Promoting Your Next Walkathon: 4 Strategies for Schools

Discover top tips for promoting your school’s next walk-a-thon in this guide.

Walk-a-thons are simple and affordable to organize, encourage participants to get outside, and can even engage individuals outside your school’s community. Plus, this versatile idea will work for many age levels and groups, from baseball teams to high school marching bands to general school-wide campaigns. With all these benefits, it makes sense that so many schools choose walk-a-thon fundraisers.

But selecting a fundraising idea that everyone is excited about is just half the battle—the other half is promoting your walk-a-thon to attract the participants, donors, and volunteers you need to meet your goals. In this guide, we’ll explore the four top strategies you need to build a solid marketing foundation and make your event a success. Let’s get started!

1. Take a peer-to-peer approach.

Peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) is a form of crowdfunding in which your supporters promote your campaign and fundraise on your behalf. Typically, participants share your fundraiser online with their family members and friends. This means that your school will have help from dozens of supporters when promoting the campaign.

As a result, P2P fundraising helps your school reach a larger audience, raise more support from new donors, and strengthen relationships with existing supporters by giving them a way to engage more deeply.

Often, schools encourage students to collect pledged donations from their personal networks. These donations are collected after the fundraiser ends. Here’s 99Pledges’s breakdown of the process:

  1. Your school launches its peer-to-peer, pledge fundraising campaign (in this case, a walk-a-thon).
  2. Students receive personal donation pages in addition to a school-wide donation page.
  3. Students share their donation page links with friends and family to collect pledge donations. For a walk-a-thon, they might collect pledged gifts of $5 per mile walked.
  4. After the fundraiser ends, the pledges are donated to your school! For example, if the student walked three miles, they’ll receive $15 from each donor.

Make it easy for participants to spread the word about your fundraiser with dedicated walk-a-thon software or pledge fundraising tools. A solution that specializes in these types of events will be able to provide each of your registered walkers with a pledge page, which they can then easily share.

Encourage your walkers to actively promote their pledge pages to help your school tap into new audiences. Ask your students and families to share them through social media posts and emails, including their personalized fundraising appeals or stories about what your school means to them. Hearing their motivations and reasons to contribute will help put a face to the cause.

2. Use multiple communication channels.

As you and your walkers promote your walk-a-thon, use multiple communication channels to maximize your reach. For instance, most marketing strategies 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 walk-a-thon on your organization’s main profile pages. Include a link directly to your event page so interested individuals can sign up to walk or make a pledge. Then, encourage your walkers to focus on social media as well. Their friends and families are likely checking these feeds very frequently.
  • Email: Send announcements, appeals, and digital fundraising cards or event invites to your school’s broader community. Include clear instructions for getting involved or donating and links to relevant landing pages. Encourage your walkers (or their parents) to share their personal fundraising pages via email, too. Provide them with pledge request email templates so they don’t have to write marketing messages from scratch.
  • SMS: Connect with your supporters via text messages. Share reminders to donate, updates about the walk-a-thon event, and links to your website or donation page. Text messages are a great way to re-engage any individuals who may have viewed your donation page but not completed it.
  • Print media: Don’t forget about traditional marketing tactics like flyers, posters, and direct mail. Hand out flyers at school and in community hubs (e.g., public libraries) and ask local businesses if you can hang promotional posters in their windows. Direct mail, which is delivered to supporters’ homes, is a great way to engage with older generations and make your efforts feel more personal and trustworthy.

If your school has room in its budget, you can also leverage paid advertising like Google Ads. These are the ads that are marked as “Sponsored” and appear at the top of the search engine results page.

Google does offer a grant program in which qualifying nonprofit organizations receive $10,000 in free Google Ad credits each month. Educational institutions are not eligible for the grant—however, PTAs or booster clubs registered as 501(c)(3) charities could be. Working with a dedicated Google Ad Grant agency can help you determine eligibility, apply for, and manage the grant.

3. Offer special perks and shout-outs.

A prize or reward helps boost the energy and anticipation leading up to your walk-a-thon event! Offer perks like branded t-shirts, water bottles, and more to walkers and donors to inspire extra giving and engagement. Plus, adding your school’s branding to these items will help spread awareness of your campaign when people wear or use them around town.

Aside from using this technique to build anticipation for your event, you can also use it as a recognition strategy. For example, a water bottle or t-shirt given to someone as a thank-you for making and fulfilling a pledge can go a long way. Or, you might shout out top donors on your website or social media platforms to show your appreciation. These efforts will help you retain more supporters for the next campaign by making them feel acknowledged and valued.

Additionally, consider giving your hardworking walkers, event volunteers, PTA members, and donors public shout-outs as well (with their permission). Post about them on your social media profiles and encourage plenty of likes and shares.

4. Establish a sense of urgency.

Your supporters lead busy lives, which can result in them seeing a promotional message for your campaign and deciding to give at a later time. However, Allegiance Group + Pursuant’s guide to maximizing donations points out that this “later” can turn into a “never.” To break supporters out of these complacent attitudes, create a sense of urgency for your event.

Here are some examples of how your school can infuse urgency into its walk-a-thon promotions:

  • Offer limited-time registration for those participating in the walk-a-thon. This will ensure students register early and have plenty of time to fundraise.
  • Use time-bound goals. Let’s say your school needs to reach its walk-a-thon fundraising goal to purchase a new edition of textbooks in time for the start of the new school year. Spell out this need to your audience and emphasize that your goal needs to be met before the school year starts.
  • Gamify the fundraising process and offer incentives to top fundraisers and donors. For example, create live, public leaderboards that show how much each student has raised. This will incite friendly competition that results in more funding for your school.
  • Set up countdown timers and fundraising thermometers to show how much time you have left to reach your goal. These are especially helpful when you start closing in on your deadline.

Many of your potential supporters may intend to donate or participate in your walk-a-thon but may forget about taking action before the campaign ends. These tactics will motivate them to get involved as soon as possible, helping you garner more support.

As a school, you can promote your walk-a-thon through your own social media pages and urge participants to spread the word as well. By encouraging your community to get involved in the fundraising process, you’ll make them feel like valued members of your school’s team, get them excited about participating in future campaigns, and encourage them to get outside and exercise!