How to Organize an Obstacle Course Fundraiser

How to Organize an Obstacle Course Fundraiser

The school bells are about to ring and that means back-to-school fundraising is just around the corner! While you may have the urge to organize a plain old walk or marathon, why not up the ante on your fundraising event and give it the extra sizzle that it needs to increase your participation? Put a twist on athleticism and create an obstacle course fundraiser instead!

Creating the Obstacle Course Fundraiser

With the help of the school Physical Education teacher, older students, fitness instructors or any willing parents (especially with a military/veteran background), an obstacle course fundraiser can be created right in your school’s backyard. Ask for volunteers that can offer skills, such as a contractor (i.e. a carpenter, a handyman, etc.) and sponsors that can donate materials, such as wood, ropes, nails and more.

Here are some obstacles and activities that can be added with a bit of ingenuity:

  1. Rope climbing
  2. Wall climbing
  3. Walking on a beam
  4. Bag races
  5. Running through sprinklers or pools of soapy water
  6. Climbing stairs
  7. Dodging water balloons filled with colored paint
  8. Mud pits (which famously comes from extreme races like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race)
  9. Tire-based obstacles, such as jumping through tires

The course can be broken-up into sections with teams, where attendees can tag or pass a baton to team members to begin the next part of the course, or they can be completed per person in an obstacle course fundraiser.

Easy to create obstacles are courses that involve tires, mud pits or crawling obstacles. However, sometimes the proper equipment, materials or specialized skills just aren’t readily available. Or, if you want to make a course that really challenges the attendees (maybe not too important for elementary school fundraising), outsource to a company that specializes in obstacle courses. Your school may be able to either rent their equipment or see if they can host the obstacle course fundraiser at their site and donate a portion of the proceeds for this special event. When outsourcing to another company, you take away the liabilities that come with hosting it yourself.

Aspects of Planning an Obstacle Course Fundraiser

An obstacle course fundraiser is only as successful as the team that organizes the event. A fun obstacle course involves carefully planned event logistics so that every participant can flow through the event smoothly. Be sure to keep in mind the following areas and needs when recruiting your obstacle course team.

  1. Registration: Recruit enough volunteers to handle registering attendees. Oftentimes, registration can be divided by registrant names in alphabetical order, time slots, team registration/individual registration or new registration/pre-registered (which the latter requires more volunteers for new registration since this may require more paperwork). Registration volunteers should also keep in mind to make sure that all paperwork is in order, which includes completion of the waiver, registering/checking-in and/or getting set-up (t-shirts, bibs, etc.). For school fundraising events, this may be simplified as students complete the course with their classroom or grade level.
  2. Checkpoints: The traditional checkpoints would be the starting line, the finishing line and several checkpoints in between. Allow for enough volunteers to supervise each checkpoint to make sure that the right group starts at the right time, no one gets lost off-course and/or if they need help or first aid attention. Photographers also fall under these checkpoints, where ideal areas would be slower obstacles to offer more desirable photo opportunities.
  3. Awards at the Finish Line: When the muddy and the tired cross the finish line, volunteers should also be available to hand out awards, event memorabilia and/or direct them to service stations to rest and refresh.
  4. Service Stations: Obstacle courses can be exhausting, so offering service stations that handle cleaning-up and offer snacks and beverages are vital to make sure no one goes home covered in mud and completely hungry. Advise participants to bring towels and a change of clothes, and offer a location where everyone can rinse off (with their clothes on, of course). Also, offer or sell snacks and water to make sure no one is dehydrated post-race.
  5. Food Stand/Outside Vendors: To fill a bigger appetite, consider offering a food stand, where you can have another opportunity to raise funds selling food and drinks. If there aren’t enough helping hands, consider finding local food trucks to outsource this option. Participants that raise a certain amount of funds can be given coupons for these food stands or you can include snacks for all participants.
  6. Volunteer Management: Recruiting volunteers is another key function for this type of event, as you will need lots of hands to make it go smoothly. Having the list of volunteers, their shifts and task assignments is most helpful the day of the event. While the board and/or planning team should all know the plan, agenda and tasks at hand, avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen and assign 1-2 volunteer leads to manage the team of volunteers. Also, a map is most helpful to the volunteers so that any participant can turn to anyone for questions.

Utilizing Software for Your Obstacle Course Fundraiser

One of the most pivotal parts of organizing an obstacle course fundraiser is making it a peer-to-peer fundraiser and taking online donations and pledges. This is where the majority of funds typically come from. A versatile, easy-to-use and comprehensive registration and event management software for this type of event is our Pledge software for crowdfunding events. DoJiggy Pledge offers vital features that contribute to the success of your event:

  1. Customizable, Mobile-Responsive website templates
  2. Easy registration page or student and class import function
  3. Real-time Leader boards, Fundraising Thermometers and reporting
  4. Secure, Integrated Credit Card Processing
  5. Privacy features for your students
  6. Prize management features for easy prize reporting
  7. Streamlined communication with participants via our e-mail system
  8. Volunteer registration

Obstacle Course Swag & More

Be sure to consider offering accessories and prizes for your fundraising event. Kids love getting t-shirts and awards and it helps them to remember your event throughout the year.

Accessories: Event accessories can help tie-in the fundraisers theme. These can include t-shirts, sweatbands or jerseys. We recommend collecting size information with online registration so that there can be an approximation on the order of accessories. Also, when it comes to taking photos of participants, bibs are helpful to match the photos with the people in them, if you want to volunteer to offer this feature.

Goody Bags: Often times, Fun Runs offer goody bags to participants from in-kind donations from local sponsors. Consider things that would be helpful to participants after the event, such as a water bottle cozy, sweat bands, granola bars or coupons for local businesses.

Photo Ops: One way to give attendees an opportunity for photo ops is by purchasing a step-and-repeat for your event. Another more budget-friendly approach is to skip the step-and-repeat overall and recruit volunteer photographers to take photos along the obstacle course. One way of handling this and being all-inclusive to all the participants is to have clear shots of the bibs of each participant so it can be easy to recognize them when the photos are readily available to the public.

All Things Liable

One of the most important things when doing an obstacle course fundraiser is everyone’s safety. Planning ahead can assure that when something goes wrong, your team will be proactively ready to resolve it head-on.

  1. First Aid Kit: Reach out to the school nurse and be sure that she can participate in the event as first aid support and to assure that all first aid materials and equipment are ready to go and available. It’s also recommended to provide a table or a stand where she can be seen in plain sight, and either announced or told to all participants.
  2. Insurance: If this event is taking place at the school, check with the administrative office or the principal if this type of event can be covered under the school insurance. If not, consider shopping with insurance companies on the cost of insurance for an obstacle course event and ask if there are non-profit/school discounts that can help lower the cost. Accidents are possible, and it would be detrimental to let this possibility affect your fundraising goal because insurance is overlooked.
  3. Waivers: Every Fun Run or obstacle course fundraiser should include an event waiver to avoid liability, making sure that all attendees and the parents of minor attendees understand that accidents are possible. It may sound scary, but you don’t want your fundraiser to take a legal hit for something that may seem obvious but should be acknowledged so prior to the event. DoJiggy’s registration page includes a template waiver. Have your school’s waiver reviewed by a lawyer to assure it covers everything necessary to avoid liability.

Good luck with your fundraising efforts and remember, DoJiggy is here to help with simple, affordable fundraising software!

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Lisa Bennett

About Lisa Bennett

Lisa is the Sales Director at DoJiggy. She joined DoJiggy in 2006 and loves her job. Prior to working with DoJiggy, she worked at several non-profits and managed special event fundraising.

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