A quick guide to event management for a fundraising 5K

Fundraising 5Ks have the potential to increase your nonprofit’s donation revenue dramatically. However, hosting a successful 5K requires navigating specific event planning and management challenges you may not have dealt with in the past.

In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know about event management for fundraising 5Ks, from pre-event planning to communicating with staff members and volunteers on the day of the event. That way, even seasoned event managers can learn new tips and tricks to improve their 5K approach.


Pre-Event Planning

Aside from the usual event planning tasks that you must handle, such as setting goals, creating a timeline, and purchasing the necessary supplies, there are tasks specific to the 5K that you must complete as well. In particular, you should:

  • Design your route. Consider your nonprofit’s audience and design a race route that fits their abilities. For instance, if your constituents are mostly young adults, you may be able to select a more challenging, uphill route. However, if your audience mostly consists of families with young children, choose an easily walkable course so children can participate. Look at areas in your local community that might fit those requirements, such as parks, fields, or school tracks.
  • Strategically choose the time and date. Generally, nonprofits host 5K fundraisers on summer mornings before the day gets too hot. Make sure to pick a day without other large in-person events scheduled to increase participation and attendance.
  • Obtain any permits necessary. This step is especially important if you’re anticipating a big turnout or need your race area cordoned off to make the experience more secure for participants. Give yourself plenty of time to do this, as it may take your local governing bodies weeks to months to approve your permits.
  • Create waivers. It’s good practice to ask event participants to sign activity waivers, particularly for extremely active events such as 5Ks. With an activity waiver, you’ll protect your nonprofit from legal liabilities in case of an accident. Plus, attendees and participants will be fully informed of any associated risks. Work with a legal professional to develop these waivers to protect your organization.

Additionally, to increase the value of your 5K event and maximize the revenue you generate, choose several fundraising tactics to implement. For example, you could ask for a donation in exchange for participating in the 5K. Additionally, you could host an athletic shoe drive and ask attendees to donate running shoes that you give to a recycling partner in exchange for funds. You could also host a concession stand so spectators can purchase snacks and help raise more for your event.

Promoting Your 5K

As a seasoned event planner, you know that planning a great event is only half the battle. The other half is marketing and promotion, usually through the following channels:

  • Your website
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media
  • SMS or text messages

For fundraising 5Ks specifically, you should also consider promoting your event through:

  • Posters and flyers. Your local community may be interested in your 5K, so put up eye-catching posters and flyers around the neighborhood to catch their attention. Add a QR code that links to your registration page so people can easily sign up to participate.
  • Local media outlets. Local newspapers, radio stations, and other outlets may be willing to help you promote your 5K event, lending your organization more credibility. These outlets may even write a piece afterward summarizing the event and encouraging their audience to check out your nonprofit.

Additionally, aside from your nonprofit’s audience, you should also promote your event to:

  • Running clubs. Individuals who are part of local running clubs will be particularly interested in your 5K fundraiser since they already run regularly. Take the time to seek out these clubs and invite them to attend through email or social media messages.
  • Gyms. Gyms are another great place to find physically fit individuals who would like to run in your 5K fundraiser. Ask local gyms for permission to put up posters in their facilities and print brochures that they can have at the front desk.

With a thorough marketing strategy, you’ll maximize the turnout for your event and generate the revenue you need to make the desired impact on your beneficiaries.

Staff and Volunteer Management

Though event planning and preparation are essential for a great event, managing your event well on the day is just as important. For fundraising 5Ks, you’ll have to handle various tasks, including:

  • Setting up the race course, including the start and finish lines, barriers between runners and spectators, and relevant signage
  • Registering and checking in runners
  • Directing runners to their starting point and encouraging them to warm up
  • Ensuring that your technology works, including any necessary software, lighting, and audio tools
  • Establishing a fun and exciting atmosphere, such as with music and themed decorations

Nonprofit organizations generally lack the staff members to handle all these tasks, which is where volunteers come in. To ensure that you have the help you need to manage your event, ensure you recruit volunteers well ahead of the event. Onboard and provide them the training they need to excel in their roles, whether they’re setting up, manning the registration desk, or ensuring your tech runs smoothly behind the scenes.

Before event day, set up a volunteer schedule and delegate tasks. Ideally, volunteers should be assigned tasks based on their preferences or unique skill sets. If your event will run more than two or three hours, set up shifts so volunteers can have breaks. Additionally, create a list of volunteers “on-call,” so that even if volunteers have something come up and aren’t able to help out, your nonprofit still has the support it needs to host a stellar event.

Your event may benefit from a dedicated volunteer management app if you struggle to manage your volunteers. The right solution will allow you to communicate with your volunteers through a live chat so you can easily answer questions and provide guidance. Plus, these apps often include scheduling, check-in, attendance, and tracking features. Since volunteers will be spread out all along your 5K route, a management app is a great choice for ensuring your event gets the support it needs.

5K events are challenging to host, yet they have the potential to be extremely impactful for your organization in terms of fundraising and spreading awareness. With these tips, you’ll be better equipped to host and manage your event, ensuring your nonprofit’s success!