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What is a Read-A-Thon? How to Host an Engaging Fundraiser

Reading is an important part of any student's education. Through reading, students learn more about the world around them, develop empathy, and build communication skills that will help them thrive in life. If your school is looking to raise funds while nurturing a love of reading among your students, a Read-A-Thon is the perfect addition to your fundraising strategy.

In this complete guide to Read-A-Thons, we'll walk you through the basics of these popular reading fundraisers—including how to host one. Here's what we'll cover:

  • What is a Read-A-Thon?
  • What are the benefits of hosting a Read-A-Thon?
  • How do you organize a school Read-A-Thon?
  • What are some Read-A-Thon ideas to boost participation?

By signing up for a free Read-A-Thon account, you can start an engaging school fundraiser in just minutes. Before long, you'll be inspiring students to read more while raising the funds you need to continue providing them with enriching experiences at school.

Click through to sign up for a free Read-A-Thon account and start hosting a Read-A-Thon for your school today

What is a Read-A-Thon?

A Read-A-Thon is a school fundraising idea that encourages lifelong reading habits among students. During the fundraiser, students try to read as much as they can, logging their time spent reading while friends and family members make donations to support their efforts.

Reasons hosting a Read-A-Thon is an effective school fundraising idea, as explained in more detail below.

Read-A-Thons are especially effective for schools because they:

  1. Promote student reading. While some tried-and-true school fundraisers might involve selling popcorn or holding a plant sale, Read-A-Thons stand out because they reinforce your school's commitment to educating students and supporting their intellectual growth. By tracking minutes read, you'll encourage students of all ages to read what they love throughout the fundraiser.
  2. Come with easy, digital tools. The Read-A-Thon platform comes with everything you need to host a successful Read-A-Thon at your school. When you sign up, you'll receive free digital and pre-printed flyers and posters to promote your fundraiser. Plus, the platform takes care of all payment processing and participation tracking, so you won't have to worry about manually handling donations or calculating your fundraising progress.
  3. Can reach a broader audience. By collecting online donations through Read-A-Thon's secure credit card payment processor, you can extend your fundraising reach to donors around the world. This means that students can receive support from friends and family no matter where they're located.

For a closer look at the Read-A-Thon platform and how it works, check out our brief video overview:

Learn everything you need to know about the Read-A-Thon platform!

As you can see from the video, getting started with Read-A-Thon is easy and straightforward. With no contracts or hidden fees and hands-on support throughout your fundraising process, you can rest assured that your next school fundraiser will be a success.

What are the benefits of hosting a Read-A-Thon?

When it comes to fundraising for your school, you want to make sure that you get the most out of the resources and effort you put in. Read-A-Thons come with many benefits that make them especially appealing to schools, including:

  • Advancing literacy. 130 million Americans, or 54% of adults between 16 and 74 years old, have literary skills below the sixth-grade level. Read-A-Thons take literacy education beyond the classroom by encouraging students to read in their free time while their friends and family cheer them on.
  • Boosting academic performance. Many studies indicate a strong connection between reading for pleasure and higher academic test scores. Through reading, students can improve their vocabulary, concentration, and critical thinking skills, which they can apply both in and outside of school.
  • Cultivating a love of reading. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 25% of U.S. fifth-grade students report that they enjoy reading very much, which is lower than the international average (42%). Unlike required assignments, Read-A-Thons allow students to take charge of what and how much they read, which can help them develop a stronger interest in reading.
  • Bringing a community together. Read-A-Thons can rally your community around a shared goal of engaging students in reading. By donating to your fundraiser and encouraging reading at home, family members can play a more direct role in their student's education than traditional classroom learning typically allows.

Your school can tap into all of these benefits with minimum volunteers and upfront expenses. In fact, over 5,000 schools host a Read-A-Thon every year, raising a total of $22 million while promoting reading across grade levels.

How do you organize a school Read-A-Thon?

If your school or PTA is ready to incorporate Read-A-Thons into your fundraising strategy, the good news is that the process is simple. To maximize student engagement and secure the most donations for your school, follow these steps for success:

The steps for running a Read-A-Thon, as described in more detail below.

1. Outline the time, goal, and key details for your Read-A-Thon.

To make sure that everyone on your fundraising team is on the same page before you begin your Read-A-Thon, ask yourselves the following questions:

  • When will our Read-A-Thon start?
  • How long will our Read-A-Thon last?
  • How much are we hoping to raise?
  • What will we spend the raised funds on?
  • Will we provide reading materials for participants?

While you can organize a Read-A-Thon at any point during the school year, it can be an excellent way to celebrate Read Across America Day in March. Generally, Read-A-Thons should last around two weeks to maintain excitement throughout the event while ensuring that students have enough time to participate.

2. Sign up for a free Read-A-Thon account.

After you've nailed down the details for your Read-A-Thon, sign up for a free Read-A-Thon account to get the ball rolling. By signing up, you can immediately access tools and features for:

  • Managing your Read-A-Thon. Your Read-A-Thon dashboard includes a Daily Event Calendar that recommends steps you can take each day to maintain fundraising momentum among students, teachers, and donors. You'll also have the option to reach out to a Read-A-Thon support team member with just a click of a button.
  • Promoting the event. Read-A-Thon provides marketing materials and tools at no cost to your school. For example, you'll receive pre-written emails, pre-printed flyers, reminders, posters, and stickers that are ready to share with your school's community.
  • Tracking reading and fundraising progress. On your Read-A-Thon dashboard, you can track total donations earned, total minutes read, top readers, and top classes in real time. Plus, you can easily find individual student participation details by typing their name in the “Find a Reader” tool.

Each student will have their own Read-A-Thon page, where friends and family can donate to support their personal fundraising goal and leave encouraging messages.

Example of a student's Read-A-Thon fundraising page.

Every student's donation page includes several suggested donation amounts, real-time progress displays, and information about your school's fundraiser to help donors connect with your cause.

Click through to schedule a call or download Read-A-Thon resources to learn more about what a Read-A-Thon is and how your school can raise more.

3. Determine how you'll incentivize students.

By planning rewards and incentives, your school can get more students excited about participating in your Read-A-Thon. While you can motivate top performers with pre-determined prizes such as school supplies, books, and gift cards, Read-A-Thon has a dedicated prize store that gives students the freedom to choose what rewards interest them the most.

If your school opts into Read-A-Thon's prize store model, here's what you can expect:

  • At the end of your Read-A-Thon, your school receives 75% of total donations earned as cash.
  • In addition to your school's profit, your student readers earn 15% of their individual donations to spend in Read-A-Thon's prize store.
  • Students can choose from over 200 toys, games, school supplies, and books.
  • Read-A-Thon will handle all of the packaging and shipping for prizes at no extra cost.

If your school chooses to handle its own prizes and rewards, Read-A-Thon has over 100 coupon templates that you can receive, printed at no extra charge.

4. Promote your Read-A-Thon fundraiser.

Before and during your Read-A-Thon, spread the word through online and offline channels to engage as many community members in your fundraising efforts as possible. For example, in the weeks leading up to your Read-A-Thon event, you might send out an email that says something like:

[School's Name] has decided to hold a Read-A-Thon this year!

Read-A-Thons actually get your reader excited about reading and it gives friends and family the opportunity to encourage your child to read even more.

Our Read-A-Thon starts [date].

About one week before our Read-A-Thon starts we will send home instructions on how to activate your reader's personal page. This is where you will be able to view and record their progress.

We've chosen Read-A-Thon because it will not take much of your time, gives your child a reason to read and helps in the development of stronger reading skills.

We hope EVERYONE participates.

Thanks so much,

[School's Name]

Maximize awareness by putting up flyers, sending pre-written messages to your contact list, and posting on social media, too. Read-A-Thon saves you the hassle of creating this promotional content by providing you with messaging templates upfront. Through the platform, you can even access kick-off videos to show in classrooms to stir up excitement among students.

5. Measure your school's Read-A-Thon fundraising progress.

While Read-A-Thons are low-effort and require less than one hour per week to manage successfully, it's still important to keep an eye on your fundraising progress throughout the event. This allows you to make adjustments and send out reminders to keep engagement high from start to finish.

For example, during your Read-A-Thon, you can:

  • Send updates that spotlight top readers and classes.
  • Share reading tips and resources with students and their families.
  • Provide updates on your overall fundraising progress.
  • Highlight reading prizes to build excitement.

Through the Read-A-Thon dashboard, you can download specific reports on readers who've activated an account, the number of minutes read in a class, emails sent out, and more to unlock more insights into your school's overall fundraising performance.

6. Celebrate the completion of your Read-A-Thon.

At the end of your Read-A-Thon, take the time to celebrate your fundraising success with students and their families. With thoughtful planning and follow-up, you can host a Read-A-Thon every year to raise funds and get your students reading more.

You can even explore other schools' Read-A-Thon results for more inspiration. For example, Howard Perrin Elementary and Sonoran Sky PTO are just two examples of schools and PTOs that love using Read-A-Thon for fundraising:

Remember to share your fundraising results with everyone who participated in your Read-A-Thon and highlight how you'll put these funds to good use. By expressing your school's appreciation, you can keep donors invested in your success and motivated to support your next fundraiser.

What are some Read-A-Thon ideas to boost participation?

Now that you have the Read-A-Thon basics down, explore these compelling ways to spark students' interest and boost participation:

  • Choose a theme for your Read-A-Thon. Depending on when you're hosting your fundraiser or what you're raising money for, you can create a theme that can make participation more entertaining for students. For example, you could create a “Read Around the World” theme, where you encourage students to read books set in other countries and cultures to explore new perspectives and experiences.
  • Reach out to businesses about sponsorship opportunities. Read-A-Thon offers ad sponsorship opportunities, so you can promote local businesses in your Read-A-Thon materials in exchange for a sponsorship donation to your school. This is an excellent way to supplement the funds you earn through individual donations to students. Start your Read-A-Thon with an exciting assembly or presentation. An assembly or school-wide presentation can be a memorable way to kick off your Read-A-Thon. You can use this time to explain how the fundraising process works, highlight student prizes, and share tips for reaching out to friends and family.

You can also vary your fundraising efforts with similar educational fundraisers, like Love My Library book fairs. By partnering with Love My Library, you can host online or hybrid book fairs where you choose from over 900 titles and encourage students to create individual donation pages to collect funds from friends and family.

Wrapping Up: Hosting Successful Read-A-Thons for Your School

Read-A-Thons are ideal for any school or PTA since students of all ages can participate in reading at their grade level. Fundraising for your school is a necessity, but it doesn't have to be stressful or time-consuming. With Read-A-Thon's platform, you can start raising funds and encouraging student reading in minutes.

For more inspiring school fundraising ideas and tips, check out our additional resources:

Sign up for a free Read-A-Thon fundraiser to launch your next successful school PTA fundraiser and meet your fundraising goals.

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