We recently ran a talk aimed at charities around the question ‘Do You Know Your Runners?’ Here’s a summary of what we covered.

Runners are often considered and referred to as a strange breed, but what do they need and consider important, what drives them and why they are doing it? There are many different types of runners and in reaching them it’s not a one size fits all.

We conducted some research and gathered information about why people run for charity, what the barriers are and the different personas of ‘the runner’. We’ve identified 10 different types, breaking down the characters into traits, personalities, stereotypes and what they will and won’t respond to. Are you attracting the ‘right’ runners?

Running races are a massive revenue stream for charities and with the increasing popularity and demand for places it’s important to know who you are talking to.

Why we love to run

“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other but to be with each other.” – Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run.

As humans we really do love to run – but why? Running is one of the most popular sports in the UK, with more than two million people in England running at least once a week, according to Sport England. It’s not just the 2012 olympics that has increased the continued popularity of running – there’s a general increase. Many reasons are thought to instigate the trend:

For the late Sir Roger Bannister, the trend made perfect sense. “The more restricted our society and work becomes,” he once said, “the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom.”

This certainly does marry up with some research we’ve been doing. In a recent survey of 100 runners we asked the question: Why Do You run?

The top 2 reasons were – I want to keep to a fitness level and I just love to run.

Here are the results:

  • I want to get fit – 43%
  • I want to keep a fitness level – 76%
  • I run to relax – 60%
  • I run to lose weight – 43%
  • I run for a club – 27%
  • I just love to run – 64%
  • I want to improve my PB times – 56%

The Runner’s World database recorded 145 full marathons in the UK last year, almost three times the 50 held in 2003 – fifteen years ago. The number of half marathons over the same period rose from 189 to 336. There has also been a huge rise in the number of 10km races, while the success of the free 5km Park Run series has led tens of thousands more people to participate in an organised running event for the first time. In total, the database recorded 3,517 distance races last year, compared to 2,014 back in 2003.

Participation, fun, the thrill of spectating and cheering people all adds to the perfect sense of occasion and achievement and it’s this that has attracted the sport of running to charity fundraising and message association.

runners together close up

Participation, fun, the thrill of spectating and cheering people all adds to the perfect sense of occasion and achievement

Why running and charity is the perfect partnership

In an article I wrote for Charity Comms I explain why running and charity is the perfect partnership.

A running challenge is the perfect vehicle to express a charity message, through an activity which shares the same fundamental ingredients of voice and language; ambition, target, resolve, motivation, dedication, commitment, drive, determination, stamina, perseverance, hard work and achievement.

Running is quite simply an activity with an honest stripped down foundation. The requirement is a pair of half decent trainers and then it’s literally taking one step at a time, building up your fitness and ability. There is no corner cutting or quick way to get there. It’s understated and elementary principles appeal to the charity message of basic, truthful and matter-of-fact communication.

More than just fundraising

Large sporting events such as the half and full marathons are powerful ways of bringing many diverse individuals together. They’re a way to prompt participation and involvement through wider roles such as cheering squads, supporters and volunteers.

We only have to look at the recent London Olympics to see how sport can inspire, motivate and bring people together. In terms of simple awareness – someone sporting a vest with a strong logo running past hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of supporters is a very cost effective way of getting noticed in a positive environment.

Running Personas

So – who runs for charity? Why? and what stops the ones that don’t?

In our research – we asked the question:

Have you ever run for charity?

Yes 77%
No 23%

Then the question: Would you like to run for charity or at least run for a charity more often?

Yes 9%
Yes, but… 52%
No 39%

It’s this question and particularly the yes, but….’s that have really enabled us to delve into the different types of charity runners.

We’ve developed 10 personas of charity runner – all with different personalities and drivers/barriers to their potential participation. I’m sure you’ll all recognise some of these amongst your runners, but hopefully there’ll be a few that you weren’t quite aware of.

  • Keen and Green – New to running and new to fundraising.
  • Agree the Fee Plea – Wants to run, not interested in fundraising but would pay higher fee.
  • Not Choozy Floozy – Just wants a place in a race but doesn’t care who they run for.
  • Genuine Purpose – Only want to run for a personal connected charity/reason.
  • Fighting the Tide – In a work environment that is awash with fundraising activity.
  • Shy but not Retiring – Reluctant/shy to fundraise but has best intentions and would be committed to train.
  • Group Troupe – Doing the run as part of a group idea.
  • Raise not Praise – Reluctant to train but keen to fundraise.
  • Groundhog Day – Serial fundraising runner of same charity.
  • Place Disgrace – No intention of raising money but will take the place.

Our personas are based on the research statistics and evidence. For each of them there are key different messages of engaging with these runners. We have developed a set of ‘trump style’ persona cards that help work through defining these runners, how to talk to them and what they need to support them.

I just want to run

Not everyone has an emotional attachment to a charity or cause. So, how do they choose?What do they look for to persuade them to run for you?

We asked exactly this question:

If you must run in a heavily subscribed/popular race and the only entry is through a charity place. What do you look for in your charity choice?

  • I want to join a charity that has lots of places so I am in a big team with lots of support 11%
  • I’d like to run for a small charity that only has a handful of places so that
  • I make a difference 76%
  • I want to run for a well known high profile charity 6%
  • I would choose from an ad I see that shows what I’ll be wearing 6%

Running and the different shapes and sizes it comes in will only continue to increase in popularity so understanding your runners is important. They are your ambassadors for that race so they need looking after, and making sure they have the right knowledge, support and insight for it to be a success for both of you. Making your organisation stand out in the growing competitive demand for high value places needs planning and strategy and not just a plea based on emotion alone.

This is a short summary of the talk. If you would like more detailed information or for us to run a workshop with your team around defining your runners and your message contact us.

Our ‘trump-style’ persona cards are also available. Please contact us for a set.