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Is Your Nonprofit Running Away From Your 5K Runners?: Part 1
By Eric Jacobson, Vice President, Media Development
Last year, I ran 22 5K runs (between January and October), all benefiting different nonprofit organizations — most of them fulfilling their mission within Greater Kansas City.
Surprisingly, of those 22 nonprofits, only a handful fully shared their story and mission with the runners and walkers. And fewer than a handful truly sought to engage me as a future donor and/or volunteer, or to invite me to their other fundraising events during the remainder of the year.
As I look back on those races, I think about all the missed opportunities. Missed before each race. Missed during each race. And missed after each race.
Most races were well-organized and managed. Most, unfortunately, missed the mark when it came to effectively communicating, marketing and engaging.
There were no fewer than 100 participants at each race last year, and in most cases there were 500 runners up to many thousands. That’s a lot of missed opportunities.
Don’t run away from your 5K runners.
Instead, if your nonprofit holds an annual 5K run/walk, have a game plan in place for how you will engage your racers before, during and after your race.
Yes, some participants run strictly to have a race to run on a weekend. Many participants, however, run because they want to support your mission and they believe in your mission.
Here are some ideas for engaging those participants before they even begin the race. Check back next week for more suggestions on how to reach your audience during the race and afterward.
Before your run/walk
• Thank you: Use the e-mail addresses gathered by your run registration partner/vendor (or from your system) to send a thank you e-mail to each registrant shortly after they’ve signed up to run or walk.
Share with them a brief summary of your organization’s mission, and how the money being raised at the run is benefiting your organization. Tell your runners how much was raised last year and what your goal is this year. Suggest they invite a friend or additional family member to register for the event. And, then thank them again.
• Social media: Post your run/walk event information on your Facebook page and Tweet updates about your run, such as number of participants, progress toward reaching your fundraising goal, etc.
Encourage registrants to invite additional runners. Most likely, the bulk of your runners are in the age range (including Generation Y) where they are fully engaged with their smartphones, tablets and laptops. So, engage them electronically. Encourage them to promote your run and their participation in your event via their social media channels.
• YouTube videos: Include video from previous year’s runs on your organization’s YouTube channel. Post short videos of runners sharing their story of why they run at your annual 5K. Post links to your YouTube videos on your website and in your eNewsletter.
• E-mail just prior to race day: Send a reminder e-mail to all run registrants two days before the race. Thank them again for participating. Remind them about your mission and how the raised money will be used. Include final instructions about start time, parking and other logistics. Include links to your website, YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter pages. Include a place to sign up for your eNewsletter.
These suggestions, as common as they may seem, are such simple ways to reach out to your participants and introduce them to your organization. You’d be surprised just how few organizations did these before I ran in their races last year. Make sure to engage your participants using multiple media, and don’t worry about “over-communicating.” This will ensure you reach as many people as possible before they ever step up to the starting line.