Yesterday my wife took part in her first Park Run with an old school friend who does it most weeks. For those of you aren’t aware Park Runs take place in an open space in towns and cities around the UK every week. Usually 9am on a Saturday. The distance is always 5k.
You just turn up and … run. Run with everyone else, of all ages, even some mums or dads pushing buggys, and several taking their dog for a … run. If you register online then you can bring your barcode along to log your participation. Afterwards they email you details of your time.
At the start someone will do a short pep talk. They always begin by telling everyone how many times that particular Park Run has taken place, ask if anyone is doing their first (usually accompanied with a round of applause), ask if anyone has come from afar (another round of applause), and mention if doing anyone has reached a special milestone (and yes another round of applause). If you hit certain milestones – such as your 5th, 10th, 50th Park Run you get a running T-shirt awarded.
I’ve done a number of Park Runs. My 10 year old daughter joined me on one too. It’s a great sense of community running with others. The whole hour – assembling, the pep talk, the run and chatting afterwards if you want to – is a great experience.
When you get your email time it tells you how you’ve done and you can compare with you previous times. Often someone takes great quality photos and as you can see they are posted up on Flickr. I also find I run faster when in a group than doing a training run on my own. But there is no pressure. You can turn up one week and not the next. They don’t press you to join. It’s up to you.
This time Amanda came away with a discount voucher from The Sweat Shop showing that the community of people that they have built, who love running with others, has some value. Just checking the Park Run website I see Alzheimer’s Research UK have teamed up with Park Run along with a host of others sponsors and supporting organisations. They have created a movement that attracts others.
Give donors a great experience
My point and the relevance to us fundraisers? I heard about Park Runs through word of mouth – from someone who had taken part. And that’s how they spread. People go along, like Amanda did yesterday, and by having had a great experience they will be back. Over 8 million runs have taken place with over 820,000 runners!
Isn’t this the sort of thing we should strive for? Giving people such a great experience when they give a donation or engage in any way with our cause that a) they will be back for more, b) they will tell others who come along to try for themselves, c) both – take part again and bring a friend.
In such a context they will want to hear from you. They will also engage when they are ready to. And they will advocate on your behalf. That’s different from focusing on the end result, such as signing someone up for a direct debit. It’s the experience that matters first and foremost.