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11. Fundraising: Marathons

Marathons involve getting people to volunteer to participate in an event.  These volunteers then recruit other people to sponsor them for money.  For example, the most popular types of marathons usually involve walking or running. 

Participants have friends and family sponsor them for a flat fee or for a specific sum for every mile jogged or walked.  Once the marathon is done, the volunteers go to their sponsors and collect the money, which is then handed over to the non-profit. In some cases donors prefer to give a set amount, and will give this in advance of the marathonitself, trusting the volunteer to participate. In order to organize a marathon, you will have to find a place for the marathon, ensure that advertising gets enough participants, and arrange ways to feed or refresh the participating volunteers. 

The nice thing about marathons is that volunteers will often work themselves to find sources of money, which increases the amount of fundraising money that the non-profit can get through this method.  Since marathons are also quite visible, many companies are often willing to help with expenses and supplies in exchange for some advertising at the event.  Many non-profits successfully hold a once- a-year marathon in order to help with fundraising. 

In many cases, you can get more volunteers to take part by offering prizes to participants who raise the most money, or by having a draw open to all participants.  Besides the usual walking or jogging marathons, there are other types :

Dance-a-thons: In these events, participants have to dance to provided dance music for a specific amount of time.  This type of event is good if you have a younger target donor list.

Sew-a-thons: In these events, participants sew (or quilt or craft) for a pres-set period of time or until a specific number of items have been created.  As an added bonus, the things created this way can then be sold at a fair or sale.  However, if you decide on this sort of marathon, you will need to make sure that you can find enough volunteers willing to sew or craft for an extended period of time!

Exercise-a-thons: These were popular a number of years ago, but it is still possible to find this sort of marathon hosted by non-profits.  Participants are encouraged to exercise for a specific period of time or are encouraged to take part in once type of activity (skiing, swimming, horseback riding, biking, boating, aerobics, skateboarding, in-line skating, or some other activity).  It is important to ensure that the marathon is not so long that people will be injured, and it is important to provide some medical help at the marathon site to ensure that anyone who is injured or becomes ill can get the help they need.

Clean-a-thons: This type of marathon is very popular among groups with a "green" theme.  In exchange for the possibility of cash and prizes, participants agree to clean part of a city or highway, often agreeing to pick up specific amounts or garbage in order to get sponsor support.

This type of marathon is good because it has several side advantages.  The city or town area will usually look much better after the event, which means that media or town politicians will often support such an event, ensuring more participants.  Schools, neighborhood groups, churches, and other groups interested in the community are usually willing participants, ensuring that you have enough people taking part. 

And this can be a fun event, with participants working together in their community.  It is easy  to organize. Remember that you will need to provide refreshment, prizes, and garbage bags as well as thick gloves to protect participants.  You will also need someone to take collected recyclables to be recycled.  Additional volunteers will have to follow up with participants in order to get sponsor's contributions.

Kiss-a-thons: As the name suggests, in this type of marathon calls for participants to kiss for a specific period of time.  In many of these marathons, participants have also tried to get participants into the world book of records for the longest kiss.

Fasts: Marathon fasts are becoming quite popular.  Events such as the "24 hour famine" raise awareness about world hunger as well as the money that can change poverty.  Participants need to be told about the dangers of long-term fasting before beginning.

Cook-a-thons: In these events, which are often better for small towns where security issues are not as much of a concern, participants cook for a specific period of time.  The food cooked can be sold to raise even more money or can be donated to a shelter or food bank. These marathons can be expensive to sponsor unless you can get a company to help you, as the cost of cooking supplies can be quite high.

Eating contests: Part race and part marathon, these contests are often part of a fair or bazaar.  Participants try to eat as much of an item (usually a pie) within a set period of time, and are usually lots of fun.

Sit-ins: In the 1960s, sit-ins were used to protest certain conditions or institutions.  Today, some non-profit groups are using  sit-ins to raise money and awareness for specific issues.  Participants spend a few days in a specific area, "camping out" creating a stir about an issue while also raising money through sponsors.  This type of marathon requires lots of organizing and careful controls to keep everyone safe.  Also, you will need to find someone willing to lend space for your event.

Read-a-thon: In this type of marathon, participants read as many books as they can over a period of a few weeks.  In exchange, sponsors give participants a specific sum of money for every book read.  Since this activity takes place on participant's own time, there is no need to provide a space or refreshments. 

Participants also provide their own books, making a read-a-thon one of the more inexpensive forms of marathon to organize.  Schools and libraries are often willing to help advertise or support this type of event, as well, so you can be sure of getting help with this type of project.

In fact, any event or activity that can be organized to take place in a group for a few hours can generally be made into a successful marathon.  For inspiration, try looking at the Guinness World Book of records and other similar reference works for activities that could be converted into a marathon.

Next page: 12. Fundraising: Lotteries, raffles and more

Practical Fundraising Ebook - Table Of Contents

  1. Fundraising - The Basics 
  2. Fundraising - Terminology
  3. Fundraising - Money
  4. Fundraising - Where to Find Donors and How to Reach Them
  5. Fundraising - Targeting Your Donors
  6. Fundraising - Research
  7. Fundraising - Your Donors' Needs
  8. Fundraising - Ideas
  9. Fundraising - Donated Products
  10. Fundraising - Bought Products
  11. Fundraising - Marathons
  12. Fundraising - Lotteries, raffles and more
  13. Fundraising - Fairs, Auctions and Bazaars
  14. Fundraising - Fun Events
  15. Fundraising - Drives
  16. Fundraising - Services
  17. Fundraising - Tips for Choosing a Fundraising Idea
  18. Fundraising - Your Plan
  19. Fundraising - Your Team
  20. Fundraising - Staying Organized
  21. Fundraising - Communicating With Your Donors
  22. Fundraising - Advertising
  23. Fundraising - Letters
  24. Fundraising - Emails and more
  25. Fundraising - Person to Person
  26. Fundraising - Thank You Notes
  27. Fundraising - Grant Proposals
  28. Fundraising - Press Releases
  29. Fundraising - With Computers
  30. Fundraising - Secrets to Success
  31. Fundraising - Problems
  32. Fundraising - Conclusions


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