How to Plan a Winning 5K Race for your Charity
November 26th 2019
Planning a race is a great way to build awareness for your charity and bolster donations.
In the UK, a 5K run is the most popular distance for participants; Find a Race alone lists over 800 such races every year. In previous posts, we’ve written about how to prepare for running a race and highlighted a few lessons from some of the most creative and popular challenges out there. In this post, we’ll help you plan one! We share seven tips to plan a successful 5K run to boost awareness and support for your critical cause.
Set Clear Goals and Objectives, Early On
We love this piece of wisdom from Active.com: All you need to run a race is just two people to compete. That said, the more participants you have, the more money you’ll raise for your charity. Once you decide to host a race, ask yourself a few guiding questions, such as: What is the goal? How much money do we need or want to raise? How many people do we want to attend?
The answers to these questions will shape all aspects of your 5K race planning. Active.com, for example, suggests a good goal is to get 200 people at your first event, though this number will be higher or lower depending on your goals, budget and planning.
Pick a Clever Name and Theme
Now tap into your creative side! Your 5K race should have a unique name, brand and theme that aligns with your charity and your cause. Think about your audience – who are your supporters? What communities or individuals are you trying to engage? Pick a race theme that will both resonate with your supporters and, ideally, bring new people into the fold.
For example, the Alzheimer’s Society has the Memory Walk and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People hosts the Great British Dog Walk. One of our favorite branded runs is the Superhero Series, powered by Marvel. It has a great theme and graphics and hosts a series of challenges, including a festive Winter Wonderwheels 5K
Determine the Details
The next step is to confirm a date, time and location for your 5K. There are a few key factors to consider, including:
Parking and accessibility. Can people easily get to your race and via multiple modes of transportation? Is there ample room for parking and race-day festivities?
The location of your supporters. Is the location convenient to where they work, live or play?
Season and holidays. Do you want to connect your race to a particular season or holiday, such as Winter Wonderwheels?
Other races or events. What else is happening in your location that might conflict with your race? There’s plenty of calendars and resources available to check, including Find a Race, Run Britain and Let’s Do This. You might also check local event listings from a city website.
Permission. Be sure to secure permits from city officials for the running routes and road closures.
TIP: A good approach is to research existing races. Where are they held and which ones draw large numbers? This can be a helpful clue that a particular area will work well (or not so well).
Assemble your Top-Notch Team
The success of your 5K race will depend in large part on putting together the right team to plan and execute it. You’ll need to consider several roles and responsibilities, including marketing, publicity, registration, check-in, water stations, traffic management and first aid. This is a great opportunity to turn to your volunteers for help. You might also want to work with someone with IT or computer skills to help you set up race software, such as online registration, donations and race-day reporting.
TIP: There’s many free planning resources available to identify roles and activities, including this free nine-week checklist for planning a charity run or walk.
Strength in Numbers: Team up with Sponsors
Teaming up with corporate sponsors is a great way to build awareness and boost overall participation. Draw from your existing relationships with sponsors or supporters to see if these groups will make a financial or in-kind donation. Offer to co-brand the event with both of your logos to encourage partners to participate in exchange for their own exposure and positive public relations. You might also consider including perks for smaller sponsors, such as discounted or free gear, free drinks, VIP access and sports massages.
TIP: You might also benefit from pairing up with another charity to pull off the race. For example, Run Every Day January, or RED January, teamed up with the mental health charity, MIND, to run a challenge asking people to do something active every day for the 31 days of January.
Promote, Promote, Promote
While it’s true that two people equals a race, the more participants you have, the more successful you will be in meeting your goals. Once your race details are finalised, leverage all existing channels to promote the event, including email, social media, and traditional or print media. In your promotion, highlight what makes your event unique and why it matters.
Think about your target audience and investigate new avenues to reach them, such as flyers on bulletin boards, in-person visits to schools or businesses or local radio ads. Share the race with running clubs and visit local businesses to see if you can hang posters or leave flyers. Is there another race happening in your area? See if you can set up a booth or table at it to promote your own upcoming event.
Kit out your Runners and Staff
A fun part of your 5K planning is to put together a nice running kit for runners and participants, including race bibs, customised t-shirts, water bottles, sweatbands and other items that feature your race branding. Winter Wonderwheels, for example, gives a “super kit bag” and also lets people purchase t-shirts, medals and other merchandise as mementos.
Walk the Walk’s annual MoonWalk really nails the goodie game, too. A few weeks before the challenge, participants receive an event pack complete with a t-shirt, cap, wristband, space blanket and, of course, the charity’s iconic Wonderbra. Men and women alike receive the bra and are encouraged to decorate it in advance of the event. The photos and buzz from this alone help raise the visibility of Walk the Walk.
TIP: Cool race-day merchandise can actually be a draw to attract more runners and contribute to a memorable experience – a Runner’s World article asked readers to submit their favourite race shirts.
We hope this post inspires you and your charity to get to the starting line from race participant to race host. In short, Active.com suggests just three little rules: Safety first, don’t lose money and have fun!
Where are you at with your 5K planning? We’d love to hear more and offer a few other tips and ideas for a successful race that follows these three rules and raises funds for your critical cause.