organize a marathon

Organize a Marathon… or Any Other “Thon”

To raise money for your nonprofit, you have a lot of choices. One go-to option for many groups is to organize a marathon. Marathons don’t always mean walking and running. Your group could opt for a bike-a-thon, dance-a-thon, or even a rock-a-thon with rocking chairs! Get creative and adapt the “thon” idea to your unique brand and interests. Choose your best fit to raise money for your cause.

A big project like this is a great way to bring a team together and teach kids responsibility. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun for all ages.


Before Your Marathon


The very first thing you’ll need to do is discuss with your organization what interests them most. Do they prefer marathons like dancing, running, hiking or biking? If your nonprofit serves people with differing abilities, keep those in mind. Not every “thon” has to require peak physical fitness. What about a story-telling marathon or sing-a-thon?

Now get into the nitty-gritty of your event. You’ll need to pick a date. Qgiv suggests giving yourself 6 to 8 months for planning. Spring and fall are a great time to plan outdoor events as the weather will be the most comfortable for your participants. For indoor events winter might be a good time. Check to see what other events might conflict with yours, and consider things like school break times, time of sunrise/sunset on your chosen date, and popular vacation times for your target audience.

After you make these decisions, split your team into groups. Lots of planning will need to go on at all once and it can be difficult to get it done in a timely manner if everyone is working on the exact same thing.


Budget and Goals

Make sure to budget and set your earning goals early on in the planning phase. During this process, you’ll also need to recruit sponsors for your event. Make a list of companies that will fit your organization best. It is best to start requesting these funds early on. They do take a lot of time to acquire. Then, make a list of all the items you will need to rent or buy. Wikihow suggests things like port-a-potties, trash cans, refreshments, facilities, and awards.

While one team works on budgeting and finding sponsors, create another team to work on marketing. The easiest place to do this is through social media. Make a page or group for your event. Either way, it is a great resource for getting the word out about your marathon.

As you get teams and participants ask them what they’re motivation is for participation. With their permission highlight their story on their page. Encouraging them before they even step foot in the race not only motivates them to try even harder but also may inspire them to donate more to your cause.

Don’t forget good old-fashioned flyers. Seek out community boards at churches, local restaurants and schools to hang up your announcements. Include a link to your social media pages and website for more information.


Permits and Supplies

If you’re organizing an outdoor event, figure out what sort licenses and permits you’ll need. Every city has different ordinances. For Dayton’s requirements check out the Dayton City Planning page to find out what you’ll need to organize a marathon locally.

Last but certainly not least purchase the supplies you will need for your marathon. Buy things like bottles of water, decorations, t-shirts for participants, and awards. Buy things in bulk to save money.


During Your Marathon

On the day of the event arrive as early as possible. Do a trial run through the course to make sure that everything is in its place. Make a checklist as you go through the course so you know want needs to be done. Organize your volunteers to make sure everything on your checklist gets done.

If there are any last minute details be sure to go over them with your local police or any security you may have hired. It is important for the authorities to know what’s going on for the safety of your participants. They can also help direct traffic should you require any street closures.

Each participant will need to have a number to recognize them as they compete in the race. To avoid long lines on the day of, organize a place where participants can pick up their registration packets a day or two before.


After Your Marathon

When the event is over there are still plenty of things left to do. First and foremost you and your volunteers will want to clean up the area that was used for the marathon. After a large crowd, there are bound to be heaps of trash. Be courteous not only to the organization you rented space from but also the environment. Clean up as close to the condition you came into as possible.

Don’t forget to send a thank you letter to all of your volunteers and sponsors. You can also publicly thank them by sending out an announcement on social media. Making your sponsors and volunteers feel appreciated is a great way to get them back again the next time you organize a marathon.

Just because your event is over doesn’t mean that you have to stop the fundraising. In fact, many organizations get lots of donations even after the event is done. Keep the word alive by showing the public what you’ve accomplished on social media. If it’s a charity they are passionate about many will continue to donate even if they weren’t able to participate.

In the end, calculate how much money you raised from your event–and celebrate!

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with pulling off such a large event. It is, however, a sure fire way to create really strong bonds amongst your group. It is a rewarding way to teach teamwork and leadership skills.

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