising and marketing twists, too! Check out 99Pledges’ favorite fundraising ideas for kids to start brainstorming ways to give your promotional efforts some extra energy. For example, if your students share their pages to secure a certain number of pledges, your principal might have to complete a funny challenge.

2. Use multiple communication channels.

As you and your walkers promote your walkathon, make use of multiple communication channels to maximize your reach. For instance, fundraisers typically rely on both digital and physical outlets to spread the word about campaigns and events:

Social media – Your first step is to promote your walkathon on your organization’s main profile pages. Then, be sure to encourage your walkers to heavily focus on social media, as well. These feeds are where their friends and family are checking most frequently. Be sure to include a link straight to the relevant page for signing up or making a pledge.

Email – Send announcements to your organization’s broader community with clear instructions for getting involved or donating. Have your walkers (or their parents) actively share their personal fundraising pages via email, too. It can be a good idea to provide your participants with easy donation request templates to simplify the process.

Direct mail – In addition to digital promotion, physical letters can be just as effective for spreading the word. If you’ve planned out your walkathon well in advance, you should have plenty of time to promote it to the community using physical mailers and newsletters. Be sure to use best practices for effective fundraising letters.

Rather than relying on a single outlet, like your participants’ social media posts, your school should actively work to promote your walkathon wherever possible. If your school wants a deep dive into multichannel marketing for nonprofits, DNL OmniMedia’s digital strategy guide can be a helpful resource. However, the main idea to keep in mind is that a multichannel approach in the physical and digital spaces will maximize your visibility in your community and beyond, leading to higher event turnout and more pledges.

3. Offer special perks and shout-outs.

A prize or reward helps boost the energy and anticipation leading up to your walkathon event! Offering perks like branded t-shirts, water bottles, and more to your walkers and donors can inspire extra giving and engagement.

For example, a water bottle or t-shirt given to someone as a thank-you for making and then fulfilling a pledge can go a long way. As people contribute to your walkers’ pledge pages from around the community (or even the world!), the more geographical spread your swag items can have. This is a relatively effortless way to gain publicity for your school.

Leading up to your event, be sure to also stir some excitement on social media. Give your walkers, event volunteers, and donors public shout-outs (with their permission). Post about them on your social media profiles and encourage plenty of likes and shares. For additional peer-to-peer promotional efforts, you might even ask your supporters to write their own posts explaining what your school means to them and the community. Use these testimonials to share on your main profile to give your event a personal touch.

Use your shout-outs and promotional materials to set appropriate expectations for your event, as well. If you’ve hosted a walkathon in the past, you might include photos so that participants can know what to look forward to. If you’re conducting your walkathon virtually or taking extra precautions to ensure social distancing, take the opportunity to fully explain how it’ll all work.

4. Encourage some healthy competition.

A bit of healthy competition can go a long way to secure more pledges and raise more money for your walkathon!

Think of ideas for offering a prize (or a range of tiered prizes) for your walkers who secure the most pledges or walk the most laps. Donors will be more motivated to give if their pledge can help their loved one win a prize or rank highly among their peers. Perks for students during the school day are the best motivators for kids to get involved!

Popular prizes for school walkathons include:

  • Extra recess time
  • A homework pass
  • A goodie bag
  • A pizza party for classes with 100% participation
  • Wear a silly hat to virtual class

Use your walkathon software to set up a digital scoreboard or leaderboard to regularly update leading up to your walkathon, and reference it in your social media posts. If your virtual walkathon occurs over a longer timeframe, keep updating your leaderboard as the laps and pledges roll in to show everyone the progress your walkers are making. This option will add a fun, competitive edge to your fundraising efforts.

Amid the challenges of coming up with socially-distanced fundraising ideas, walkathons have proven to be a reliable and adaptable choice. These events can quickly gain traction within a community because of the many connections that schools have with families in the area. Through conversation in the digital and physical spaces, your walkathon will grab the attention of your community in no time!

Be sure your volunteers and walkers are spreading the word about your walkathon. The best way to get donors is to put a face to your cause, and who doesn’t love to help their kiddo’s school raise money?

As a school, you can promote your event through your own social media pages with shout-outs and share testimonials from participants. Add a fun, competitive edge to the walkathon by awarding prizes for levels of pledges or laps walked. Your community will feel appreciated for their efforts in supporting your school and will be back to help in the years to come!