How to Organize a Fun Run in 11 Steps

If you have been tasked with organizing a fun run fundraiser, prepare yourself for a big adventure! Planning and executing any peer-to-peer fundraising event is not a job for the timid. It’s hard work and, if it’s not done well, it can quickly become overwhelming. But, here’s the good news; when you invest sufficient thought, preparation, and energy into your project, a fun run fundraiser can generate huge financial and public-relations windfalls for your school or non-profit organization. Knowing how to organize a fun run is the key.

As you consider a fun run fundraiser, know that the secret to a phenomenal success comes as the result of planning, planning and more planning. Not only must you plan for huge success we’re sure your event will be, but you must also plan and prepare for all the things that could go wrong. And, trust us, there are more than a few of those possibilities out there.

We’ve put together the following outline of necessary steps to plan and pull off a resounding fun run fundraiser successfully. Here are the steps to get started, even before your first planning meeting:

1. Establish a Reliable Fun Run Planning Team

In the non-profit world there is an old adage. Twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. Be sure your planning team includes only individuals who are among that golden 20 percent who actually show up. For your event to be a success, you must be able to depend upon your Fun Run volunteers. It’s better to have fewer members on your team at the outset, than to take chances on those who might fail you in the end. Your event is not a venue for loose cannons or excuse-makers.

2. Find a Great Location for the Fun Run

Several important factors need to be considered when it comes time to select the venue for your event. At this point, it is essential to enlist the help of community officials. Not only can your city provide you with the necessary permits for your event, it can also commit security and crowd control resources to your project. It is also important that you plan for sufficient parking space for spectators, volunteers, and runners at the start/finish line.

Schools have it made here – as school fun runs are usually held on the school grounds. Often a local high school makes the ideal location to launch your runners for non-profit organizations too, as well as a built-in volunteer base. You will of course need special permission from the School District for this.

3. Consider the Event Timing

The outcome of your fun run fundraiser will depend in large part upon the publicity and public awareness you are able to generate. Be sure to give your team enough time to promote the event – most successful events start planning six months in advance.

Chances are your organization doesn’t have the resources to buy big display ads in local newspapers and on the regional television news, so you will need to leverage your event using outside sources with deeper pockets. It makes sense, for example, to coordinate and organize a fun run for heart health awareness around the American Heart Association’s activities in February – Heart Month. With such scheduling, half your publicity battle is already won by the National organization’s media buys and awareness efforts. Because the larger organization is probably already buying space in publications and on-air, you can approach the media with your request to ‘tag,’ or ‘donut’ the larger organization’s ads with information about your own event. (A donut advertisement is one that comes with a blank space in the middle where you can insert your event information.)

Once the date and location for your fun run fundraiser have been established, you must assign planning team members to oversee the following key facets of the event.

4. Engage Media and Publicity

Write an excellent informational press release and distribute to all local media (Keep these contact names in your database for next year’s event). Contact Local Papers, Radio and TV Stations. Don’t re-invent the wheel – check our examples to get you started. Remember also that the Federal Communications Commission requires radio and television stations to commit a percentage of their air time to free public service announcements. Be sure to inquire about those PSAs when you meet with local media reps.

Flyers are always key – Check with a local printer to see if you can get a deal on printing, then use team members to distribute them.

5. Recruit and Motivate Fun Run Participants

Recruiting and engaging your event participants to raise money is one of the most important pieces of your planning process. Here again, school fun runs may seem to have it made as they have their student base – but engaging them is still hugely important. Recognition and incentives are key here. Give a small incentive for getting registered to start and offer rewards such as extra recess, one week of not wearing uniforms to school, movie night or pizza party to the top fundraising classrooms.

For non-profits, use your established database to contact those who may have donated or participated in previous fundraising events for your organizations. Contact sister organizations in your region to borrow their databases for similar events so that you can reach-out to interested participants outside your immediate market. Visit local sports stores to post flyers for your run. As you go about organizing a fun run, collect email addresses from runners and volunteers anywhere you can find them. Once this information is entered into your database, you’ll have a great starting list for your fun run fundraiser.

6. Utilize a Nonprofit P2P Website for Crowdfunding Events

Fun runs benefit significantly from the use of peer-to-peer software. Using a fun run software package allows your organization to handle event registration, sponsorship promotion and sales, and donation management online. Each of your participants creates and manages their personalized fundraising page and invites friends and family to support your organization through secure, online donations to their page. This extends the reach of your fundraiser and many organizations report raising two to three times more funds with the DoJiggy Crowdfunding system.

Another reason that fundraising websites help you to raise more money is that they encourage competition between your runners and teams. Our websites include snippets that show the top fundraisers and participation rates. When one classroom sees that another class in their grade-level has 100% participation and has raised more money, they will certainly be motivated to go out and get more donations for your school.

7. Recruit Fun Run Volunteers

As you probably already know, your volunteers are your organization’s life blood. Those who don’t necessarily qualify as part of the golden 20% may still have a little time to donate. Tap them for less critical jobs like directing traffic and parking, collecting entry forms and donations day of the event, or just stuffing and handing out goodie bags.

Here are two key volunteer positions to fill for race day:

  • Volunteer Coordinator – As you organize a fun run, make one person on your planning committee responsible for managing volunteers on race day. This position is critical -so choose someone who can handle the pressure. As volunteers arrive, the coordinator makes assignments and gives instructions to those who will help with:
    • Participant Check-in
    • Safety and First Aid
    • Lap counters or timers
    • Food and water for your runners
  • Equipment Manager – Somebody must be responsible to locate, pick up, and ultimately return things like stop watches and timing equipment. (Check with the football or track coach at a local high school for these. You might also be able to borrow bibs from this valuable source.) You will likely need a public address system, tables, chairs, and myriad other things that can be found at churches, schools, community centers or for rent at event planning organizations. This same committee member may be the one to arrange for commercial portable toilets. When it comes to obtaining the equipment and other necessary resources, don’t forget to ask first that they be donated or discounted in return for mention on your printed materials. Sometimes you have to pay, but it never hurts to ask for in-kind donations first.

8. Seek Fun Run Event Sponsors

Many local business owners will be happy to participate in your fun run. Done well, your title and other large sponsors can assist in covering a large portion of the event costs. Smaller sponsors can offer merchandise and/or gift certificates for door prizes or raffles. It is critical that you keep careful track of even the small donations so that you can thank each sponsor when the event is over. Also, sponsors should be acknowledged in your event website as well as on printed materials such as flyers and posters, and if possible, on bibs, banners, and t-shirts.

After the dust settles, there is still work to do!

9. Fun Run Clean Up

This is the most often forgotten step, which accounts for the fact that the Committee Chairman and his or her family frequently end up holding this particular bag. Don’t imagine the clean-up will take care of itself. Always, always, always – as you organize a fun run – assign a committee to clean up after the event and be there to help:

  • Clean up along the course and at start/finish line
  • Return equipment
  • Accounting Duties – If you’re very smart or very lucky you’ll have good event planning software for your event that will keep these books for you. If not, tap a bean-counter-type who can sort the numbers accurately

10. Send Thank-Yous

A simple card or e-mail acknowledging the efforts of your volunteers, sponsors, and participants is your best insurance for a continuing supply of help and participation in future events. A sincere thank-you is never wasted.

11. Evaluate the Success of the Fun Run

Nearly as important as proper planning, is the final evaluation of the successes and failures once your event is complete. This task goes far beyond determining how much money you raised with the fun run fundraiser, though be sure to figure this! Within a week of the event, while the event is still very fresh in the memories of your planning team, schedule a meeting to go over the details of the event in order to decide what worked, and more importantly, what did not. Write down your recommendations for future events and put the notes into the file for next year’s planning committee.

A successful Fun Run fundraising event begins and ends with careful planning. Make an investment of time before the event for thorough and thoughtful planning, and leave plenty of time at the end for honest evaluation of your event. This is in effect, the pre-planning stage for next year’s Fun Run afterall. With careful planning, you can develop a solid fundraising backbone to support your entire mission.