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Fitness Fundraiser

Run-a-thons can help raise thousands of dollars in a healthy and fun way.

Tags: event guide

Ditch the bake sales and host a running-based fundraiser. You’ll help students get fit while they raise money based on their running during a one-day event or an event that goes over several days. As a bonus, you’ll also build your school’s health and wellness reputation and activate the community!


Plan your fundraiser several weeks in advance to ensure a smooth event. These resources will help you prepare:

  • The Event Planning Guide helps you consider the important elements in staging your athletic event.
  • The Planning Timeline  helps you carefully schedule your event preparations.
  • Create a Run-A-Thon Staffing and Supplies Checklist to help you assign roles to your colleagues and ensure you have everything you need for a successful event.


There are two options for a Run-A-Thon Fitness Fundraiser.
  1. A multi-day event where students set a goal to run 26.2 miles, for example, over a period of time (i.e. one month) and take pledges/donations based on completing their goal.
  2. A one day event where pledges/donations are given based on how many laps are run (i.e. $1 per lap) over a designated amount of time on the event day.
Choose the structure and then start planning using our Event Planning Guide in the Event Logistics section.


Here are some helpful forms to help you create your very own Run-A-Thon at your school!


  • Set a goal. What are you raising money for? That will help you set a fundraising target for each student and your group as a whole. It will also motivate kids to raise money and community members to donate.
  • Choose the timeframe or date of your event.
  • Determine the pledge/donation collection period; two weeks is usually ideal for getting pledges and for collecting donations, but they can be as long as you like.
  • Decide on a prize structure you will use to motivate and reward students. See The Prizes and Awards section below.
  • Create a letter and a flyer to be sent home with your students.  The letter will serve as an initial introduction and timeline for the Run-A-Thon event and the flyer will serve as a reminder as the event approaches.   Here is a sample letter  that can be tailored to suit your event.
    • Describe the Run-A-Thon, your fundraising goal, and how the money will be spent
    • List the date/timeframe of the event and collection periods and deadlines
    • Explain all the logistics and instructions
    • Highlight the prizes available
    • Include a fun picture and a tear-off section for parent volunteers.
  • Create collection envelopes for your students.  Print out these helpful fundraising bullet points or something similar that will help students collect donations, as well as this sample Dear Donor  letter and attach it to the back of a manila collection envelope.  Print out this table  and attach it to the front of the envelope for the student to keep track of their donations; have their fundraising goal clearly stated at the top of the table.
  • Create a large paper/poster board/banner  “thermometer” that tracks the amount of donations given and is displayed where your group can see its progress and its fundraising goal.  If multiple classes are participating, each class can make their own thermometer and track their progress in addition to a large school “thermometer” that is prominently displayed where all students can see their collective fundraising efforts.
  • Keep expenses to a designated amount to ensure that the money raised goes to your program initiative.


  • Donations may be collected as a flat donation or pledges per mile or lap.  A pledge per mile/lap may serve as a bigger incentive for your runners to run more.
  • Distribute collection envelopes to your runners with the collection tips attached to the back.
  • Have an adult on site to collect donations from kids daily and to keep track on the Donation Collection Form.
  • Consider these donation collection tips:
    • Be sure to follow your school’s rules regarding fundraising.
    • Students should track their donations on the Donation Form   during the collection period prior to the Run-A-Thon event.
    • Upon completion of the Run-A-Thon students will have a designated amount of time to collect any donations that were given on a per-lap/mile basis.
  • Click here for a sample Donation Collection Form
  • Click here for helpful Fundraising Tips!
  • Click here for a helpful letter for parents and guardians.
  • Sample letter to community businesses.


Prizes are a good incentive and can make your fundraiser even more fun. You can use a portion of the funds raised to purchase awards, or, better yet, solicit local businesses to donate them!  Create your own letter using this sample.
  • Give prizes based on the dollar amount students raise and/or the miles run.
  • Prizes can be awarded to all students who reach predetermined levels and/or to the top finishers/fundraisers in the school or in each grade.
  • If it is a school-wide event, you can also have a prize for the class that raised the most funds and ran the most miles.
  • Ideas for prizes include
    • A Run-A-Thon completion certificate  for all participants
    • Small items like ribbons or pencils
    • School/team clothing
    • Gift cards
    • Recognition (in announcements, newsletter, etc.)
    • Pajama Day if the school goal is reached or for the top fundraising class
      NOTE: Students winning gift cards should have raised more than the amount they are winning.


  • Hold a kick-off session where you:
    • Explain that you are doing a Run-A-Thon
    • Get everyone excited about the goal and purpose
    • Explain all the logistics and instructions including the timeframe
    • Highlight the prizes available
    • Distribute the materials (collection envelopes, take home flyer/letter)
    • Practice how to ask for donations
    • Hang up your poster to track fundraising progress
  • Afterwards make sure to make lots of announcements along the way to keep kids motivated and remind them of the deadlines.


  • If you are doing a Run-A-Thon over a period of time and accumulating miles you will most likely use your usual running location.
  • If you are doing a big, one day Run-A-Thon event be sure to find a location that can comfortably and safely accommodate all the participating runners.  If the area is too small for the amount of participants, create smaller groups of runners that will take turns running, i.e. one group runs for 3 minutes, then takes a break and the next group runs. The course should be a loop no longer than ¼ mile long and the kids should be in sight at all times. Before your event kicks off, gather all the participants and lead them through a group warm-up activity.
  • Have a system in place to accurately track the runners’ laps!  Here are some ideas on how to keep track of laps: Counting Laps.
  • Be sure to have water available.  Designate an area where participants can go for a short break and have some water. Also provide a healthy snack if the event is longer than 2 two hours: apples, bananas, whole grain bar. 
  • Play upbeat music to help keep the energy high.
  • Have fun!


  • When your event is over help the students record their total laps ran and calculate what donation amount they need to collect from the pledges they received.  Make sure they know the date deadline of when they need to turn in their fundraising money. Give lots of reminders.
  • Once all donation pledges are collected tally up the miles and funds, you can use the Donation Tracking Form then give prizes to students who earned them.
  • If possible have a special announcement over the PA system, as part of an assembly or mentioned in something sent home to recognize everyone’s accomplishments.
  • And always finish by congratulating the runners and thanking any helpers and spectators.


  • Encourage your runners to thank their individual contributors.
  • Post photos and thanks on your school/team’s website.
  • Invite your local community to watch and cheer during your Run-A-Thon event.
  • A Run-A-Thon is a great complement to any of NYRR’s youth programs - Young Runners, Mighty Milers, Developmental Track and Field Series and Developmental Cross Country Series. For more information, please visit or contact

Youth and Schools

New York Road Runners Mission