A-thon events are fun, engaging, and help bring the community together. They’re especially effective for school fundraising because they’re very kid-friendly, but can work for a variety of audiences.
In particular, dance-a-thons are a creative way to get people active and donating to your cause, whether they are children or adults. However, dance-a-thons can be challenging to host, especially if you’ve never tried this type of event before.
This guide will help. In it, we’ll cover:
- What is a Dance-a-Thon?
- Why Host a Dance-a-Thon?
- Steps to Hosting a Successful Dance-a-Thon
- 5 Tips for Memorable Dance-a-Thons
Ready to learn how to create a dancing-centered event that will help you raise more for your mission? Let’s begin!
What is a Dance-a-Thon?
A dance-a-thon is a form of pledge fundraiser similar to the more well-known walk-a-thon or fun run. Essentially, sponsors pledge to a participant to donate a monetary amount per increment of time the participant dances. For example, a parent might sponsor their child by pledging to donate $5 per 30 minutes of dancing. Some sponsors may choose to donate a flat amount based on if the participant dances or not.
Why Host a Dance-a-Thon?
All types of a-thon fundraisers are a popular fundraiser for nonprofits of all kinds. They easily attract and engage participants. So what makes the dance-a-thon such an appealing choice? Here are a few reasons why:
- Great for participants of all ages. You can easily change a dance-a-thon to fit your target audience’s age. For example, you might choose pop or club music for students to dance to, or you might make your event focused on swing dancing for adults.
- Flexible. Because many dance-a-thons take place indoors, your event can take place during any season. Dance-a-thons are also extremely flexible in terms of duration—you can decide however long or short you want your event to be.
- Cost-effective. Dance-a-thons don’t have a large upfront cost to them. Typically, you just need a venue, a sound system, and refreshments for your participants.
- Fun. Above all, a dance-a-thon is fun! It gives participants the chance to destress and enjoy themselves, which will make people more likely to attend.
You may feel concerned a dance-a-thon won’t feel connected to your nonprofit’s mission. However, dance-a-thons are truly versatile events that are enjoyable to watch and participate in. You can adjust it however you need to to fit your nonprofit’s cause and the age group you’re inviting to participate.
Steps to Hosting a Successful Dance-a-Thon
Organizing a dance-a-thon might seem like a daunting task, but if you break it down into a few different steps, it will seem much more achievable. These are the steps to hosting a successful dance-a-thon:
- Plan your dance-a-thon. Decide where it will take place, when, and for how long. You can even decide on a fun theme for the event so that participants can dress up.
- Choose a dance-a-thon fundraising platform. Think carefully about which fundraising platform to use for your event. Make sure that it’s easy for participants to create pledge pages and for donors to make their pledges.
- Recruit participants. Use a multichannel marketing strategy to get a great turnout for your event. For example, include your event in your email newsletters and direct mail materials, and ensure that you post about it on social media. You might also consider speaking to local press and media to see if they’re interested in helping you promote your event.
- Help participants secure donors. Consider putting together a little pamphlet or information sheet with helpful suggestions on how to obtain pledges from donors. Make sure your advice is easy for participants to implement. You might also send them pledge request templates for emails, phone calls, texts, and social media posts.
- Host your dance fundraiser. Enlist your volunteers to help you set up and run the event. You might also hire a DJ or even a live band, depending on what type of dance-a-thon you’re hosting.
- Thank everyone involved. At the end of the event, make sure you take a moment to thank everyone who made the event possible. After a few days, send thank-you letters to volunteers, donors, and participants. Be sure to personalize them with the recipient’s first and last name.
Above all, make sure your dance-a-thon is organized and enjoyable. Provide snacks and drinks for participants, and plenty of places for them to sit down and root for their fellow dancers when they need a break.
6 Tips for Memorable Dance-a-Thons
Now that you know why you should host a dance-a-thon and how to start organizing it, you’ll want to learn more about how to make your dance-a-thon memorable. Because this type of fundraiser is so popular, many nonprofits and other organizations host them. It’s important to set yours apart from the others. Here are a few ways you can do that!
1. Invest in the right software.
Just like the right dance studio software is important for running successful and well-managed dance classes, it’s a good idea to invest in top-notch pledge fundraising software ahead of planning your dance-a-thon. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when making your software purchasing decisions:
- Individual participant pages. Each participant in your dance-a-thon should have their own individual donation page to share with family and friends, rather than a single page branded to your organization.
- Page customization. It should be simple for participants to customize their pages—this will allow them to share their personal connections to the campaign and really make the pages their own.
- Easy giving experience. The donation process should be intuitive and quick, for both submitting the initial pledge and making the follow-up payment after the dance-a-thon.
- Low fees. Ensure that you have a good understanding of the fees that the platform will collect from your fundraising efforts. Evaluate different platforms to see whether they allow you to keep the bulk of your fundraising revenue. For example, 99Pledges offers no startup or platform fees, collecting only an industry-standard processing fee of 2.9% + $0.30/transaction.
Effective pledge software can bring in more than two times as much fundraising revenue as your past fundraisers collected. Make sure you do your research before choosing your solution to ensure you end up with a top provider that meets your biggest needs!
2. Partner with local businesses.
Partnering with businesses in your area is a great way to get some additional support for your upcoming dance-a-thon and supplement individual donations. Plus, these businesses might be searching for opportunities to get involved in corporate philanthropy—a key aspect of corporate social responsibility. That means it’s a win-win!
Here are a few types of companies you might want to look into for partnerships:
- Dance studios. Because these businesses likely have dance-loving customers inclined to volunteer to support your fundraising efforts, they make some of the best partners for dance-a-thons. Your local dance studio might also be willing to donate free or discounted dance lessons as a prize to motivate top fundraisers!
- Grocery stores. Grocery stores and other food-related businesses might be willing to provide your fundraiser with in-kind donations of water bottles and snacks. That way, you can make sure your participants stay hydrated and keep their energy up throughout the event without having to eat into your own fundraising revenue to do so.
- Small businesses. Other small businesses may also be excited to contribute to your fundraiser, especially if they have distinct ties in the local community. Consider partnering with restaurants, shops, and other local vendors for prizes, sponsorships, and other agreements.
When exploring potential business partnerships be sure that there is a two-way transaction of value for both ends of the agreement. For example, you could accept both monetary and in-kind donations from local businesses, offering them premium advertising opportunities in return.
3. Determine whether it’s in-person or virtual.
Many fundraising ideas can be carried out both online and in-person, depending on your preference. Dance-a-thons are no exception, and transitioning your fundraisers to a virtual space offers a fantastic alternative to in-person events that will still allow you to raise critical funds.
For an in-person dance-a-thon, participants and spectators gather in a physical location such as a dance studio, gymnasium, or park. For a virtual one, however, participants and spectators will tune in from their chosen location using live-streaming software and dance on their own.
You can also choose to take a hybrid approach, where your nonprofit incorporates elements from both in-person and virtual events into the dance-a-thon. In this scenario, you might host an in-person dance-a-thon while allowing other participants or spectators to join in the fun from home.
4. Choose a fun theme.
Having a theme can make your dance-a-thon more enjoyable and immersive. It will also give participants an opportunity to dress up. Here are some fun themes you can include in your dance-a-thon:
- Dancing through decades. Pick music from different decades, and as the event goes on, slowly change the music to be more and more modern. For example, you might start with 1920s music, and end up with current pop hits.
- Holiday. If you’re hosting your dance-a-thon close to a holiday, lean into it and make your event holiday-themed. For example, for Halloween you could host a monster mash-themed event, and for Christmas you could have a Yule Ball.
- Prom. For many people, prom was a highlight of their high school experience. For this throwback theme, encourage participants to wear prom outfits and, depending on participant ages, try playing music that they would have heard during their prom.
- Masquerade. Everyone loves a little bit of mystery, and a masquerade ball is perfect for a high-end-feeling dance-a-thon. Consider having a ballroom dance lesson at the beginning, so your participants can fully immerse themselves in the theme.
- Silent disco. Perhaps your venue has restrictions on volume—if so, not to worry! For a silent disco, equip all participants with headphones. You can either have one soundtrack playing for everyone, or allow participants to dance to their own music. Either way, you’ll have a fairly quiet dance-a-thon!
Should you choose to have a theme for your dance-a-thon, make sure to decorate according to the theme and have themed food and beverages. For example, if you’re hosting a monster mash-themed event, you might have monster decorations and Halloween-themed foods, such as spiderweb pizza or dragon’s blood punch.
5. Market your fundraiser in advance.
Marketing will draw more people to your dance-a-thon, increasing the number of participants and the amount of revenue you raise. The success of your marketing campaign can truly make or break the fundraiser.
It’s best to begin marketing your dance-a-thon at least one month before the event kicks off (even earlier for very large and/or elaborate events). As a school administrator or nonprofit professional, you may not have a lot of time to spare when it comes to crafting a message and choosing the communication channels you’ll use.
To help you get started, here’s more about the various marketing platforms your organization can use to reach supporters:
- Social media. This platform is simple to use, affordable, and effective. You can reach local supporters and those who live in other areas all with one post. It’s best to use a few different platforms at once, adjusting your posts slightly to fit the trends and formats for each one. You could post an image of volunteers preparing for the dance-a-thon on Instagram, create a “behind-the-scenes” video of the planning process for TikTok, and publish succinct, important updates on Twitter. While each type of post will address a slightly different audience, they should still feel cohesive.
- Email. Chances are, your organization already has a database of email addresses for past and current supporters. To make the most of these contacts, craft an email campaign leading up to the dance-a-thon. For example, you might create a series of emails that each move supporters one step closer to donating. The first email might aim to simply educate supporters on your need for funding, the second can introduce the idea of the dance-a-thon, and the third can prompt recipients to register for the event or donate to support a participant.
- Search engines. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of increasing an organization’s site visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs) using both organic and paid marketing efforts. Organic methods involve creating high-quality, search-engine-optimized content while paid efforts involve buying top-ranking positions (e.g., with Google Ads). These ads can be expensive, but most 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for the Google Ad Grant. The grant provides $10,000 in Google Ad credits per month, and you’ll just need to make sure that you are eligible, meet Google’s website requirements, and maintain compliance with guidelines.
- Print media. This type of marketing comes in many forms, from magazine and newspaper ads to hanging posters and flyers around your community. While purchasing ad space in a national magazine may not be feasible, a small spot in your local newspaper could fall within your budget. Additionally, don’t be afraid to create your own posters and flyers complete with custom branding and logistical details. To share them with the community, ask your local business partners if you can post them there.
Remember that in addition to leveraging the right platforms, you’ll need to create marketing messages that are both informative and engaging. Specifically, you should include enough information about the dance-a-thon for your audience to understand what it is and why you are holding it. At the same time, the message should persuade the audience to attend and give to the fundraiser by using tactics like emotional storytelling.
While it can be tricky to balance all of these pieces at once, with a little practice the moving parts of your marketing campaign will come together as an effective tool to recruit more donors.
6. Provide choreography for the event.
This is something that not every dance-a-thon has, but it’s a tried-and-true way to bring your fundraiser to the next level. By providing choreography for dancers to follow during the event, you can create an engaging, enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
If you’re partnering with a local dance organization for your dance-a-thon fundraiser, they’ll likely have some top-notch resources to assist with creating choreography for the event. For example, a dance studio mobile app can provide access to an easy-to-use, comprehensive choreography store. Then, all you need to do is choose your favorite moves and get started!
With the advice from this guide in mind, you’ll be well on your way to hosting a profitable and effective dance-a-thon for your nonprofit organization. Once you have the tools you’ll need, you can incorporate each of these best practices into your event strategy. Before you know it, you’ll have pulled off a successful dance-a-thon. Good luck!
If you’re interested in other fundraising articles, check out these resources:
- 45+ Best School Fundraising Ideas to Raise More in 2023. Learn about more fundraising ideas for your school.
- 10+ of Our Most Effective Booster Club Fundraisers. Booster clubs are invested in giving students access to more opportunities. Get inspiration for booster club fundraisers here.
- Top 10 Fundraising Platforms and Tools for Schools. Have a fundraising idea, but not sure what platform to use? Take a look at these top ten fundraising platforms.