How to Plan and Organize Your Very Own Charity Run


Charity runs are all the rage these days.  Why?  Because there are so many benefits.  Charity runs can:

  • Raise funds for a good cause.
  • Increase awareness for a charity among the local community.
  • Enhance the overall physical health and wellbeing of participants.
  • Offer a highly interactive form of entertainment.
  • Let participants engage with the charity directly.

Now that you know all the perks of a charity run, how do you go about planning one?  Here is an all-inclusive list of the things you will need to attend to.


1.  Encourage Participation

The more participants you have, the more money and awareness you will raise.  Therefore, you’ll want to be as inclusive as possible.  Encourage everyone to participate – no matter their age or physical stamina.

2.  Plan Your Route

This will be one of the most difficult – and most important – tasks you will face.  Since you are including multiple age ranges and physical abilities, you’ll need a route that is enjoyable to all.  Consider meeting with a local running club.  Ask for suggestions and advice.

As you do your planning, remember your route will play a major role in all your other decisions.  Your route will determine the resources you’ll need, size of staff, security requirements, transportation restrictions, signage needs, and satisfaction of your participants and spectators.

3.  Walk Your Route

Don’t just plot your route on a map, actually get out there and walk it.  Make observations as you go:

  • What is the elevation?
  • Is there construction happening in the area?
  • How heavy is traffic?
  • Are there potholes or other potential stumbling points?
  • Will overall safety be an issue?
  • Is the route accessible by public transportation?
  • Will there be enough parking for participants and spectators?

Most races offer a distance of 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon.  Will this particular route make those distances possible?

4.  Consider the Red Tape

You will want to check with local authorities and/or the people who own the land you would like to use.  Regulations vary from city to city; make sure all your legal bases are covered.  Ask if permits will be required from city officials.  You’ll also want to make sure there aren’t any other major events planned for that day.  Consider the need for police presence or a road closure.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, contact the charity you want to run for.  Make sure you have permission to use their name and logo.

You’ll also want to look into an insurance policy that would cover any medical needs that may arise during the event.  Also, liability insurance will protect possible damages that may occur to the land or properties along the route.

5.  Make Arrangements for Necessary Volunteers and Supplies

There are numerous supplies you will need for your race.  At the bare minimum, you will need:

  • Rope, tape, and/or cones for marking the course
  • Signs for the start/finish line and service/support areas
  • Food and beverages
  • Portable toilets
  • Two-way communication radios
  • Tents
  • Water and cups
  • Trash cans
  • Tables, chairs and other supplies for registration
  • PA system
  • Generator
  • Stage for awards ceremony

Additionally, you’ll need plenty of volunteers to make it all happen!

6.  Consider the Amenities

Once you have finalized the route and acquired all the necessary equipment, decide where it will go.  You’ll want to have a water stop somewhere along the route.  There should also be a concession stand with trash cans nearby.  Find a good spot for the portable toilets.  And arrange for the finish line to be in an area that is large enough to accommodate a big crowd.

Consider pre/post event food and entertainment.  Will you be selling beverages and food?  If so, what will you provide?  Ask local businesses if they are willing to help with your charity event.  Make arrangements for caterers or volunteers to take care of everything from food preparation to serving utensils.

Many events like to provide entertainment for the participants and spectators.  This is a great way to raise extra money.  If you include entertainment, you can charge a higher registration fee.  Plus, the longer people stick around, the more likely they are to purchase food, beverages, merchandise or other items to help the cause.

7.  Make Arrangements for a Medical Team

Running, by definition, is exercise.  And whenever there is physical activity, there is a likelihood of injury.  Plan for potential injuries or illnesses; have an ambulance and medical team on hand.  Ask the medical professionals to be a sponsor of your event and donate a few hours to the cause.

8.  Market Your Event

Unfortunately, traditional marketing methods – like radio, newspaper, bulk mailings, and billboards – are expensive.  Fortunately, online marketing is very affordable – if not free!

  • Use social media accounts to market your event.  Make a page on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Link to the page from your personal account; ask other volunteers, family members, and friends to do the same.  Also, ask the charity to share the information too.
  • Create a website for your event.
  • Join online forums.  Comment and share the link to your social media account and website.
  • Ask other websites to list your run on their events calendar.
  • Contact the city council, chamber of commerce, and other local organizations.  Ask them to market your event on their various online resources.

9.  Plan Your Registration

You’ll want to determine a way to collect contact information, entry fees, fundraising commitments and other valuable information.  Of course, you can gather these things at the actual event.  However, that could create an administrative nightmare.

Instead, look for ways to get people to register ahead of time.  There are various technology providers that specialize in event management software and online event registration.  See if you can find a reasonably priced package for your event.  This will allow you to focus on other things on the day of the event.  Plus, people are more likely to donate if they can do it from the comfort of their own home.

No matter how you chose to do your registration, you might want to consider asking these questions:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Emergency Contact (name, phone number, etc.)
  • Shirt size (if you are giving or selling t-shirts)
  • Team name (if you will be having teams for fundraising purposes)
  • What is your fundraising goal?
  • What distance will you be walking/running?
  • Will you be attending the pre/post event celebration?

10.  Communicate Efficiently

You might want to consider sending out informative and encouraging newsletters before the event.  This will create enthusiasm for the event and boost fundraising efforts.  Here are some suggestions for newsletter content:

  • Updates and special announcements
  • Added entertainment
  • Fundraising tips
  • News articles from the charity
  • Training plans
  • Special contests for the post-event awards ceremony
  • Incentives for those who recruit friends to join the cause

Two to three days before the event, you’ll want to send an informative email to the participants.  Notify them of the following:

  • Start time
  • Check-in instructions
  • Schedule of events
  • Reminder to bring extra money for merchandise or food
  • Summary of prizes that will be awarded
  • Cost of late registration (in case anyone invites a last-minute participant)
  • Weather forecast (so participants and spectators can dress appropriately)
  • A list of local hotels (in case anyone wants to stay overnight)

Don’t be intimidated.  What you want to do is a great thing!  A charity run will benefit everyone involved.  Follow these suggestions and your event is sure to be a big success!

About the Author:
Guest author Ryan Smith works for Custom Corntoss, building regulation cornhole boards. For years, he has planned an annual run/walk for his favorite local charity. He has since expanded the event to include a cornhole tournament to benefit the charity too.

Photo credit: Family MWR

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