Readathon 101: 8 Tips To Get Started

Masthead Waves

If your school is raising money for a field trip or a fun project, reaching your fundraising goal can be as easy as picking up a book. Hosting a readathon is a great way to inspire your students to read while raising money for a good cause. In this blog post, we’re talking about all-things readathons: what they are, how they work, and what you can do to incentivize your students to get together and read. 


What Is a Readathon?

The idea behind a readathon, or reading fundraiser, is simple: students read books during a set period, and sponsors—family members, neighbors, staff, etc.—donate money to support their reading. A readathon, run well, can generate a high volume of donations for your school and get community members involved. Readathons can also be run at the school district level, including elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. 

Best of all, a readathon gives everyone in your community, from students to staff members and local businesses, the opportunity to come together to support a good cause: your school, and your students’ reading habits. 

How do you organize a readathon? We’ve compiled a set of eight tips to help you get started. 


8 Tips To Plan Your Readathon

Figure Out your "Why"

Why do you want to do an educational fundraiser in the first place? Fundraisers work best when they have a clear goal, like new books, computers, or makerspace equipment for your school library. For older students, readathons can tap into teenagers’ natural sense of compassion around important local community issues like homelessness or hunger, while inspiring them to read. Regardless of your motivations, once you know your “why,” you can align the rest of your school fundraising event with your goals in mind.  


Set Your Time Frame

Your readathon can be any length, but we typically recommend around 10 days that span two weekends. Kicking off on a Friday and wrapping up on Monday or Tuesday after the next two weekends is a great recipe for success. This timeline gives you enough time to reach your financial goals, without dragging it on too long. For a younger audience, shorter is usually better. School organizers should also be aware of students’ busiest times of year. For example, avoid scheduling your fundraiser during testing weeks or at the end of the semester when students are working on big projects. 



Pick a Theme

Themes can make your readathon feel special while enhancing your mission. You might use readathons to help students come together around an important mission in different ways like literacy, diversity, or a community initiative. For example, if your town is raising money for a new animal shelter, you might use a readathon to contribute to that cause and incorporate an animal-theme. Your theme can be something as simple as your school mascot or a local landmark, but a little creativity can go a long way. 


Communicate the Details

Your readathon won’t be successful without high participation, so make sure you communicate the details of the event ahead of time. Send flyers home with students in advance, and make sure teachers are up to date on planning and supporting the initiative. To increase buy-in, you might consider creating a committee of parents or staff members to help organize the fundraiser, or work with your PTA or PTO, so the whole community can get involved.  



Gather Prizes

Prizes are a great way to incentivize participation and reward readers for their hard work. Many readathons include cash prizes or gifts for top readers, and smaller prizes for basic participation—but prizes don’t have to be tangible or expensive. For example, you might reward students with extra free time if they get five donations, or invite all students to a special dance party (online or in-person).


Keep Donations Simple

Often, the most logistically difficult piece of a fundraiser is managing the money, so make sure you have a simple system in place before you start. Make the collection process very clear to readers before you begin, and put a standardized procedure in place to collect donations. Collecting flat fees from donors makes it easier for friends and family to donate, and easier for you to collect donations. Keeping your donation model simple gives you more time to spend on promoting your fundraiser to your students and community.  



Embrace Technology

To streamline your readathon, consider investing in a reading challenge app to track your progress. The Beanstack app not only tracks individual progress by minutes or number of books read, but it also includes leaderboards and fun digital badges to keep participants motivated. Beanstack is customizable, so you can design the challenge around your theme along with the preferred timeline. During the challenge, participants can check out what their friends are reading, and see how close they are to meeting their goal. Beanstack makes it easy to gather data at the end of the fundraiser and share it with participants and sponsors. 


Make It Special 

The key to a successful fundraiser is making it fun. Taking time out of the week to celebrate the good work you are doing as a school will make the event memorable—and inspire readers to participate next time around. You should also make it clear to your students how their fundraising efforts impact the school and community. If you are raising money for the library, for example, you might mark books bought with readathon money with a sticker, so students can see their impact. 

Making a Difference One Book at a Time

With a readathon, you can increase the overall reading time for students and reap the many benefits of reading while raising money through a school fundraiser for a great cause. With book fairs going virtual and many schools and PTAs strapped for cash, readathon can make a big difference toward library and special event funding, and much more. When your community comes together to read, great things happen—and it’s even easier when you have technology in place to streamline the process and make reading fun, encouraging students along the way. 


As the top reading challenge mobile app for kids and adults, Beanstack makes it easy to digitize your readathon. See how Beanstack can support your next readathon and get reading and raising today!

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