If you're just learning how to organize a walkathon, you may want to start off small. If the point of your walkathon is to raise money for a good cause, which is the case with most, you don't have to have $1 million in profits the first year. Just keep it simple at the get-go, and if all goes well, increase the scope with each subsequent event.
How to Organize a Walkathon
Before you start doing anything else, look for people who are willing to help you. They could be friends and family or people affected by the cause you're looking to support. Even be random people you meet through your child's playgroup or a professional organization may be willing to volunteer. Just don't try to do everything yourself.
Decide Where to Walk
There are all kinds of places where you can stage your walkathon: in a park, on a high school track, or even inside a mall. Pick a distance and a location. One mile, two mile and five mile walks are popular. Shorter distances are always less intimidating. Keep in mind that some locales require permits, and you'll want an area where you can have a celebration when walkers finish their course. If you need to have streets closed off for walkers, talk to a representative of the local police department to see what you need to do to make it happen before moving forward with your plans.
Give Your Walk a Name
Coming up with a memorable name for the event is your best chance to let people know what your walkathon is about. If it's in memory of a loved one, you can simply call it "Sally's Walk" or "Walk for Sally," for example. You can also mention the cause in the name; for example, calling it "Walk for the Planet." It's a good idea to put the distance of the walk in the name too.
Promote Your Event
You can't exactly have a walkathon unless there are people willing to walk. You don't have to spend a lot to get the word out, especially if you network. Create a page for your walk on Facebook and ask friends to spread the word. You can send press releases to the local paper and distribute flyers in places where people who enjoy walking spend time, such as at the gym or in the park. You can even contact local TV and radio stations, but be aware that this could boost your turnout to more than you can realistically handle the first time out. You may want to inform media outlets after registration is closed so that you can get some early buzz for next time.
Make Registration Forms
Now that you have people who'd like to register for the walkathon, you need to give them a way to do so. Create a paper form that you can have people return via mail or fax, or post a PDF or electronic form online. Make sure the form has all the logistical information, such as date, time and location. You may also want to include a liability waiver, stating the organizers are not responsible for any injuries sustained during the walk. You can have people submit registration fees when they register or give you all of their pledges on the day of the event. It's best to encourage preregistration. That way you aren't blindsided by a crowd on the day of the walk.
Have your volunteers help you pound the pavement to get support from local - and national - businesses. In exchange for their support, offer to put the company name and/or logo on the walk's t-shirt, if you're having one, or on signage along the course. Or, offer them a booth or a table in the celebration area. If your walk's for a good cause, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting sponsors. It is an easy tax deduction for them. They don't have to donate money. They can donate other things, such as food, drinks, entertainment, door prizes or even the t-shirts themselves. Don't be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is you get a no.
Get Ready for the Big Day
This is the most stressful part of how to organize a walkathon for most; figuring out all of the logistics. You have to order any supplies you need that will not be contributed by sponsors. Luckily, you don't need many for a small event; just some snacks and some water to satiate tired walkers. You'll also want to have a cash box - or several - so you can collect donations, a table for the food and drink, and one for registration or money collection. Set everything up at least two hours before the walkers are due to show up, and be sure to station volunteers on the course so that no one gets lost.
After the event, take some time to go over what went well and what you can improve upon. You can't expect your first walkathon to be perfect. Even the longest running events can still be better. Just look how many times the format of the Oscar ceremony has been changed.