How to Run a Chess-a-Thon Fundraiser

Chess-a-thons make for great fundraisers! Participants get to learn a new skill and fundraise all at the same time. Try a chess-a-thon the next time you’re fundraising for a school, extra-curricular program, or club.

Here, we’ll show you the A-Z of chess-a-thons, including planning, tracking donations, and ideas on how to organize and promote it.

Chess-a-Thon Guide Table of Contents


Chess-a-Thon 101

A quick introduction to what a chess-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 Chess-a-Thon?

The tools, support, and volunteers you’ll need for a successful Chess-a-Thon.


Using a Chess-a-Thon to Fundraise

How to raise money with chess-a-thons.


Templates, Ideas, Tools, & Resources

Kickstart your chess-a-thon using curated templates and tools.


Chess-a-Thon Theme Ideas

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

Chess-a-Thon 101

What is a Chess-a-Thon?

Chess-a-thons are a type of a-thon fundraiser. Just like read-a-thons and walk-a-thons, students will commit to playing a certain amount of chess and collect donations for their efforts.

Chess-a-thons are great because they give students the chance to learn chess or the chance to improve their skills.

Chess-a-Thon Goals & Rules

Treat these as a base and feel free to tailor these to suit your specific event.

Length of Time

You can choose any length of time between 10 days and 1 month. For the best results, try to make your chess-a-thon last between 10 days and 2 weeks.

Chess Goal

The chess goal should be dependent on the length of time and the grade the students are in. Set an attainable goal, but one that requires active participation by students. For a two-week chess-a-thon, a good goal is students playing at least 10 times over the course of the fundraiser.

You may also want to track the total amount of time played. Many chess-a-thons feature “top chess player” awards, given to the top 3 to 5 students who play the most.

Grade Considerations

For younger kids or beginners, you can decide what rules of chess to follow. To make it easier to participate, you might want to consider simplifying the rules. For example, you can play chess with 12 pieces instead of 16.

Recommended Starting Rules

Before you start telling students about the chess-a-thon, you should decide the following:

  • Duration of the chess-a-thon
  • How many games or hours to play
  • The chess rules
  • The theme

Recommend Chess-a-Thon Duration

  • 10 days for pre-school and elementary schools
  • 14 days for middle and high schools

Collection Donations

  • Start telling students about the chess-a-thon at least 10 days before it starts. 
  • Students should be signed up in your fundraising system and gathering donations at least 7 days before the fundraiser starts.

Confirm That Everyone Knows What to Do

  1. On the day the fundraiser starts, be sure to re-explain the rules and encourage students to continue fundraising.
  2. Halfway through the chess-a-thon, remind students how many days they have left to finish their books.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chess-a-Thons

How does a chess-a-thon work?

Donors give pledges for a certain amount of chess game time. For example, a student’s grandma might donate $5 for every game of chess. Or maybe a parent’s coworker donates $2 for every hour of chess.

The “rules” can be flexible, as long as students play more chess than normal. You can also have students play chess during school time, at home, or both.

How long does a chess-a-thon last?

The length of a chess-a-thon is flexible. If students are playing chess at school, typically, you’ll want to do at least 10 chess sessions. Depending on their grade level, these sessions can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour.

If students are playing chess at home, 10 days to 2 weeks of playing chess is the sweet spot. It’s long enough for students to accomplish their goals, but not so long they forget about the fundraiser altogether.

When should you hold a chess-a-thon?

Chess-a-thons are great fundraisers to hold in the fall or winter. Because chess is typically an indoor activity, that means you can save the warmer months for fundraisers that can only be held outdoors.

Are chess-a-thons good fundraisers

Absolutely–chess-a-thons are unique while still being relatively easy to plan. They check all the boxes for a good fundraiser.

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 Chess-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 chess-a-thon easy for everyone. Easier for PTAs and PTOs 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 Chess-a-Thon for Fundraising

Consider the below when organizing your chess-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.

Chess-a-Thon Templates & Resources

Sample chess-a-thon rules

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

To participate in the chess-a-thon, you must register in FutureFund by [date]. Then, the chess-a-thon starts on [date], which means you have until [date] to your games! Make sure to tell your family that you’re fundraising, so they can donate (ask your parents for help, so they can ask their friends and coworkers too!).

All donations will be collected through FutureFund through this link: [link].

Sample chess-a-thon event description

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

Checkmate! Starting [date], [school name] will be hosting a chess-a-thon to help fundraise for [cause]. You can help by playing chess as much as you can! Parents, each student will be collecting pledges online through FutureFund: [link]. Please spread the word to your family, friends, and coworkers to help make this fundraiser a success!

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!

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