A Virtual Step-a-Thon Fundraiser


November 4, 2020

Campus ministers have a plethora of responsibilities, including being spiritual director, Bible study leader, head dietician and overall administrator, not to mention being the chief fundraiser.

COVID-19 complicated the landscape of campus ministry along with the component of raising funds for these ministries. Social distancing and virtual gatherings have presented Wesley Foundations/Campus ministries with what can be viewed as fundraising challenges or creative opportunities.

Months ago, Rev. Tabitha Rankin, director of the Wesley House at Tyler Junior College contacted me about funding issues. Wesley House is committed to the spiritual, personal, and professional development of students, but the pandemic was complicating their ministry and fundraising efforts. Her concerns ranged from worrying about potential shortfalls to planning a virtual fundraising event. That’s when I had the idea to encourage Tabitha to try a virtual step-a-thon.

Yes, a virtual step-a-thon! Initially, it was difficult for Tabitha to comprehend such an event, but with a bit of conversation and creative brainstorming, we developed an effective plan.

Today, many individuals wear smartwatches and pedometers to keep track of their daily steps, so she leveraged that trend and set a lofty financial goal for her fundraiser. Then she developed a catchy theme to make the event interesting and fun - Help Us Step into Our Future.

The financial goal was set and converted based on a nickel per step; then, a strategic timeline followed. It was simple, 20 steps equal a dollar. Tabitha shared the concept with her board, DS, and other supporters to get a sense of whether people would embrace this virtual fundraiser. They loved the idea and wanted to pursue it.

That’s when the real work began.


Planning and promoting a fundraising event like this one, meant Tabitha needed individuals who were willing to serve, share their talents, and manage a timeline. I recommended that she select two chairs for the event, one board member and one student. Then Tabitha asked each board member to create a list of 10 or more potential virtual step-a-thon steppers that they would personally invite to participate.

She also engaged students with promotional video clips, social media posts, and other communications. Once she had effectively engaged students, she invited area clergy, congregants, and specialized groups like the UMW to participate and promote the event, thereby securing their support for the campus ministry.

After all of their work, Wesley House’s Help Us Step into Our Future campaign was a huge success! With Tabitha’s creative energy and innovative spirit, she was able to transition a common fundraising idea into a virtual one to help fund her ministry. Her initial conversation with me sparked an idea that multiplied results and I was able to encourage her along the way. These are the types of conversations we love to have at TMF, because they make a tangible difference to ministry leaders.

If you would like to have a conversation about generosity with me or any of the TMF Area Representatives during these challenging times, we would love to hear from you, and if you think you could tweak this fundraising idea for your own ministry, feel free to use the attached timeline as a guide.

Suggested Step-a-Thon Timeline:

Planning Phase 1:
Select a chair or chairs to serve as volunteers who will organize and plan this event. Develop an event plan and a fundraising plan. Recruit other volunteers.

Planning Phase 2:
Determine messaging and theme/title for your event. Create communication materials that you will need to promote your event and that will convey what this fundraising event will help your ministry achieve. Develop an easy registration method for participation and make sure individuals can easily make a donation.

Planning Phase 3:
Ask board members and volunteers to make a list of 10 individuals they will personally invite to participate. Implement event and fundraising plan.

Week 1:
Make personal contact to pastors regarding the event and secure congregational support.

Week 2:
Announce Step-a-Thon via email, Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms that will reach your audience. Use communication methods they will find engaging, such as video or images.

Week 3:
Send personal invitations using the best communication methods for your audience. Use announcement video or images, so you have a cohesive message. Make sure you include your registration and donation information in these personal invitations.

Week 4:
Invitations continue. Post a video clip encouraging online registration, pledges, and donations.

Week 5:
Invite and promote registration numbers on social media. Director and board make personal calls.

Week 6:
Registration update on social media.

Week 7:
Registration update on social media and email. Send personal Step-a-Thon thank you and special token to registrants.

Week 8:
Continue sending a personal Step-a-Thon thank you and special token to registrants.

Week 9:

Week 10:
Step-a-Thon Wrap-up Activities. Make sure you have personally thanked all participants and donors. Share your total fundraising numbers and participation numbers. Remind participants and donors what these funds will allow your ministry to achieve.

Week 11:
Step-a-Thon Wrap-up Activities and evaluation.