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Mass participation events – insights & tips to make them a fundraising success

A runner's hand high fives hands among those watching. From 298246O35 on pexels

Insights and tips on mass participation events, including how people view them, and how to make them work for your charity, from Enthuse.

Post-pandemic, in-person mass participation charity events have come back with a bang as lives have returned to normality. From events like the TCS London Marathon to Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning and Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day, there’s something for just about everyone, and each year hundreds of thousands of people take part in one in support of good causes across the country.

With events raising thousands and sometimes millions – last year’s TCS London Marathon raised £18.85mn for charity through the Enthuse fundraising platform alone and more than £52mn in total – they’re an important part of the fundraising mix. This is particularly the case right now as charities deal with the double challenge of rising expenses and soaring demand for their services due to the cost-of-living crisis, making every pound count. The good news is, despite the cost-of-living crisis, the public’s interest in these events shows no sign of waning.


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The popularity of mass participation events

In fact, Enthuse’s Mass Events 2023 report, published last November, found that just under a quarter (24%) of the population said they had taken part in a charity branded mass participation event in the last year. Looking ahead, 1 in 5 of the 2,500+ people surveyed said they had already committed to a charity mass event in 2024 with another 42% thinking about it.

Chester Mojay-Sinclare, Enthuse Founder & CEO, says:

“Mass participation events are popular for several reasons. Firstly, after the pandemic, there was a real desire to be involved in in-person, community events again. I took part in Swim Serpentine last year and that feeling of fundraising while being part of something bigger is inspiring. People value the experience and memories they can take away from events like these, as well as the fundraising itself.”

And people are keen to fundraise: nearly a third (29%) of mass event participants say they set up a fundraising page on the same day they register or are awarded a place. Another 40% said they start within the week, with further 21% doing it inside a month.

At the same time, there’s also great support for these event participants. Nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) in Enthuse’s survey said that they donate to them when asked, making it well worth any fundraiser sharing their news as widely as possible and not being afraid to make the ask for donations.

Runners take part in a cross country race. By Farmama on Pixabay

The event participants most likely to raise funds for charity are half marathon runners, with 87% doing so, according to Enthuse, closely followed by marathon participants at 83%. While 10K runners are the least likely to be taking part for charity, 60% still consider these events an opportunity to raise funds.

Running events are also the most popular mass event according to Enthuse’s research, with 55% of those surveyed for its 2023 report saying they were taking part in one. These are followed by walking events at 46%, and after that cycling events take third place for popularity at 21%, followed by swimming at 18%.

Motivations for taking part

But for any charity keen to either set up their own mass participation event, or encourage supporters to take part in one, it’s also important to understand what makes people want to take part in the first place. There are a number of key motivators. More than two-fifths (41%) of people taking part in distance races say they are mostly motivated by raising funds for charity and are taking on the challenge as a way of doing so. For a further 28%, charity branded events are a way for them to complete a challenge they want to do.

Something else that’s important to understand is what motivates people to choose a particular cause to support. It’s this insight that can help inform communications, event promotion, and stewardship to encourage people to stay the course and keep on raising money once they’ve signed up.

Here, Enthuse found that the most common reason was having a personal reason to be grateful to the cause (highlighted by 35% of those surveyed). For a quarter it was because a friend or colleague got them involved and for 21%, it was because they had supported that cause before.

Understanding the barriers

Of course, knowing what the barriers are is just as crucial. Some people find the idea of asking their friends, family and colleagues for a donation quite daunting, even if they’re feeling motivated to raise funds. In fact, 41% of respondents to Enthuse’s study said they didn’t like having to do this. Not wanting to take part on their own is another key barrier. This is something charities can take a clear role in solving though, as Mojay-Sinclare explains:

“Around one in five people worry about having no one to take part with. Fundraising itself can be used as a social layer with charities bringing their participants together in the same digital spaces – whether that’s connecting them on Facebook, WhatsApp or through team fundraising pages. This can be a really important way of overcoming this barrier.”

Supporting fundraisers – & donors

So how else can charities support both the fundraisers and the donors – and encourage more of both?

Making it easier for people both to fundraise and donate is one way, and this is where the fundraising platform comes in. Companies like Enthuse work with both events and their participants to help them raise funds, supporting charity partners with branded fundraising platforms, and participants with branded fundraising pages. Enthuse for example is the official online fundraising partner for London Marathon Events, Brighton Marathon Weekend and Great Run, and also works with other events.

 London Marathon eventsEvent date (2024)
Brighton Marathon Weekend7 April
TCS London Marathon21 April
Ford RideLondon26 May
Big Half1 September
Vitality London 10 00024 September
Swim Serpentinetbc
Great Run eventsEvent date (2024)
Great Birmingham Run5 May
Great Bristol Run19 May
Great Manchester Run26 May
Great North Swim7 June
Great North 10k7 July
Great North Run8 September
Great Scottish Run6 October
Great South Run20 October

With Enthuse’s platform, to reduce the work for event participants, the creation of fundraising pages is integrated into the event registration process.

Mojay-Sinclare comments:

“Charities have embraced this as it helps get people started faster and lets them focus on helping participants fundraise, rather than chasing them to set up pages in the first place. The smoother and easier these processes are for fundraisers the better.”

In addition, donation forms are branded and mobile friendly with simple steps to set up regular and one-off payments, and participants are also able to post updates, images and videos to their page and even livestream. On the charity side, to help them keep track of activity, those using the platform have access to insights, analytics and live fundraising and donations data for their supporters.

While an easy-to-use site makes all the difference, there are some other key ways charities can encourage people to fundraise. Enthuse’s research shows that marathon runners for example think ideas for fundraising are helpful (46%) in keeping them motivated. Other areas highlighted included having information on how the money will be used (39%) and being part of a major name event (36%). Again, looking at specifically at marathon runners, two-fifths (39%) said they found a pre-populated online fundraising page useful.

A short haired black woman in a white shirt looks at her phone

There’s no doubt that people are raising significant sums of money with mass participation events, Enthuse’s research shows that while there is a wide range in the amounts raised on an individual level, on its platform just under half (47%) of all event fundraisers raise up to £500 per event, with around two-fifths raising between £500 and £3,000, and 11% raising more than that. Where marathons are concerned, 85% of participants raise more than £500 while nearly two thirds (63%) do the same for half marathons.

Top tips for maximising fundraising & giving

Mass participation are clearly popular with the public and charities alike, and for good reason. The challenge for charities is to ensure that as well as encouraging people to sign up, they are maximising both fundraising and giving. Summing up, Mojay-Sinclare provides his top tips: