Fundraising Tip #6: Hold a bowlathon

Written by on June 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

When your friends and family donate to your MS Challenge Walk fundraising, they're usually giving a flat amount. I've never met someone whose donation was calculated by the length of the walk, such as a dollar per mile. That's because few donors have undergone such a challenge themselves, and so the difference between 30 miles and 50 is an abstract concept to them.

What's more concrete to most people is — bowling pins. Everyone has at some point tried this most athletic of sports, whether it's the traditional tenpin or the New England variant known as candlepin. So why not capitalize on this tradition by having a bowling party?

Jeri EllsworthA bowlathon, in which people promise to donate money based on your performance in a string of bowling, is easy to organize and potentially very profitable. A perfect game of bowling has a score of 300, in which case a pledge of as little as a dime per pin can net you $30 toward your fundraising. Of course, few of us are perfect bowlers; not even on the Wii can we aspire to such heights. But a decent game still ends with over 100 pins knocked down, which at fifty cents per pin will earn $50 — and that's from only from one donor to one teammate. If five walkers each have five donors donating 50 cents per pin, and each walker knocks down 100 pins, that's $1250!

I recommend these steps:

  1. Contact a local bowling center to see about reserving a date and time (especially important if you're on a team!) at least a week in advance. See if they will donate an hour of lane time for the cause.
  2. Create a form with which to collect pledges. There's an excellent Microsoft Excel template that you can download for free and modify for your purposes.
  3. Print one copy of the spreadsheet each for you and your teammates.
  4. Circulate the spreadsheet to your friends, family, and co-workers. Tell them you'll be bowling one string, and ask them to pledge a certain amount per pin — anywhere from one cent to one dollar. Invite them to come watch or play with you (just for fun!).
  5. Have your bowling night. Remember to record your final scores!
  6. Report back to your donors with your score. Calculate their pledges for them and let them know how, when, and where they can donate.

A more verbose timeline can be found here.

A bowlathon is not only an effective fundraiser but also a great team-building opportunity. We so often associate our teammates with training and grueling exercises that we forget to have fun with them. Why not treat them to a night at the lanes and raise some money while you're at it?

Ken joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

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