Demystifying Virtual Races

How to Organize A Virtual 5K Fundraiser Race

Rahul Razdan Rahul Razdan
September 2020

virtual races

What is a Virtual Run?

We're all familiar with the traditional 5K-in-the-park, and other fitness based Run-Walk-Ride fundraising events. But the advent of fitness tracking devices, we’re seeing a new type of event emerging - a virtual run. A virtual run or virtual race, on the other hand, is a typical 5K-in-the-park event, but socially distanced and organized/hosted virtually.

A virtual run, also known as virtual 5K races, virtual 10K, or virtual half marathon leverage technology to bring participants together as they individually walk, run, or ride from anywhere, and at any time.

In contrast to the traditional 5K-in-the-park events, virtual races do not have any event infrastructure costs associated with them making them super appealing to the host. In addition to making the event more accessible, virtual races are quick to set-up, affordable to host, and work like a charm for organizations of all sizes and focus areas. Do it right, and you can create a virtual race each month/quarter/year, making it an integral part of your wellness & fundraising strategy.

Did you know that in-person races cost approximately 52 cents for each dollar they fundraise? Virtual races in comparison only cost around 15 cents on a dollar raised.

Interested in starting a virtual race?

How to Host a Virtual 5K Fundraiser in 4 Simple Steps?

It's very easy to host a virtual 5K for charity. Whether you're a non-profit looking to host virtual races for charity fundraising/new donor acquisition/donor retention and reengagement or an employer interested in running a virtual fitness and wellness challenge, virtual races can be a fun, engaging, and an affordable way to pursue these goals.

Over the past 7+ years, we've helped hundreds of organizations create tens of thousands of such fundraisers and raise millions of dollars. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to these races, and that's where we at Charity Footprints help our partner non-profits and employers based on our experience and event expertise.

Here is a step-by-step guide for you to quickly set up a Virtual 5K fundraiser to raise money for the cause you care about.
1. Participant Registration

Charge a small participation fee, i.e., a donation to the cause your virtual run is supporting, or keep the race free to encourage maximum participation. We see partner organizations typically charge between $25 and $50 as registration fees.
2. Solicitation and Corporate Donations (a win-win)

If you are a non-profit, you can empower participants to raise funds through their friends, family members, or employers for your cause. You can also invite corporate partners to sponsor the race and show their support, just as they would for a 5K-in-the-park. If you are an employer you can make donations if employees meet their goals or match donations raised on the virtual race.
3. Fitness Tracking

You can execute a simple virtual race by collecting participants' distances through email or a web-based self-reporting form. At Charity Footprints, we allow race participants to link their wearable trackers (Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch, etc.) or a mobile fitness application directly with the race site, for an engaging and streamlined fitness reporting process. These wearable integrations enable longer duration fitness/fundraising commitments instead of just 2 hours on the race day.
4. Exciting Giveaways

Virtual race prizes may vary, but you can make use of giveaways such as race medals, certificates, t-shirts, etc. You can also go full-virtual for these and include e-Bibs/e-Certificates/e-Medals etc. Adding such gamification to a virtual race boosts overall engagement.

Tips to Successfully Host Virtual Races for Charity

  • Segment the duration of your virtual races: We prefer separate periods for registration, peer invitations fundraising, and (the fun part) fitness tracking and competition.
  • Stronger focus on engagement and promotions: You don't necessarily need a shiny medal or a costly t-shirt to run a successful virtual race. Focus less on operations and more on bringing the community together and engaging with them.
  • Build a program instead of executing a project: Virtual races are quick, scalable, and affordable. They provide you an opportunity to build a year-long program (monthly, quarterly, etc). Given how easy it is to run these, you should consider a longer-term strategy.
  • Align race incentives with growth: We see successful campaigns incentivizing actions that lead to growth. Prizes for inviting more participants, doing more miles, creating the biggest team, posting workout pictures, etc. are some great examples.

Ready to leave your footprints?

Talk to the team that has helped 1,000+ organizations such as yours run amazing virtual & hybrid races.