Step-by-step guide to organizing a fundraising Lymewalk
By Taylor Edwards
Lyme disease is prevalent in my community of Sarver, Pennsylvania, with many people impacted by tick bites. Personally, my daughter, mother, and close friends and family members have been battling the illness. Last year, I wanted to enhance Lyme awareness in my area, as well as raise money for an organization.
In cooperation with my church, Zion United Methodist, I decided to organize a fun run/walk to benefit Lyme disease research. Initially, the idea of planning such an event for the first time seemed daunting. However, I found that it was rewarding and worth the time spent. This post provides a step-by-step guide to aid you in organizing a similar event in your community.
The actual planning of the event is the most time-consuming aspect of the process, but will pay off on race day!
Start as far ahead of the event date as you can. Three or four months will be sufficient for a smaller event.
Seek out someone that you can coordinate with and split the effort. Try to choose someone that you can communicate openly and frequently with. A good partner can help to carry some of the workload.
Set a date and time. We chose May, since it is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Avoid dates that may conflict with other scheduled community events. Review running event websites in your area to ensure that other races are not scheduled during the same time or within too close a proximity.
Once the tentative race date is scheduled, obtain permission from the township or municipality. Find out the specific requirements in your community. In our case, we needed to send a letter to the township secretary, with all pertinent information about the race (venue, anticipated number of participants, etc…) It then went to the Board of Township Supervisors for approval.
During the planning phase, set a goal and start small! Our goal was to have 25 participants and to raise $250. We researched Lyme organizations online and decided to donate to LymeDisease.org We felt this organization was the best match, with its focus on advocacy, education, and research.
Following that first race, we ended up with more than 30 participants and raised over $800! Half of the entrants pre-registered and half showed up unexpectedly on the day of the race.
Next time, we hope to have more participants and raise even more money.
Spread the word
Once the necessary approvals are in place, let people know about it. Our event was announced during church, written in the weekly church newsletter, posted on social media, and spread through word-of-mouth.
When advertising, provide information on why you are organizing the event, what exactly Lyme disease is, how it affects people, and why is it important to raise awareness. Let people know that the money is going to a specific organization and why you chose that organization.
Local newspapers will often run announcements of charity events. Other ways to promote your event include posting notices in highly-trafficked areas. (Since our race was occurring at the local rail trail, a race flier was placed at trail heads.) And don’t forget bulletin boards at libraries, community centers, and other gathering places.
Additionally, event information can be submitted through race websites, local newsletters etc. Just use caution, as some locations may charge to advertise. That can be counterproductive when trying to raise money!
Sponsors are important in covering event costs so that all money raised can go towards the cause. Approach local businesses – particularly those in the health and wellness field – with information about the event.
In our case, a local health system donated bags and educational material for race participants. A hair salon donated money. A third organization waived the print fee for t-shirts. Be sure to ask sponsors for an electronic version of the company logo, so that they can be recognized on the event t-shirts. All sponsors were recognized on the back of our shirts.
Providing t-shirts helps to recognize sponsors and advertise for the event for the next year. Carefully consider color and print on the t-shirt. Find a company that will print quality t-shirts at a low cost.
We gave participants drinks and food following the race as a thank-you. Some of the drinks were provided by a local sponsor. We purchased the remainder of food items the day before the event and included hotdogs, buns, fruit, and chips. The participants were also given a goodie bag, with educational brochures, t-shirt, and a snack.
We needed other supplies, too, including trash bags, folding tables for water stations, cups, water cooler, orange tape to mark the race, and pens for same-day registration.
Depending on the size of the event, volunteers may be needed for the following: parking, registration, handing out drinks at different locations, and serving food post-race. As a thank-you, provide the volunteers with a shirt, snacks, and drinks during the race-day.
Create a race registration form. Include key information such as date, time, and location of the race. Also have the participants complete demographic type information that includes name, birthdate, shirt size, and phone number. Also include a waiver statement that you aren’t held liable if an injury occurs and have the participants sign the form. Be sure to include a mailing address and who the checks should be payable to. Include a pre-race fee that includes a shirt and a higher fee for same day registration and include a statement that shirts may not be guaranteed after a certain date. Shirt companies need time to print the shirts and deliver prior to the race. Registering ahead of time allows for the race committee to better plan.
On the event day (or prior to if possible), measure and mark the course. We named the race a “fun run/walk” to eliminate the need for official timing and measurement. If a race is advertised as a 5K or 10K, other items may be necessary such as timing tags that each racer will wear and bib numbers to help track runners. These are all additional expenses.
We also decided to have the participants complete only two miles to attract people that may not run/walk on a regular basis. As the event grows in participants each year, you may decide to include a more formal approach to track time and appeal to a wider range of participants.
Arrive early and set up the registration table with blank registration forms, pre-registration bags, and educational materials. Assign volunteers different areas to help with for the event day. Have volunteers serving at the water stations arrive prior to the beginning of the race. Start the event with information regarding where the race starts and end. Also include any other key information, such as locations of restrooms and water stations. Do not end the race until all participants have completed. Afterwards, make sure to clean up all signs and supplies for the race.
Write hand-written thank-you cards to all sponsors. Give positive feedback and let them know that their donation was appreciated. Calculate all the registration fees and monetary donations from event sponsors. Write a check to the organization that you chose. For this event, all race money and donations were given to the church treasurer. The church treasurer issued a check to LymeDisease.org from the church. (Editor’s note: You can also collect checks made out to LymeDisease.org, and send them all to us for processing.)
After the event, reflect on what you would do differently the following year and what went well. Make necessary changes for the following year and start planning! It may be helpful to keep an informal journal and jot notes as you go. Following the steps provided may make organizing a similar event more manageable.
Good luck in planning your first event!
Taylor Edwards is an Assistant Professor of Nursing, at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.