How to Plan a Charity 5K Event: 6 Steps from the Pros

How to Plan a Charity 5K Event: 6 Steps from the Pros

Posted By A5 Events || 18-Apr-2017

So you’re looking to plan a charity 5K run. The first step – whether you’re planning it as an individual or for a corporate event – is making a plan. As a race director, you’ll be responsible for every facet of the race, including its success. This includes location, marketing, organization, and actually pulling off the event. Your goal is simple: keep safety first, don’t lose money, and have a blast. Below, you’ll find 6 steps from to do this (and more!) with your charity 5K event.

1. Choose Your Event Location and Date

Marathon Runners Once you’ve decided to host a 5K, you’ll need to plan your location and set a date. Often, location availability will influence when you can actually have the race, so approach potential location managers with your preferred date(s) and any backup dates you could use as well. Just like house hunting, the success of your race boils down a number of key factors, including “location, location, location.” If you have to choose between your ideal location for the race and your ideal date, always choose the location because it will have a greater influence on the overall success of the event.

Tips for picking the right location for your 5K:

  • People won’t come if it’s hard to reach
  • Try to choose locations that are already busy (and not remote)
  • If another race was successful in the same location, yours can be too
  • Take weather and terrain into consideration

2. Get Permits from the Authorities

Once you know the basics (when and where your race is happening), it’s time to start figuring out the logistics. This means you’ll need to get permission and approval from the authorities before you start promoting the event. Depending on where you’re hosting your race, you’ll probably need to get a permit from the city or local municipality. If you don’t get the right permissions, you may have to back out of the event in the future – even if you’ve already advertised it.

3. Figure out the Logistics

Figuring out the logistics is the most detailed phase of your event planning. Some of the things you’ll need to figure out include:

  • Accurately marking the course
  • Measuring the course
  • How you will time runners
  • Making sure registration runs smoothly
  • Setting up water stops throughout the course
  • Distributing goodie bags
  • Presenting the race results
  • Putting visible clocks near the course
  • Planning the awards ceremony
  • And more

Depending on how many attendees you anticipate, consider using a registration software to keep track of everyone who registers before the race and on the day of the event. A bumpy registration process can easily delay the event and create any number of logistical problems down the road.

4. Make a Safety PlanRunners Near the Finish Line

Your race-day safety plan should include:

  • A medical presence at the event, such as an EMT
  • Volunteers to help runners stay on the proper course
  • Traffic control personnel
  • Plenty of water throughout the course

If possible, have an EMT or ambulance present during the race. This is especially important for areas with uneven terrain, or if your race will happen during warm weather. The key is to be prepared for anything because your event is only successful if it’s completely safe, too.

5. Start Promoting Your Race & Finding Sponsors

Your race won’t turn a profit without sponsors, even if it’s for charity. If you haven’t hosted a corporate event or 5K before, finding people to sponsor your charity run might seem like a bigger challenge than actually managing race day. There are several ways to get sponsors, such as:

  • Networking events for people related to your businesses type or charity
  • Use flyers to promote your race to potential sponsors and participants simultaneously
  • Talk to business owners face-to-face and ask for donation or a place to hang up your flyer
  • Provide discounted or free booth-space at the event for sponsors
  • Ask teams that sign up for the event if their business would be interested in sponsorship
  • Provide sponsorship information on your website and make it easy to find

Water Station at a Charity RaceSponsors aren’t the only people who need to find information about your race; you’ll need to advertise to runners as well. Think of promoting your event like throwing a party: People won’t come unless you invite them. Unfortunately, you can’t ask runners to RSVP to your 5K, so it’s impossible to know exactly how many people are going to show up. You can, however, do your best to reach people through as many communication mediums as possible, such as email,

6. “Day Of” Checklist: How to Manage the Event

As the race directory, your primary objective is making sure the event is a success. Practically, this means your job is delegating, or making sure everything gets done when it needs to get done.

Registration Checklist

  • Waivers and Waiver Sign
  • Pens
  • “Day Of” Registration Forms
  • Sharpies
  • Blank Bib Numbers
  • Registration Tent & Table

Water Station Checklist

  • Bottled Water / Pitchers and Cups
  • Tables
  • Sports Drinks

Note: For a 5K race, three water stations should be adequate.

Timing Checklist

  • Tent
  • Computers / Power
  • Table
  • Printer / Toner
  • Stopwatch

PA System Checklist

  • Microphone
  • Cord
  • iPod (or MP3 Player)

Parking Checklist

  • Signs for “Event-In-Progress”
  • Signs for “Event Parking”
  • Vests
  • Flags

Course Marking Checklist

  • Cones
  • Barricades
  • Signs
  • 2-Way Radios
  • Mileage Markers
  • Flour / Ground Markers