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DIY Walk-a-Thon Guide

The days where walk-a-thons are run by a third party company which collects a percentage of the walk-a-thon donations ARE OVER! Thanks to the internet and great software tools (like uWalk), you can run and manage an entire walk-a-thon yourself. That means 100% of the proceeds go to your school!

This guide will walk you through the process of planning and running your own walk-a-thon.

  1. PART 1: LOCATION AND DATE OF WALK-A-THON

  2. PART 2: PLANNING THE WALK-A-THON

  3. PART 3: THE ACTUAL WALK-A-THON

  4. PART 4: WRAPPING IT UP


PART 1: LOCATION AND DATE OF WALK-A-THON

STEP 1) Picking A Location

One of the first things you should do when planning a walk-a-thon is to come up with the location for your event. If at all possible, you should try to have the event right on school campus... perhaps around a track, gym, school parking lot or any large field that is available. Having the walk-a-thon right on school grounds will simplify all the logistics of the event and make things most convenient for everyone. No worries about reserving other locations, getting additional insurance, or handling transportation to/from the event. By having the walk-a-thon on campus, you'll be able to more easily access all of the school's resources (tables, ice, etc.) and since it is at the school, it would allow you to schedule the event during school hours to ensure all of the kids will be able to attend. It's really a win-win-win situation if you can have the walk-a-thon on school grounds.

STEP 2) Picking A Date/Time

Once you know the location of the walk-a-thon, you can come up with a date for the event. Ideally, you will want to give yourself a least two months lee-way. One month to plan the incentives and start arranging some prizes and sponsors. And one month to actually promote the event and allow students to collect donations. Yes, you can do everything in less time...even under a month... but 2 months will allow you to do things right and give you a better chance to make the walk-a-thon a success.

As for the actual date/time, of course you should be aware of the seasons in your area. Unless you are going to call your walk-a-thon the "The Snowshoe Challenge", you might not want to choose a month that is typically freezing. Or if there are certain rainy seasons in your area, you might want to avoid that time of the year unless your theme is going to be "A Walk-a-thon in the Rain".

You'll also want to coodinate with any other fundraisers your school is planning for the year. Don't pick a date right on top of another fundraiser. Spread the fundraisers out so as not to conflict with one another nor burn everyone out on fundraisers.

And ideally, if the walk-a-thon is going to be held on school campus (which again is highly recommended), pick a regular school day... as you know everyone will already be their anyway and be most convenient for everyone.

uWalk Tip: When you have decided on your date and location, you can specify that information on the Admin Panel or the Event Details web page. uWalk will display that important information for any website visitors and can be used for directions for any mobile device users.


PART 2 - PLANNING THE WALK-A-THON

STEP 3) Determining A Realistic Goal

Almost equally as important as knowing when/where your walk-a-thon will be, is coming up with a realistic monetary goal. Knowing how much money you want to make with your walk-a-thon will help you set expectations and will determine the level of commitment and incentives needed to make your walk-a-thon a success. If the walk-a-thon is going to be your school's sole fundraiser for the year, you may want to throw all resources including the kitchen sink into promoting, creating incentives and organizing the event. On the other hand, if the walk-a-thon is just going to be a supplement to various other fundraiser's your school will be doing, then you can be a little less agressive in promoting the event and in investing in incentives for the event.

Consider some numbers:

Suppose you have 300 kids in your school and suppose you gave them a goal of raising just $50 each in donations:

300 kids x $50 = $15,000

Looking at this realistically (as those of us who have ever ran a fundraiser before know), suppose you just get a participation rate of 50%:

300 kids x 50% x $50 = $7,500

Knowing the monetary goal of your walk-a-thon will help you to design incentives and promotions that will boost up participation rates and boost up individual fundraising averages as needed to make your walk-a-thon successful.

uWalk Tip: When you do have your monetary "goal" for the walk-a-thon, you can specify that goal on the Admin Panel or the Event Details web page. uWalk will use this monetary goal to display a "fundraising thermometer" to track the progress toward your goal.


STEP 4) Planning Promotions and Incentives

Once you know the monetary goal for your walk-a-thon, you can come up with some promotions and incentives to help you achieve that goal. Yes, it would be nice if you could just send a letter home with the kids saying that the walk-a-thon will be on so-and-so date and for each kid to try to get so-and-so donations... but letters get set asside... people forget... etc. So you'll want to come up with a plan that will keep the walk-a-thon on everyone's mind in the weeks leading up to the actual event. The plan doesn't have to be elaborate nor involve weekly pep rallys nor involve expensive prizes. Keeping it simple is always good. You can judge how agressive your promotions will need to be based on how high you set your monetary goal.

Here are some simple, afordable and yet effective promotional ideas and incentives:

1) Have weekly prize drawings for those that have turned in donations or have met their individual fundraising goal. This will inspire kids to get donations in as early as possible and more importantly, keep the walk-a-thon on everyone's mind in the weeks leading up to the actual event. One or two "top prizes" each week is usually nice... but adding some additional winners to pick out of a (cheaper) prize box will also add to the effectiveness of the weekly drawing. There is something about having 5 or 10 names called out on the intercom each Friday afternoon before the kids go home that really seems to resonate and inspire them to go ask their family, friends and neighbors for donations when they see them over the weekend.

Some good weekly "top prizes" might be gift certificates for a "Family Movie Night" or a "Family Pizza Night"... preferably donated by the local movie theater or local pizza parlor. Kids also love stuffed animals, so don't underestimate the power of a huge stuffed animal that everyone will see when the winner brings the prize back to their classroom and then out to the afternoon car line.

uWalk Tip: uWalk has a built-in "Prize Picker" feature on the Admin Panel. The Prize Picker can be used to randomly pick winners based on certain donation thresholds such as "Give me 10 winners from those that have raised at least $50". The Prize Picker can also (optionally) scale the chances each student has to win based on how much they have raised so that "The more money a student has raised, the better chance that student has to win a prize".

2) Promote some friendly competition between classes. Offering the class that collects the most donations a reward like a Pizza Party or an Ice Cream Party not only further helps to inspire the kids, but also gives teachers a reason to promote the walk-a-thon throughout the week... and again, keep the event on everyone's mind.

uWalk Tip: uWalk (optionally) displays the current class totals on uWalk's "Prizes" page so that all visitors can see which class is in the lead. uWalk also provides various report options on the Admin Panel so that you can generate reports on donations per class, donations per student, donations per student per class, etc.

3) Get teachers involved. Come up with incentives that teachers can have fun with... like "Win your teacher a spa day" where teachers could win a spa day if their class raises so much money or "Make your teacher Walk-a-thon" where teachers will have to walk an extra lap for every $100 the class raises. Again, the idea is to give teachers something they can have fun with ("No homework tonight my sweet and loving class!") and more importantly, help to keep the event on everyone's mind in the weeks leading up to the walk-a-thon.

4) Get the principal and staff involved. Don't under estimate the power of getting the principal to do something silly if certain fundraising goals are met. Maybe get the principal to shave off that trademark mustache if the fundraising goal is met. Or maybe get the staff to serve the kids in the cafeteria for a day. Or get a pie-in- the-face at the walk-a-thon if the fundraising goals are met. You get the idea. The funner and sillier, the more effective.

5) Prizes. Of course, individual fundraising prizes are always nice. We'll discuss some ideas there in the next section.

Again, the purpose of promotions and incentives it to keep the event on everyone's mind so that the kids will remember to ask their family, friends, and relatives for walk-a-thon donations.

uWalk Tip: uWalk does accept online donations (via PayPal) so kids can hit-up distant relatives or really any friends and family who prefer to just donate online. uWalk's "Participant" link page allows kids to create custom links that can be emailed or shared on Facebook and will ensure the kids get credit for any donations made through that link.


STEP 5) Prizes

In addition to the weekly prizes and class prizes suggested in the previous section, it is also nice (but not required) to setup a prize list to reward participants who raised donations. There are many options when it comes to prizes, here are just a few ideas:

1) Grand Prizes. You might want to consider purchasing (or better yet, getting someone to donate) a few prizes for the kids who raise the most money, say... the top 3 fundraisers. Kindle Paperwhites, iPods, giftcards or anything of that sort make great grand prizes. If you're lucky, you may even be able to get a local business to donate the prize(s) in exchange for listing them as event sponsors. More on Sponsors in the next section.

2) Prize List. Why limit the prizes to the top 3 fundraisers? If it's within your budget and/or you are lucky enough to have some more prizes donated, you can have a list of prizes... that even grows as sponsors learn about your event and also make donations. Then at the end of the event, the top fundraising kids can pick from the list. The student who raised the most money picks first, the student who raised the second-most money picks second.. and so on for however many prizes you were able to arrange.

3) Guaranteed (But No-cost To You) Prizes. If you want to offer students guaranteed prizes if they participate and/or reach a certain individual fundraising goal, consider some prizes that don't really cost you anything. For instance, if your school always wear's uniforms, maybe offer "Nut Day" passes to allow students to wear regular clothes to school one day. Or maybe offer "No Homework" passes. Or "Lunch Line Fastpasses". Each school is different and would have different opportunities... so be creative and think what would work for your school.

4) Participant Party. You might want to consider throwing a party at the end of the walk-a-thon where everyone that participated or reached a certain individual fundraising goal can attend. It could be a big pizza party... or maybe even a showing of a movie in the school library. Again each school would have different opportunities ... so be creative and utilize the resources your school has to offer.

Of course there are many other options to use prizes to inspire and reward kids who participate. So be creative in using prizes as necessary to meet your monetary goal.

uWalk Tip: uWalk has a "Prize Manager" feature by which you can manage such a Prize List... including estimated monetary value of each prize and links to any sponsors that donated prizes. This list of prizes will (optionally) be displayed on uWalk's "Prizes" page.


STEP 6) Getting Sponsors

Sponsors can be a huge part in helping you achieve (or over-achieve) your monetary goal. Consider how one good donation of a few hundred dollars could offset/supplement a dozen kids who didn't participate. Or consider how an offer from a sponsor to donate some prizes or supplies for the event frees up the money you were going to spend and thus directly affects your final profit. Sponsorships from local businesses can really turn your walk-a-thon from a success into a HUGE SUCCESS. The trick is getting those sponsors.

Here are some benefits that you can pitch to potential sponsors:

1) Advertising. A great way to reach a lot of potential customers and promote their business. Their name will be shown on the walk-a-thon's website, flyers and various signage at the actual event.

2) Community Good Will. They will be helping the local school. It's good for the community. They will look good for helping. Yes, this sounds so basic... but business do know the value of and benefit from having a good standing the local community. The school has a lot of potential customers... and when those families need to buy a new car or get a new bank loan or setup an retirement account or re-model their home... they will look first to a local trusted business.

3) Tax Deductable. If your organization is a non-profit entity (as are most schools), remind sponsors that their donation is tax deductable.

Here are some ideas for specific sponsorship opportunities that you could offer potention sponsors:

1) Event Sponsor. For $X dollars, the business can be the main "Event Sponsor". As the "Event Sponsor", the business name will be displayed prominantly on the website, all signage, letters, flyers and emails. The main "Event Sponsor" will be announced prominantly and signage displayed prominately during the actual walk-a-thon. All participants will receive goodie bags from the "Event Sponsor".

2) Lap Sponsor. For $X dollars, the business can sponsor a lap at the event. For that lap, the business name will be announced prominantely and all participants will receive a coupon or goodie bag or other promotional items for that business as they complete the lap.

3) Cool Down Tent Sponsor. For $X dollars, the business can sponsor the cool down tent. The cool down tent would be a large soccer-style tent in the middle of the track with the sponsor's name on it... such as " Oasis Tent". During the event, winners will be announced where the kids get to relax under the " Oasis Tent", sip on a drink with a little umbrella, etc... for 5 minutes while everyone else continues to walk.

4) Prize Sponsors. For $X dollars - or perhaps the actual prize item(s) - the business can donate a prize for the Prize List. The sponsor's name and a link to their website will be will be shown on the walk-a-thon's website, next to the prize(s) on the website's "Prize Page", and on all letters, flyers and emails.

uWalk Tip: From the Admin Panel, uWalk allows you to manage your sponsors. uWalk will randomly display sponsors in a banner (for all mobile website visitors) or will list all sponsors in a side panel (for all regular, non-mobile website visitors).

Note: Many chain businesses - such as big movie theators or national restaurants - are often very willing to donate gift cards as prizes, but often such national businesses require you to fill out a form about a month ahead of time... so give yourself that extra month when planning your event.

STEP 7) Setting Up Lines Of Communication

A key part to the success of any event is to establish a way to communicate with all participants. Routine communications with participants in the weeks leading up to the walk-a-thon are essential to keeping the walk-a-thon on everyone's mind. Additionally, it re-enforces that this is an important fundraising event for the school and not just the fundraising flavor of the week. It also gives other parents a way to contact you (the walk-a-thon organizer) to ask questions and/or offer their help.

Here are some suggested ways to communicate:

1) Email. Email is a very effective way these days to communicate with a large number of people at once. Ideally, you may be able to obtain an email list from the school office so that you (as the walk-a-thon organizer) can email students/families as necessary. You don't want to spam everyone, but being able to send emails out yourself as necessary will prove to be an efficient and valuable means of communication.

2) Facebook. Creating a Facebook page for your walk-a-thon is also a great method of communication. As people learn of the walk-a-thon and "like" your walk-a-thon Facebook page, it will be easier and easier to communicate via Facebook posts... and not just this year, but each year you'll gain more and more of a following. Facebook is also a great forum to share links (such as to your uWalk Donation or uWalk Volunteers pages), announce and promote sponsors as you get more of them, remind participants of weekly prize drawings, request volunteers, etc. etc.

3) Newsletters. If your school sends out weekly newsletters, be sure to get the walk-a-thon mentioned on those in the weeks leading up to the event.

4) School Website. If your school has a website, be sure to get a link to your uWalk account and/or your walk-a-thon's Facebook page. You won't really want to rely on the school website to share all the walk-a-thon details because you'll probably find it takes time to get someone to update the school's website for you. By just adding a link to your uWalk account or your walk-a-thon Facebook page, people will still easily be able to get to your walk-a-thon page from the school website, but you'll still have the ability to be nimble and post information as you need.

5) Teachers. Teachers often have their own way to communicate with parents...and probably with greater success than say, school newsletters. This is because parents are usually most interested in getting information directly related to their children and their classes. (Parent typically won't ignore communications from their children's teachers.) So whether it is through teacher's individual class mailing lists or perhaps letters sent home from the teacher to the parents each Friday... asking teachers to include or relay walk-a-thon information to parents for you can be very effective.


PART 3 - THE ACTUAL WALK-A-THON

When it comes to the actual walk-a-thon event, it's as easy (or hard) as you make it. Keep it simple! Just pick a day at school where the kids will get to spend an hour or so walking around the school track with their friends and classmates while getting some fresh air. Arrange for some refreshments and throw in some music and you'll have yourself a party! There is no need to setup an elaborate course. No need to ever leave the school campus. And only a few parent volunteers are needed to man water stations and help out as needed in other areas.

TIP: As noted above, it is not recommended to have kids collect donations based on the number of laps they do at your walk-a-thon. Why complicate things?!?! Keep it simple!!! But if you are worried about what might give the kids an incentive to actually walk laps on walk-a-thon day, one incentive that works great is to give each student another bracelet each time they complete a lap. You can purchase colorful jelly bracelets from places like Oriental Trading ... about 1750 of them for only $30. The kids really love them. See Jelly Bracelets at Oriental Trading.

STEP 8) Supplies Needed For The Event

Here are some supplies that you might want to consider having on hand for the actual walk-a-thon:

uWalk Tip: uWalk has a "Supplies Signup" area on the Volunteers page by which people can signup online to bring supplies and signup for other volunteer positions.

1) Water cups. The 5 ounce Dixie cups are ideal. Any larger, and the kids won't finish them. The 3 ounce one's are a little small, but work fine as well. Depending on the size of the school, you may want to have 1500 to 2000 cups on hand.

2) Gatorade-type Coolers. Consider getting 3 or 4 of those big 5-gallon coolers filled with water on hand to be used to fill up the cups at the water stations.

3) Orange slices. Orange slices are always a healthy and refreshing treat for the walkers. Just consider following food service guidelines such as volunteers at the orange station having sanitary gloves and etc.

4) Music and PA. Walk-a-thons are always funner with music. And make sure your sound system has a PA/Microphone if you want to be able to make announcements during the event. Or maybe even just hire a DJ if you don't have some good and loud equipment.

5) Tables. Consider arranging to get tables for use at water stations and orange stations... and for the music/prize area.

6) Tents. Consider having several of those large soccer-type tents for use also at the water stations, orange stations and music/prize area.

7) Garbage Cans. Don't forget to have some garbage cans out there for all those paper cups and orange peels.

8) First Aid. It is also a good idea to some basic first aid supplies. Band aids, ice, etc.

9) Cones. If your course is not obvious, you might want to have some cones on hand to mark boundaries, turns, etc.

10) No Parking Signs. If your course covers a parking lot or areas where cars might normally park/drive, you might want to utilize some strategic "No Parking" signs.

STEP 9) Volunteers Needed For The Event

Here are some volunteer positions you might want to consider for the actual walk-a-thon:

uWalk Tip: uWalk has a "Volunteers Signup" area on the Volunteers page by which people can signup online to bring supplies and signup for other volunteer positions.

1) Water Station Helpers. Consider 2 or 3 volunteers at each water station to help fill cups, hand out cups, refill water jugs, etc.

2) Orange Station Helpers. If you have any orange stations or other refreshment stands, you'll need volunteers there too.

3) DJ/Announcer. Consider having one or two volunteers in charge of the music and announcements. Or maybe even just hire a DJ if you don't have some good any loud equipment.

4) Setup and Cleanup Volunteers. Have some volunteers to help setup tables, water stations, etc.... and other to help clean up and put things away afterwards.

5) Prize Coordinator. If giving out any prizes or promotional items during the event, consider getting 1 or 2 volunteers to handle that.

6) Photographer. Consider getting a volunteer or two to take pictures during the event. Makes for great publicity on the school website and/or Facebook page.

7) Course Helpers. Depending on how your course is setup, it may pay to have volunteers at stategic locations to help keep the kids on track and help them as necessary.

8) Donation Entry. It is a good idea to assign a (reliable) person to enter all of the donations turned in on walk-a-thon day. There will usually be a large number of participants who turn in their donations on the last day so recording them all that day will allow you to know your event totals before the end of the walk-a-thon. This will allow you to announce the total money raised at the event and also ensure that all participants who qualify for prizes are rightfully included in any drawings.

uWalk Tip: uWalk has an easy form on the Admin Panel to allow you to manually enter any donations that were turned in by hand (as opposed to those donations received online and automatically recorded.)


PART 4 - WRAPPING IT UP

STEP 10) Wrapping It All Up

After the event, there are just a few things to remember to do.

1) Sum Up The Numbers. Do a little math to determine your event's final numbers.

uWalk Tip: On the Admin Panel, uWalk has various reporting options so you can see total donations received online, total donations received by hand, top fundraising students, top fundraising classes, and more! The reports can be printed out for your records.

2) Get Your Money! If you were using PayPal to collect online donations, don't forget to login to your PayPal account to get your money! When logged in to PayPal and if you have confirmed your bank account, there will is a "Withdraw" option where you can choose to "Transfer money to your bank account". Alternately, if you haven't confirmed your school's bank account, you can just "Request a check from PayPal". Refer to PayPal's online help for assistance accessing the money collected online.

3) Thank Your Sponsors! Finally, don't forget to thank your sponsors. Hand written Thank You notes are great and will keep you in good standing with them for next year!!!


Be sure to check out our Walk-a-Thon Resources Page for example sponsor letters, example donations sheet, and more tips and tricks to make your walk-a-thon go smoothly.



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