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.
Here, we’ll show you the A-Z of bowl-a-thons, including planning, tracking donations, and ideas on how to organize and promote it.
Bowl-a-Thon Guide Table of Contents
A quick introduction to what a bowl-a-thon is and how it works.
What is an "A-Thon" & How Does it Work?
Thon’s can be a powerful fundraising tool.
What do you need to run a Bowl-a-Thon?
The tools, support, and volunteers you’ll need for a successful Bowl-a-Thon.
Using a Bowl-a-Thon to Fundraise
How to raise money with bowl-a-thons.
Templates, Ideas, Tools, & Resources
Kickstart your bowl-a-thon using curated templates and tools.
Bowl-a-Thon Theme Ideas
Feel inspired with our bowl-a-thon theme examples.
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 Goals & Rules
Treat these as a base and feel free to tailor these to suit your specific event.
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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bowl-a-Thons
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.
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
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 a “Thon”?
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?
Power it With FutureFund
FutureFund’s built-in pledge campaigns allow you to easily collect money and keep donations/pledges organized. Since parents cover payment processing fees, 100% of the funds raised go to your school!
FutureFund is easy to use - for everyone
FutureFund makes running a bowl-a-thon easy for everyone. Easier for PTAs to run, for students and parents to participate, and for donors to donate.
Accept online donations
Instead of dealing with paper pledge forms and cash and cheques, FutureFund takes the process online. Donors can donate instantly online with their credit or debit cards.
A single tool to power your entire Thon!
FutureFund makes it easy to track 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
Consider the below when organizing your bowl-a-thon. Spending a bit of time up front getting organized from an admin and donation perspective will save a lot of time and potential frustration later.
Managing and organizing pledges
Each student will sign up as a participant in the fundraiser. Then, they can collect pledges individually by credit or debit card. You can also accept cash pledges, but be mindful of properly storing and tracking cash you collect.
If you are using FutureFund, you can record these pledges and they will automatically count towards the student’s total and the grand total for the fundraiser.
Donor information and donation management
Before launching your fundraiser, confirm what records you need to collect from donors.
If you are using FutureFund, 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.
Make sure you accept online donations
Fundraising campaigns that accept online donations perform much better than fundraisers that only accept cash or check.
If you are using FutureFund, you can accept payments online. Donors are given a donation link and can pay by credit or debit card. Any cash donations can also be noted in the system to be collected later.
Bowl-a-Thon Templates & Resources
Sample bowl-a-thon rules
These rules are a great starting point for organizing your bowl-a-thon.
To participate in the bowl-a-thon, you must register your team by [date]. Then, the bowl-a-thon is on [date], which means you should start fundraising right away! Make sure to tell your friends, family, and coworkers that you’re fundraising, so they can donate.
All donations will be collected through FutureFund through this link: [link].
Sample bowl-a-thon event description
Unsure of where to start? Use this sample student and parent messaging to get the ball rolling!
Strike! On [date], [school name] will be hosting a bowl-a-thon to help fundraise for [cause]. You can help by registering a bowling team and participating!
Each team will be collecting pledges online through FutureFund: [link], so even if you can’t participate, you can still donate!
Set up online pledges with FutureFund
Let parents and supporters donate online with FutureFund’s online pledges. Try it out for free!
Make your donation easily and instantly! Click this [link] to make your donation through secure credit or debit card payment.
If you prefer to donate by cash or check, just donate directly to the student you’re supporting. Thank you for your support!
Bowl-a-Thon Theme Ideas
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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