Taking a COVID-19 Walk/Run Fundraiser Virtual like March of Dimes

October 10, 2020
5 minutes
Illustration of a person in profile from the waist down. The person has their hands in the pockets of their blue skirt and seems to be walking casually, swinging their legs. In the background is a field of green grass and a purple sky with pink clouds. Trailing behind the walker is a cloud of bubbles and red hearts.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, nonprofits have been forced to constantly adapt to the changes. From WFH to taking a program online to meeting donors where they want to give, it seems like each week poses a new challenge.

Many nonprofits rely on fundraising events to reach their fundraising goal, but with many people sheltering in place and social distancing, a 200-person gala or thousands of people racewalking isn’t in line with public health guidelines. Some organizations have opted to cancel events altogether and turn to different fundraising tactics, while other nonprofits have decided to keep their fundraising events and take 'em virtual.

That’s right! There are creative ways to keep events on your fundraising calendar and make them safe for attendees and staff. Look at March of Dimes: in the spring, they typically hold in-person walks around the country, with 2020 marking their 50th year of holding this fundraiser. But when COVID-19 hit, they changed with the times and took their entire walk fundraising program online, launching March for Babies Step Up! as their virtual walk fundraiser.

Let’s look at some takeaways from March of Dimes' virtual event that might help you with your next virtual fundraiser.

Clear, Easy-to-Follow Instructions

There is no greater barrier to participation than a fundraising event that makes it difficult to get involved in. March of Dimes made getting started super easy for virtual walk participants—on their website, they lay out 5 simple steps to Step Up.

March for Babies Step Up! instructions

Changing from an in-person event to a virtual event is hard enough for staff. Make it easy for your participants by giving them a central place to find updated information.

Bring Aspects of the In-Person Event Online

One of the best parts of in-person events is being out and about with other people who are invested in the same cause you are. During COVID-19, this is the kind of connection many people are missing, so bring that connection to your digital space using social media.

March of Dimes created a hashtag for the event and encouraged walkers to search for it on social media and interact with other participants. They also streamed social posts to their website for people to see, providing irreplaceable social proof and an easy way for people to find and connect with each other.

March for Babies Step Up! event homepage

Helping participants connect with each other is heartwarming, but don’t forget that the real win is when your nonprofit interacts with participants. Make it a point to get on social at least once a day and engage with people using the hashtag.

Create Awesome Tools for Participants

If you were already planning an event, hopefully, you were planning to create a peer-to-peer toolkit for your participants as well (Funraise has a Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Toolkit for Supporters you can use!) A toolkit for a walk/run fundraiser typically includes things like graphics, suggested copy for social posts or emails, and tips for setting up a personal fundraising page. March of Dimes had all of this in their toolkit... and more.
They also created ecards for participants to use when asking for donations, rallying their teammates, and saying thanks. This is a fun bonus tool that goes beyond a typical email.

March for Babies Step Up! tools for participants

Make it Evergreen

This is possibly the best piece of advice you can take from March of Dimes. March of Dimes' event website is chock full of useful tools for fundraising event participants, but one of the best benefits of taking their events virtual is that their fundraiser's now evergreen. Rather than having one set date for the event, folks can now sign up to do a virtual walk anytime, making this one-off fundraising opportunity work all year-round.

The bottom line is... You can do it! And now is the time to explore upgrading your nonprofit's in-person walk to a virtual year-round run!

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