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How to Run a Bowl-a-Thon Fundraiser

Bowl-a-thons are fun and unique fundraisers. They’re effective too, and allow participants to have some fun while raising money for their school, extra-curricular program, or club.

This page outlines the A-Z of bowl-a-thons, including planning, tracking donations, and tips for organizing and promoting the fundraiser.

man getting ready to throw a bowling ball down the alley

Bowl-a-Thon Guide

Table of Contents

pta measuring the amount of donations for a bowl a thon

Bowl-a-Thon 101

A quick introduction to what a bowl-a-thon is and how it works.

what is a read-a-thon

What is an "A-Thon" & How Does it Work?

An “a-thon” can be a powerful fundraising tool (and a lot of fun, too!)

what do you need to run a read-a-thon?

What Do You Need to Run a Bowl-A-Thon?

Learn what it takes to run a successful bowl-a-thon.

using a read-a-thon to fundraise

Using a Bowl-a-Thon to Fundraise

How to raise money with bowl-a-thons.

read-a-thon tools and resources

Bowl-a-Thon Templates, Tools, & Resources

See how FutureFund makes managing bowl-a-thon pledges effortless.

read-a-thon theme ideas

Bowl-a-Thon Theme Ideas

Feel inspired with our bowl-a-thon theme examples.

lady participating in a bowl a thon

Start Your Bowl-a-Thon With FutureFund

Our integrated pledge campaign fundraising tool allows you to collect donations (via cash, debit, or credit) and easily manage fundraising progress. Get started for free.

Bowl-a-Thon 101: A Quick Guide

What is a Bowl-a-Thon?

A bowl-a-thon is a unique fundraiser, but it follows the same basic principles as other a-thons, like read-a-thons or walk-a-thons. During a bowl-a-thon, bowling teams sign up to compete in a bowling tournament.

Teams typically pay a registration fee and collect pledges, which are the main source of donations. Overall, bowl-a-thons are tons of fun and less intimidating than other types of sport tournament fundraisers.

Bowl-a-Thon FAQ

How does a bowl-a-thon work?

Players register in teams of 4 to 8 players. Each team pays a registration fee to help cover costs. The teams also do peer-to-peer fundraising and gather pledges from friends, family, and coworkers.

After each team is registered and has 2 to 3 weeks to fundraise, there will be a bowling tournament. The teams play each other until there is a winner, with the winning team taking home the grand prize.

What should you consider when hosting a bowl-a-thon?

Bowl-a-thons are fairly straightforward fundraisers. The most complex part of the planning will be finding a venue.

The event will need to be held at a bowling alley, so securing a venue should be the first step in your planning. Once that’s taken care of, everything else is very easy to plan since the bowling alley will be able to help with things like shoe rentals and other supplies.

When should you hold a bowl-a-thon?

Since bowl-a-thons are held indoors at a bowling alley, they make great fundraisers for the fall and winter when it’s too cold to do fundraisers outdoors. That said, you can host a bowl-a-thon any time of year.

How should participants form teams?

You’ll probably want to set some ground rules for the teams, just so everyone has a fair chance. Think about:

  • Number of players
  • Age
  • Gender

For example, if children are participating, you’ll want to make sure each team has a similar number of kids. So you might make it a rule that each team needs at least 2 kids under 10.

Are bowl-a-thons good fundraisers?

Bowl-a-thons are great fundraisers. They’re fun to participate in, and they raise a lot of money for your school. Bowl-a-thons are especially great if parents and students have “fundraiser fatigue” and are tired of more conventional fundraisers.

What is an “A Thon”?

what is a read-a-thon?

A Thon’s Are Fun & Effective Event-Based Fundraisers

An “a-thon” is a peer-to-peer style fundraiser that involves participating in a certain activity and gathering donations for participating in said activity.

The activity can be almost anything, from reading to running to bowling. No matter what activity you choose, the premise is the same. Participants commit to doing the activity (reading a certain amount of books, running a certain distance) and ask their friends, family, and coworkers to support them.

A-thons work great because you reach a huge donor pool through peer-to-peer fundraising. People are also more likely to donate since participants are “working” in return for the donations.

What Do You Need to Run a Bowl-a-Thon?

Community raising money for school

Use FutureFund to Power It

FutureFund’s built-in pledge campaigns allow you to easily collect money and keep donations organized. Since parents cover payment processing fees, 100% of the funds raised go to your school!

Easy for Everyone

Any good fundraiser needs to be easy to plan, participate in, and most importantly, get donations. FutureFund makes planning and running a bowl-a-thon as easy as possible.

Donate Online

Instead of dealing with paper pledge forms and cash and cheques, take the process online. Donors can donate instantly online with their credit or debit cards.

All-in-One

Always know how the fundraiser is going. Easily view how much money has been raised and more with detailed reporting.

Using a Bowl-a-Thon for Fundraising

Managing & Organizing Pledges

Each student will sign up as a participant in the fundraiser. Then, they can collect pledges individually by credit or debit card. These pledges will be recorded in FutureFund and will count towards the student’s total and the grand total for the fundraiser.

Paperwork & Donor Payment Management

It’s easy for students to sign up, especially if their information is already in the system. You can bulk sign up entire grades or classes.

All donor payments are automatically entered into the system, so you can instantly see each student’s total and the grand total.

Using FutureFund to Accept Online Donations

Donors don’t need to have cash or a checkbook handy to donate. They can easily donate through an emailable donation link and pay by credit or debit card. Any cash donations can also be noted in the system to be collected later.

using future fund for fundraising
goals and rules

Bowl-a-Thon Goals & Rules

Length of Time

There are 2 parts to a bowl-a-thon: the lead up to the bowl-a-thon and the bowl-a-thon itself. The lead-up should be at least 2 to 4 weeks to allow teams to register and begin fundraising.

The bowl-a-thon itself is typically a 1-day event, with all the teams meeting on a Saturday or Sunday to play each other. The exact length will depend on the number of teams, but plan for each game to take around 1 hour to complete.

Bowling Goal

Because a bowl-a-thon is essentially a bowling tournament, it should be every team’s goal to win the bowl-a-thon. However, you should also set a fundraising goal. That way, when teams are gathering donations, they have something to work towards.

Other Considerations

You’ll want to set some ground rules to make the competition as fair as possible. For example, you might want to set an age limit on who can use gutter guards or say that gutter guards are not allowed at all.

Recommended Starting Rules

Follow these steps for a successful bowl-a-thon:

  1. Before you start telling families about the bowl-a-thon, you should decide the following:
      • The venue
      • The date
      • The fundraising goal
      • The team restrictions
      • The theme
  2. Start telling families about the bowl-a-thon at least 2 to 4 weeks days before the event. 
  3. Participants should be signed up in your fundraising system and gathering donations for at least 2 weeks before the bowl-a-thon.
  4. On the day of the bowl-a-thon, be sure to re-explain the rules and encourage participants to continue fundraising.
  5. At the end of the fundraiser, give an update on the fundraising goal and thank all of the participants.

Bowl-a-Thon Templates & Resources

read a thon templates
sample read-a-thon rules

Sample Bowl-a-Thon Rules

These rules are a great starting point for organizing your bowl-a-thon.

sample read-a-thon description

Sample Bowl-a-Thon Event Description

Unsure of where to start? Use this sample student and parent messaging to get the ball rolling!

online pledges w/ futurefund

Set Up Online Pledges With FutureFund

Let parents and supporters donate online with FutureFund’s online pledges. Try it out for free!

Bowl-a-Thon Theme Ideas

Retro

Bowling was most popular in the 60s, so get participants to embrace that era. They can dress up in 60s clothes like ponchos, tie-dye, and bell bottoms.

Disco

While bowling was most popular in the 60s, it was still plenty popular in the 70s. Participants can dress up in their best 70s looks and groove to 70s disco music.

Future

Instead of a blast from the past, why not a futuristic theme? Get bowlers to guess what future fashion will look like with funky fashion and face paint.

Holiday

You can’t go wrong with a holiday theme, even for bowling. Plan your bowl-a-thon around a fall or winter holiday like Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Day, or Valentine’s Day.

Disney

A Disney theme basically just means participants can dress up like their favorite movie or TV character. Players can pick costumes individually or coordinate as a team.

Neon

Lots of bowling alleys are dimly lit, which means neon clothes will really stand out. Encourage participants to wear bright clothing, glow bracelets, and even neon face paint.

Find Other Fundraiser
Ideas & Guides

How to Run a Jump-a-Thon Fundraiser

How to Run a Jump-a-Thon Fundraiser

Jump-a-Thon fundraisers are great ways to raise money while also being active. See how a jump-a-thon works & what you’ll need to run one in our in-depth guide.

How to Run a Spell-a-Thon Fundraiser

How to Run a Spell-a-Thon Fundraiser

Spell-a-Thon fundraisers are great ways to raise money while also practicing academics. See how a spell-a-thon works & what you’ll need to run one here.

How to Run a Math-a-Thon Fundraiser

How to Run a Math-a-Thon Fundraiser

Math-a-Thon fundraisers are great ways to raise money while also practicing academics. See how a math-a-thon works & what you’ll need to run one in our guide.