An effective fundraising strategy is essential to any nonprofit’s survival. Because of this, you’ve probably already encountered a few popular methods for doing so. From silent auctions to walk-a-thon races, many nonprofits have pinpointed successful strategies to raise money for their causes.

While there’s nothing wrong with tried and true fundraising methods, that doesn’t mean you can’t enhance them!

Sustainable and known for their high ROI, athletic shoe drives are the perfect addition to your upcoming campaign. According to Sneakers4Good’s guide to donating running shoes, they follow four simple steps: collecting gently worn, used, and new athletic shoes from donors, filling shipping bags from your fundraising coordinators, shipping the sneakers off, and receiving a check.

In the coming sections, we’ll break down athletic shoe drive basics and some effective fundraising ideas to add to your existing shoe drive. Let’s begin!

Athletic Shoe Drives: A Step-by-Step Overview

If you plan on adding an athletic shoe drive to a larger event, budget your time wisely. Luckily, there is an easy-to-follow process to help you get started on the right foot. 

Here are the steps:

  • Set up a running shoe collection location. You can use your office space, school homeroom, or nonprofit event table to collect sneakers throughout the fundraiser. A dedicated space helps volunteers or students remember to bring in any spare pairs.
  • Advertise your athletic shoe drive. Use social media to get the word out. If you work with a fundraising coordinator, you might take advantage of social media templates, link to their how-to explainers, and use their flyers and press release guide to catch your community’s attention. 
  • Collect gently worn, used, and new athletic shoes. Keep track of shoe donations as they come in and incentivize donors with extra perks like gift cards or other prizes to boost your numbers.
  • Ship the sneakers. Place all collected athletic shoes in a pre-paid shipping bag and ship them to an athletic shoe drive provider warehouse through your local UPS provider. Each bag will hold between 10 to 15 pairs and get shipped to developing nations. 
  • Watch for a check. Once the sneakers are shipped, you will receive the corresponding check from your selected athletic shoe drive provider. Remember, the more sneakers you collect, the more money you’ll receive. 

An athletic shoe drive allows you to raise money without expending too much cost—from you or your donors! Additionally, you can feel good about hosting an athletic shoe drive fundraiser because of its positive global impact, as they reduce waste, pollution, and environmental damage.  

Top 3 Ideas for Your Athletic Shoe Drive

You’re ready to conduct your athletic shoe drive, but now the question becomes: what’s the best event to host your drive?

The fun thing about athletic shoe fundraisers is that you can combine them with various events and get creative! Whether you’re just starting a nonprofit and tackling your very first event or are a seasoned fundraising professional planning the year’s biggest event, an athletic shoe drive fundraiser can be a valuable addition. 

While you can take the planning of the larger fundraising event in virtually any direction, we’ve narrowed down a few categories that might help in your brainstorming:

1. Explore the many types of 5K races

5K or 10K races match beautifully with the concept of athletic shoe drive fundraisers. What do you wear when running? Sneakers, of course! However, you don’t have to confine your fundraiser to just a straight-forward road race.

Consider adding creative twists on traditional 5Ks, like:

  • Obstacle course elements
  • Inviting leashed pets
  • Adding a costume contest
  • Adding checkpoints with food, or other athletic challenges

All of these can add a level of excitement to the traditional 5K race concept! Plus, they can take the pressure off participants who wouldn’t consider themselves seasoned marathon runners. Consider inviting local running clubs to join in the fun too. Running in a group can be less intimidating for newer runners or those just getting back into running. 

Think about your target supporter audience. Are they older or younger? Would they want to do a fun family race, or would they rather run solo? You can even create different types of races or send out a survey ahead of time to gauge individual interest. 

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2. Partner with a school

Parents get inundated with school fundraising initiatives asking them to donate throughout the year. Meanwhile, a school full of growing children means quite a few pairs of outgrown sneakers. According to Double the Donation’s Guide to School Fundraising, you can use athletic shoe drives to collect pairs from faculty and staff as well. 

An athletic shoe drive is a refreshing way to engage the school community while exposing your drive to a large pool of potential donors. Further, education funding can help advance learning environments through upgraded resources, technology, and classroom supplies. 

To host your athletic shoe drive, consider partnering with PE teachers, the school PTA, and other instructors to get the fundraising ball rolling. You could even encourage classes to create peer-to-peer fundraising pages to inspire healthy classroom competition. 

Just be sure to provide instructions on how to get involved on your school’s website and social media, and watch as sneakers pile up! 

3. Partner with a gym 

Full of fitness junkies, the gym is an ideal place to run an athletic shoe drive. Plus, every gym could use extra wiggle room to hire additional instructors, purchase new top-of-the-line equipment, or cover recurring facility costs. And a gym that’s passionate about philanthropic causes can attract new members and add to a positive fitness brand image. 

Here are some ways to get your gym community involved:

  • Leverage class instructors. Tell instructors to get the word out about your athletic shoe drive! Encourage them to start and end their classes or personal training sessions with a quick reminder to participate in the athletic shoe drive. 
  • Post on social media. Track your athletic shoe drive’s progress on your social media stories. Use a thermometer or other infographic to visualize how many pairs of sneakers you need to reach your fundraising goals. 
  • Create a physical collection box. Station this box outside of your gym to act as a physical reminder to your members to donate. Just remember to use clear signage and provide additional information, like a QR code, for members to learn more. 
  • Offer fitness perks. A free fitness class, personal training session, or nutrition tips are a few inspiring perks you can offer to gym members who donate a certain amount of sneakers. Just ensure your gym staff has adequate training to deliver on any promised perks.

Partnering with a gym can help you tap into fundraising revenue. Because so many gym members are trying out new kicks (weight training sneakers, cardio tennis shoes, etc.), just ask them to donate their extra pairs! 

Regardless of which fundraising type you decide to go with, just be sure your idea is fun and engaging enough to inspire donations. So, research your community and plan events with their preferences in mind. For instance, if your community is full of growing families consider hosting a fun field day event with activities for all ages. 

Cost-efficient and donor-inclusive, athletic shoe drive fundraisers are flexible fundraising options for donors and organizations of all sizes and income levels. As an organization, you’ll rest assured that you’re not over-asking, and donors feel good that their new or gently used athletic shoes are furthering a meaningful cause. 

Whether you use an athletic shoe drive to add an extra boost to your existing end-of-year campaign or run a solo drive to collect some additional funds, these footwear fundraisers are excellent options! 



About the Author

headshot of wayne elsey

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.


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