Types of Charity Sports Events

Jesper Juul Jensen
Min to read

The world of sports is very varied, and there are many different types of sports events that you can use for fundraising. In this article, we'll cover the most common types of charity sports events. We've also included examples from each category, so you know what they look like in practice.

Charity sports events examples

If you're looking to host a charity sports event, there are several different types of sports to consider. We will here guide to figure out which type will resonate with your supporters.  Your risk appetite and how you can make the event relate to your cause it just as important. In this guide, we will group the events by how they work in relation to fundraising.

Endurance sports events such as running, cycling, triathlons, swimming and hiking are without a doubt the sports that are most often used as charity fundraising events. These can be done as mass-participation events, challenge events, virtual events or by teaming up with third-party events.

Golf events are also a classic in connection with charity. Team sports such as football, basketball, volleyball and so forth are also used. For team sports, the format will most often be a tournament.

Common for all these types is that P2P fundraising tends to be what drives the vast majority of the income. But how it is implemented and what drives the income will differ across events.

Third-party events

Third-party events are existing events organised by, e.g. sports clubs or professional event organisers. Fundraising and charity are therefore not the main focus of the event. Instead, you just tag along for the ride and try to make the best of it. The benefit is that you as a charity do not have to organise the event yourself, and you will also not be responsible for any costs of putting on the event.

The downside is that you don't control the experience, have very little say and are at the mercy of the event organiser. You will never get the full potential of sports event fundraising, as the event organiser will have several other goals than fundraising.

The partnership can for example, involve certain places that are allocated to charity, either given away for free or paid for by you. You will then be able to offer these places to your supporters in return for their fundraising for you. This primarily works well when the event sells out.

Other events will give part of the ticket price to you, this will give a more secure income stream, but also one with a much smaller potential than when the participants fundraise for you.


Göteborgsvarvet, IRONMAN and London Marathon

Challenge Events

Challenge events are probably the most common type of charity sports event. These types of competitions can take place in many different fields but are usually about running, hiking, climbing or cycling.

Challenge events have two key characteristics - they have relatively few participants, and they are tough. By tough, we mean they are will be considered a challenge to complete for the vast majority of the population. We have seen events as small as 50 participants and up to 500.

Since there is a direct relationship between how difficult a challenge is and how much each participant fundraises on average, this is what makes it reasonable to conduct these events even with very few participants.

Of course, the more challenging - the fewer potential participants, so it is about finding the right balance. Being small in scale, they are much more accessible for even smaller charities to undertake.

When done well, these events are designed to be unique and like no other event. Thus you can either charge a premium or set high minimum fundraised amounts, as you have a differentiated offering.

The supporters who have participated in one of your challenge events will often end up being ambassadors for life. Taking on one of these challenges can be a life-altering moment that requires months, if not years of training. You being part of this will mean you have an incredibly strong connection that lasts.


MS Bike, Team BUS, The Ride, Trailwalker, TeamWalk

Mass-Participation Events

Mass-participation events are often likewise running, biking or walking and can range from casual to competitive. The type of mass-participation events most often organised by charities is easily accessible and more casual.  You can think of, e.g. fun runs and 5k races. The social and fun elements are essential, and the competitive element is more in the background.

Some classics here are woman's 5k races/walks, relays, mud runs, obstacle courses, and Santa runs. The fixed cost is often high, so you will need a substantial number of participants (1000 or more) to make them succeed.

Those events where you have a strong connection between the cause and the event will have a solid P2P fundraising element. Examples here are cancer survivor walks and runs where the participants have an incredibly strong connection with the cause.

Mass participation events require significant investments, will often not give a positive return in year one and are not (as a general rule) accessible for smaller charities.

Examples of this are Stafet for livet, Darkness into Light, Neuropromonaden

If the event participants are themselves 'just' supporters of the charity and not beneficiaries or relatives, then the majority of the income will come from ticket sales, merchandise and food sales.

As the event is mainly for fun and the connection to the charitable cause is weak, the inclination to put in the necessary effort to fundraise is relatively weak. If companies participate with teams, this might give it a bit stronger P2P fundraising element.

Examples: Fri for Mobberi Børnestafetten

Virtual Sports Events

A virtual sports event is a fundraising event that is run entirely online. It features an individual or team that raises money by completing a series of challenges, such as running X km over a specific period, cycling a certain distance or taking part in other sporting activities.

These are way more accessible as participants can do them at home without travelling. Participants can do them when it fits them, and they scale easily as they are all virtual not to forget, they don't require high investments.

This means that if you're looking for something different from the traditional sports events fundraiser but don't have much time or money as a charity - this could be a great starting point.

We have written a guide on virtual events that we suggest you download to learn more.

Examples: MS Everest, Hjärnsteget, Skridt for skridt

Football and other tournaments

The tournament format is popular for team sports, so football, basketball and handball. The big drawback to these types of events is that participants will have to organise the team themselves. This makes it an excellent fit for your corporate partner's events where each company may come with one or more teams.

As team sports are inherently competitive, no one will complain that you also add on a competition on fundraising. So even though a company may do poorly on the field, it can win in the fundraising competition.

The most straightforward way to embed fundraising in your tournament is thus to require each team to create a fundraising page. Have leaderboards and the fundraising competition be just as important as the sports part. Don't just call out the tournament winner, also call out the winners of the fundraising competition.

Football tournaments can be expensive and time-consuming. Consider partnering with professional event planners.

Examples: Nødbold, Ombold

Golf Charity Event

Golf is incredibly popular and is today a sport of the people. Turning golf events into fundraising events can be done in various ways. Day events often rely on high entry fees. These are acceptable to the participants because they are grouped with celebrities or pro-golfers they otherwise never would have access to.

Day events often include a strong social aspect and end with a big dinner and auction. As a fundraising event they have more in common with Galla dinners and auctions than running events. These events have a lot of work involved in order to recruit ambassadors and celebrities to participate in the tournament.

Another way to conduct a golf charity event is as a tournament. Just as with football and other team sports tournament, the competitions is both about sports and fundraising. The tournaments can be arranged by local golf clubs, and will lead up to the finale. Here the work is in developing an attractive tournament format that both clubs and individuals want to take part in. This often involves getting sponsors and prices lined up well in advance.

The one-day celebrity specked event with galla dinners and charity auctions will not be suitable for P2P fundraising. In contrast, the tournament fits P2P fundraising well.

Examples: Barngolfen, Stjernegolf and Pink Cup

How to find the best event type for your charity

There is no one-size-fits-all event type for a charity. Your supporters are different and so are their interests, so you need to choose an event type that matches them. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is this event type suitable for the supporters of your charity? If the answer is no, you will need a plan for how to recruit participants from outside your existing supporter base.
  • Does this event type fit with your charity's core values and purpose? If not, why should you bother?
  • What does an event like this cost? Is it an investment that is accessible and within your budget? When do you need a return on this investment? Can you sustain a significant loss in year one in order to reap big rewards in years 2, 3 and 4?

If possible, try to run some surveys or test various landing pages on a subset of your supporters. Figure out what types of sports events resonates with your supporters before going all in on one concept.


The best type of event for your charity will depend on your goals, the interest and types of supporters you have, the size of your organisation, and what you want to achieve. If you’re looking for a way to raise funds for a small charity, then having an event that has low costs might be a good idea, for example, a virtual event or smaller challenge events. If you have the means to get involved in larger-scale events, then you are freer to choose among the many options available, from small-scale ultra-running events to golf tournaments and large-scale running events.

Do you need help figuring out which event type fits you the best - why not book a demo call with BetterNow? We are deeply passionate about P2P fundraising and love helping out with advice and help on how to best implement P2P fundraising in your next sports event.

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