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How to market walk-a-thons and other impactful fundraisers

7 min read
Aug 2, 2022


Your nonprofit puts a lot of time and effort into planning your events. From conceptualizing an idea that all of your supporters will love to reserving a venue, you likely spend weeks to months putting together the perfect fundraiser. However, if no one knows that your event is taking place, you won’t be able to achieve a high turnout or meet your fundraising goals. 

This is why a strong marketing strategy is essential. By sending the right donor communications and reaching your target audience where they are, you’ll be able to successfully promote your event and expand your nonprofit’s reach. Whether you’re hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid fundraiser, you’ll need a marketing plan in place that’s tailored to your unique audience. 

Let’s take a closer look at some common fundraisers and how you can promote them to boost your registration and fundraising numbers:

  • Walk-a-Thons and Bike-a-Thons
  • Golf Tournaments
  • Silent Auctions
  • Charity Galas

As you’re planning your event, it’s important to leverage a fundraising platform that provides a seamless donation experience to your supporters, allows you to manage donor data, and helps you personalize your communications based on your donors’ preferences, interests, and involvement in your organization. This will help you create highly relevant and impactful messages that will excite your supporters and encourage them to attend your event.

Walk-a-Thons and Bike-a-Thons

Walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons are effective fundraisers that encourage your supporters to raise money on your organization’s behalf. To successfully amp up support for your -thon event, try these marketing strategies: 

  • Outbound campaigns. Outbound campaigns can include email promotions, digital ads, and printed collateral that you might hang up at local businesses related to walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons (like athletic shoe stores or bike shops). This can promote your event to different groups of people, especially walkers and bikers who would be interested in signing up for a charity event that also furthers their own goals.
  • Social media. Reach out to supporters with a large social media following and ask them to act as ambassadors for your cause. Ambassadors can share high-quality images and videos related to your event and direct their followers to sign up by including a link in the caption or their profile’s biography. You can also create a creative event hashtag and ask your ambassadors to include it in their posts—this can help your organization reach new audiences and maximize fundraising success. 
  • Peer-to-peer engagement. According to the OneCause guide to peer-to-peer fundraising, this type of social fundraising taps your most loyal supporters and turns them into avid fundraisers for your cause, giving your nonprofit more time to focus on running its event. Encourage your participants to set up their own fundraising pages or team fundraising pages, share their progress, and inspire their networks to support your fundraising goal.

By taking advantage of more traditional methods as well as leveraging social media and peer-to-peer fundraising best practices, you’ll be on your way to hosting a winning event!

Golf tournaments

Golf tournaments are a great way to attract major donors. In addition to being highly engaging, golf tournaments can have several donation opportunities baked into them to raise even more funds for your cause—like purchasing mulligans, drink tickets, and caddie services. Plus, this type of event offers your organization ample time for one-on-one conversations and relationship building. 

To effectively plan and market your golf tournament among your donors, you’ll want to follow a few key steps:

  • Secure the right sponsors. Research local companies who share similar values as your organization and have a corporate philanthropy program. Re:Charity’s guide to corporate philanthropy explains that businesses can provide support in a variety of ways, such as sponsoring your event, providing in-kind donations, or even offering to match your donations. In exchange, your nonprofit can offer to market their company at your event. 
  • Segment your outreach. Depending on your target audience, you’ll want to vary your outreach. For major donors, start with a phone call and then send out an official email or printed invitation with the registration information. Then, print out flyers to post at your venue and share a digital version on social media to reach a general audience.
  • Promote your registration form. Create a custom event page where people can easily register for or get more information about your fundraiser. This should include the location of your event, its purpose, how the donations raised will be used, and the registration fee if applicable. Make sure your registration page is simple to fill out and mobile-friendly. 

You can even pair your golf tournament with an auction fundraiser to maximize impact and bring in even more support for your cause. Make sure your advertising materials reflect the exact activities that will take place and highlight how your donors’ support can help propel your mission forward. 

Silent auctions

Silent auctions have many moving parts, like procuring the right items, setting up virtual streaming if you’re hosting it remotely, getting donors ready to use mobile bidding tools, and more. It’s therefore important that you keep your marketing efforts organized so your donors are excited to kickstart the bidding process and know exactly how to bid.

In order to promote your auction, consider the following:

  • Omnichannel marketing. Use direct mail, email, social media, and other channels to reach and engage donors. Make sure to track engagement metrics so you can assess which content resonates the most with donors and where your marketing materials are most likely to be seen. Then, you can spend more time combining the right content strategies with the right platforms to boost your reach. 
  • Optimize your fundraising website. Include a link to your event registration page in each form of outreach to make it easy for people to register. Then, people can explore other content on your website to learn more about your nonprofit’s mission, helping them form an emotional connection with your cause and feel more passionate about supporting your fundraiser. 
  • Create a catalog. Come up with a list of auction items that will appeal to donors. From there, you can market those items ahead of the big event by offering supporters a sneak peek, such as sharing a few images of items that will be up for bid. 

Comprehensive silent auction software can help you manage the entire planning process, from marketing your event and managing the bidding process, to streamlining checkout. Do your research to find a user-friendly platform that has these features and other intuitive tools designed to make fundraising as seamless as possible. 

Charity galas

A charity gala typically consists of a formal dinner, some form of entertainment, and different activities geared at driving more revenue, such as text-to-give donation appeals or special talks by guest speakers.

As you prepare to market your gala, be sure to include:

  • Mobile-optimized ticket sales. Make sure people can easily purchase tickets to your event online and from their phones. Donors will appreciate this added convenience, increasing the likelihood that more people will purchase and attend.
  • Email announcements. Start sending emails that address why your audience should come to the event. Be compelling and demonstrate the importance of the cause you’re championing.

  • Printed collateral. Be sure to give yourself enough time to create printed collateral, since printing takes an additional investment of time. You’ll want to include a QR code to your registration link on your printed materials and make sure the invitations go out at least four months before the event.

Start planning early and secure your venue, date, and speakers, and you’ll be on your way to hosting a successful gala! If you’re planning to host a virtual or hybrid gala, you’ll need to take extra steps to explain to your audience how this will work. Consider creating a dedicated section or page about it on your site that walks prospective attendees through the sign-up process and day-of event details. 

A few tips on post-event marketing

Remember — event marketing doesn’t stop as soon as the event ends. Be sure to follow up with attendees afterward by sending personalized messages thanking them for their support.

Consider the following ways to connect with supporters: 

  • Thank-you notes. Send out emails thanking guests for attending and for any specific donations or gifts. For your major donors, send handwritten thank-you notes for an added personal touch. Make sure your campaign planning and management tools give you access to all of this data so you have the information readily available.

  • Surveys. Asking attendees to complete a survey is a great opportunity to collect event data and get ideas on how to improve your next event.

  • Update social media. For about a month following the fundraiser, you can update your social media pages with photos and videos from the event. This is a great way to boost further engagement with your cause and encourage more people to attend next year. Be sure to tag guests and sponsors when you can to further boost engagement and reach!

  • Market for your next event. Send out save the dates for your next event and link to your fundraising page, if available. Provide as much information as you can about your upcoming event to get people excited early.

From walk-a-thons to galas, you can make any fundraiser successful with the right marketing strategies. Invest in relevant software that will streamline your organization’s efforts, and you’ll be ready to tackle your next event without a hitch. Good luck!

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Kelly Velasquez-Hague

Kelly brings more than 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales and marketing experience to her role at OneCause. As director of content marketing, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She's passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their causes.

OneCause is committed to helping cause-driven organizations amplify their message and raise more funds with easy-to-use fundraising solutions. First to market as BidPal in 2007 with revolutionary mobile bidding, OneCause offers a suite of solutions to power online giving, event management, mobile bidding, and peer-to-peer fundraising for nonprofit organizations of all sizes.

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