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Ask the Fundraiser: Our Board Wants a 5K Race Fundraiser

By April 3, 2023July 14th, 2023No Comments

Hi, I work for a smaller local nonprofit organization. Even though we receive funding from government grants and foundations, our Board thinks we should hold a fundraising event and it’s not something we have any experience with. One of our Board members thinks a 5K Race would be a great event and could attract hundreds of people. I just wanted any advice you can give us.

Signed – Looking for Advice

Dear Looking for Advice –

Although a 5K Run is a popular fundraising event, in my experience the net proceeds are much less than expected. The event will attract members of the local running community, but these participants often care more about the running portion of the event than the fundraising and awareness aspects of it.

Most runs charge a flat entry fee of $30-$45 with participants encouraged to raise additional money. However, if the participants have no connection to the organization’s mission, they’ll often just pay the entry fee and are unlikely to raise additional dollars.

Other needs connected with 5K Run events are:

  • The organization will need to find a venue with a certified 5K length course; some participants will use their time in your 5K to qualify for other, larger runs.
  • The organization will need to hire a “race management company” (to handle the timing chips, time data entry, and a quick printout of the winners for the closing ceremonies.) The times for each runner will need to be posted online somewhere.
  • You’ll need a sound system for opening and closing ceremonies.
  • Someone to serve as Emcee for Opening and Closing ceremonies.
  • You’ll need to provide food and water (and ice) – bananas, oranges, cups of yogurt, and other snacks for participants.
  • You’ll need tables and chairs – for participant check-in, money handling if accepting registration at the event, food, water, and prizes – depending upon the number of participants no less than 14 8’ tables. If tables are donated, a truck or van may be needed to transport them to and from the venue.
  • Many 5K Run participants expect to receive a T-shirt for their entry fee. The T-shirts will need to be imprinted with the event name, charity, and sponsors listed.
  • Most 5K Runs give medals for the first, second and third place runners in each age and sex category. In a typical 5K Run there will be at least 7 male age categories, 7 female age categories, top male overall, and top female overall. That’s 16 age/sex categories needing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes or a total of 48 medals or another recognition item which indicates 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. That does not include age/sex categories for people younger than 19. If permitting, participants younger than 19 age/sex categories will need to be set up for them. And you’ll need to ensure that a parent or guardian has signed a waiver.
  • You’ll need insurance for the event. Your regular insurance carrier may be able to provide that the necessary coverage. (The venue may require a certain level of insurance and to be listed as “additionally insured” on the policy.)
  • It may be prudent to have a first aid station set up and/or to have discussed the event with an ambulance company.
  • Traffic cones and barricades to mark the route.
  • If using city or town streets, the organization will need to work with the police to shut down specific streets for the duration. Local departments will require a set number of officers to work the event at an hourly rate.
  • And, last but not least, volunteers. Dozens of them. (They, too, will need T-shirts or something to indicate they are a volunteer.)

After reading all the above, you may be thinking “we can get all of that donated” or “we can get a lot of that donated.” If you can, that’s terrific. In my experience, organizations can secure donations for food and water. The more difficult items to get donated are race management services, awards and giveaways, rental items (such as tables, barricades sound systems, or the required police presence and city/town permits).

In other words, by the time you’re done with the expenses of those items you cannot get donated the entry fee is eaten up by the expenses. Often, the only money the organization actually raises is from corporate sponsorships. If many of the event participants are directly connected to your mission, they may raise money above and beyond the entry fee.

Without knowing more about the organization, I can’t offer suggestions for alternate events. So much depends upon the mission, the number of people supporting the organization, and the connections your Board and volunteers have in the community. Good luck with your fundraising activities.

Randi Corey, Manager of Special Events and Partnership Development at 501(c) Services, has served as Executive Director of multiple nonprofit organizations. She has coordinated nearly 100 fundraising events raising a total of almost $29 million. She’s also supervised more than 750 staff and/or volunteer-coordinated events raising an additional $41 million. Randi has experience coordinating walks, galas, golf tournaments, sports challenges, stair climbs, celebrity waiters, 5K runs, and more.

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