Jun 13, 2021

How to Maximize Your Revenue Potential at Athletic Fundraising Events

Happy creative businesspeople brainstorming in office, placing sticky notes with ideas on glass

If your organization holds an annual athletic fundraising event like a 5K run/walk, golf tournament, bowl-a-thon etc., then you already know they can be a great way to bring attention to your cause. They are an effective tool to attract new supporters and raise much needed funds, but are you leaving money on the table? Many nonprofits have a typically straightforward approach for such events: a simple registration fee plus an option to donate. Yet, there’s so much more that can be done to boost giving. Today we’ll explore some bonus opportunities to maximize your athletic event fundraising potential.


One excellent way to earn additional fundraising dollars and spread the word about your cause is selling branded event swag. Offer items like t-shirts, socks, hats, backpacks, water bottles and more to event participants before and during (and even after!) your event. These items can be limited edition, event specific or general merchandise with your organization name and logo. Add the option of purchasing swag at the time of registration to make it even easier for your attendees. Custom branded swag acts as a marketing tool and allows your participants to show their pride and excitement in supporting your organization.


Provide your biggest supporters the opportunity to participate at a higher level by offering an exclusive VIP experience. If you’re hosting a 5K, offer a higher-cost registration option in order to skip picking up race packets beforehand. Instead, for a little extra, you can have their items handy at a VIP tent the morning of the event for a simplified and expedited experience. Try offering a caddy service from your staff or board members at your next golf tournament. Are you an animal-loving nonprofit? Offer up a private “cuddle party” with puppies or kittens to your highest grossing fundraising teams. These VIP experiences and extras don’t need to cost a lot to your organization, but will provide added convenience and a chance for participants to interact more with your cause.

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Work within your community from local business owners to board members in order to assemble gift baskets and/or prizes and then sell raffle tickets. These raffle tickets can be sold ahead of time when registering for your event and also offered on the day of your event to raise extra funds. You could even organize them into a silent auction built in as part of the day’s festivities.


Consider adding some additional friendly competition to your golf tournament with the ability to remove strokes to improve a golfer’s score in exchange for a small donation. Up the ante on the competitive fun with the option to add strokes to an opponent’s score. We’ve had clients sell mulligans, a foot closer to the pin and other “aids” as fundraisers. Use text-to-donate keywords on signs throughout the golf course to make it easy for the golfers to give more and improve their chance of winning. You can even send outbound text messages with a link to donate to improve a player’s golf score during the game.


Amplify your reach and fundraising power by encouraging all participants to sign up as peer-to-peer fundraisers at the time of their registration. On average, each peer fundraiser brings in 8 donors, 5 of which are new to your organization. Provide your volunteer fundraisers with helpful giving strategy tips and tricks leading up to the event. Incentivize fundraisers with free swag and the VIP experiences you’re offering participants. Did you know that text messages have a 98% open rate? Harness that potential by communicating with fundraisers via outbound text messages to ensure all your messages are read.

No matter what bonus fundraising activities you add to your 5K, golf tournament, ski-a-thon, polar plunge, or other athletic event, don’t forget the key tip: make it easy and obvious for your participants to support your organization. Add these exciting extras and opportunities at the time of registration as well as on the day of your event. Promote your bonus fundraising opportunities through email, on social media and with outbound text messages. These bonus fundraising opportunities are a great way to get creative, so don’t forget to make it fun while engaging your supporters!


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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County