Nonprofit Basics: Read-a-thon Fundraisers

Schools require a variety of educational resources and tools to perform their daily operations. Because of this, many schools host fundraisers to ensure that all costs are covered and that students have the best materials possible for their education. Schools need to be creative to find the best fundraisers that are both effective and fun for their students.

What is a read-a-thon?

In the search for a fundraiser that’s both helpful to students and engaging, many schools decide that read-a-thons are the perfect answer. A read-a-thon is an educational fundraiser where schools raise money by encouraging students to read. 

With minimal effort and setup needed from the school itself, read-a-thons simply require that sponsors donate money to your school for every increment (every 30 minutes, for example) that a student reads. 

These fundraisers not only encourage literacy but also are a great way for donors to encourage learning. Their donations will inspire students to read while also allowing schools to purchase supplies or start projects to better students’ overall education.

While read-a-thon fundraisers are especially popular for elementary schools, they can be adapted for other ages as well. For example, read-a-thons work well for middle schools, where students can receive donations for doing their homework or in-class activities—which often require some form of independent reading, anyway. Plus, read-a-thons can inspire older students to foster a sense of independence, as they might take on the responsibility of logging hours on their own.

How does a read-a-thon fundraiser work?

Once you’ve decided that a read-a-thon is a perfect option for your school’s next fundraiser, you’ll want to get set up as efficiently as possible. Use an online fundraising platform to easily accept donations and keep track of students’ progress. Then, once students begin reading, follow these steps:


A read-a-thon happens in 3 simple steps: students log their reading hours, friends and family donate, and students earn prizes for their reading.

1. Students log their reading hours

Students can read any time—during class, at home, throughout the year—and count these hours toward the read-a-thon. Whenever and wherever students read, they’ll track their hours in your online platform.

2. Friends and family donate to sponsor their reading

Each student will create their own fundraising page they can share with friends and family, who can agree to sponsor student participation. Then, these donors give money based on how much time that student spent reading, and the funds go to your school. 

3. Students earn prizes

Your school is not the only one who can receive benefits from a read-a-thon fundraiser— students earn a percentage of dollars raised, which can be redeemed for prizes. Prizes serve as another incentive for students to read and participate, and the more engaging the prizes are, the more participation your school will see. Read-A-Thon’s school fundraiser prizes range from cost-effective prizes, such as fidget toys and books, to high-value prizes, such as a classroom pizza party or gift cards.

If you’re looking for a more unique prize, here are some ideas you can try:

  • Pie-a-teacher prize: Students will get a laugh out of this prize and will feel a sense of community by getting their teacher involved in the fundraiser.
  • Dance/music party: After the students have finished reading, they can get moving—a dance party is a great way to reward students for their hard work while also allowing them to get energy out and have fun.
  • Themed costume week: There’s nothing students love more than a dress-up day. Pick a theme that aligns with your students’ current interests, and don’t forget to let teachers participate, too.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

10 Best Library Fundraisers to Raise More – Looking for fundraisers that specifically benefit your school’s library? Read on to learn about other fundraisers to improve literacy and engagement at your school.

110+ Incredible School Fundraising Ideas – Check out this guide for other fun and effective fundraising ideas to take advantage of at your school.